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How Israel Became a Role Model for Arab States

avatar by David M. Weinberg / JNS.org

Opinion

The national flags of Israel and the United Arab Emirates flutter along a highway, in Netanya, Israel, Aug. 17, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Nir Elias.

JNS.org – The beauty of the Abraham Accords is that they are marked by warm friendships, backed by a discourse of genuine tolerance and ideological moderation. This is even more important than the burgeoning trade and defense relationships with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.

During repeated visits to the Gulf, my Arab interlocutors have emphasized that they seek nothing less than to redefine the identity and global image of Arab Muslims. They see Israel’s blending of tradition with enlightenment as a model.

Imagine that: Israel as a role model for modernizing moderate Arab societies. This is immensely encouraging—indeed empowering—for me as a Jew and an Israeli. It gives new meaning to the biblical prophecy that “From Zion, Torah shall go forth, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.”

The basis for this relationship is the similarity between our societies. Israeli society and the societies of the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco cherish their strong ethnic, cultural and religious identities while appreciating modernity. They uphold both proud nationalist sentiment and a broad-minded approach to advanced education, international brotherhood and regional cooperation.

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But blending tradition with enlightenment is a complex task, and Israel has done it relatively well. So, of course, the parties to the Abraham Accords want to learn from Israel. To me, this is the peace bonanza, an ideological breakthrough of near-biblical magnitude.

Moreover, the accords are a joyous revolution that overturns generations of Arab and Islamic ideological delegitimization of Israel. They are a stinging repudiation of the ongoing Palestinian campaign to deny Jewish history and criminalize Israel in international institutions.

Alas, some grouches on the political left still dismiss the Abraham Accords as a product of Trumpian razzle-dazzle. They claim that the accords were only finalized thanks to billion-dollar arms deals and other diplomatic rewards. They assert that the accords will be short-lived and unravel under Iranian pressure and Western disinterest.

I say that this is a complete misreading of Emirati, Bahraini and Moroccan commitments to peace with Israel. The Abraham Accords are deeply rooted in genuine ideological beliefs, along with urgent security realities, and are locked in for the long term.

It is true that at an event celebrating the Abraham Accords at the Atlantic Council in Washington in September, UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba—a key architect of the accords—referred to the Palestinians as “the elephant in the room,” and called on signatories to do more to advance a two-state solution.

“The accords were not meant to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they were meant to buy space and time to create room for diplomacy to address the two-state solution,” he said.

Well, there is no argument that an Israeli-Palestinian accord would be good for all parties. Indeed, everybody hoped that Palestinian leaders would take the hint and realize that the time to compromise with Israel had come. After all, there are so many new regional forums relating to gas supplies, water cooperation, environmental projects, tourism and defense that the Palestinians could join to their benefit. The Abraham Accords need not “sideline” the Palestinians if the Palestinians don’t sideline themselves.

But Arab leaders knew in advance of signing the Abraham Accords that the current Palestinian leadership is light-years away from being ready to compromise or cooperate with Israel.

They knew in advance, and they certainly know now, that Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies, as well the Hamas chieftains in Gaza, have locked themselves into a doomsday loop through a commitment to Israel’s destruction and the Palestinian people’s self-destruction.

Israel faces another Palestinian wave of terrorism these days not because of any “provocative actions” on Israel’s part, nor because “a political horizon for the Palestinians” is missing, but because killing Israelis has been the DNA of the Palestinian national movement going back 50 years to the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972. And despite the Oslo process, Palestinian leaders haven’t matured much beyond that.

Moreover, the deleterious dynamic of Fatah-Hamas competition and the complete dysfunctionality and corruption of Palestinian politics leads to ever-increasing radicalism as the two rival movements seek the upper hand by demonstrating their anti-Israel and antisemitic bona fides. The bottom line is that waiting for the Palestinians to wise up is a loser’s game, and the Abraham Accords countries are too smart to play this game any longer.

The winning game involves nurturing the better nature of peoples through cultural and business partnerships and similar peaceful interfaces. The winning game strengthens every party while simultaneously solidifying the regional infrastructures of Middle East peace and prosperity.

David M. Weinberg is a senior fellow at The Kohelet Forum and Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. His diplomatic, defense, political, and Jewish world columns over the past 25 years are archived at www.davidmweinberg.com.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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