The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace shared this article by Ari Shavit, originally published in Yedioth Ahronoth, in its September 15th Israel and Middle East Newsletter. I am posting the article here as a solid piece explaining the significance of the recent peace agreements in the Middle East. It may be a tinge too optimistic and overconfident, but I’ll take it!
Yedioth Ahronoth – September 15, 2020
By Ari Shavit
* This new peace is a strange peace. The left is having a hard time with it because it’s Netanyahu’s peace. And Trump’s peace. And peace without the Palestinians. The right wing hasn’t yet fully assimilated its significance. It is intent on believing that this is a “peace for peace” deal. Peace without concessions. Peace with [while retaining] the greater Land of Israel. And the general [Israeli] public is having a hard time getting excited about a remote and distant peace process during hard times. At a time that the coronavirus is pummeling us, we are having a hard time feeling uplifted. Few people hear the fluttering of history’s wings. But history is here. Now. The event that is scheduled to be held this evening [Israel time] on the south lawn of the White House is going to be more than just a dazzling photo-op. It is going to be the inaugural event that launches a new Middle East. Naturally, every one of the participants at the event has his own interests and angles. That is the way the world works. But when push comes to shove, peace is bigger than Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu. Peace is bigger than all of us.
* How so? Because for Israel, peace is an existential need. In the long term, we are not going to be able to survive here without peace. But after the success of our first peace (with Egypt) and our second peace (with Jordan), came a series of failures-from Oslo (1993) up until Trump (2020). The reason for that was that for thirty years, the old paradigm for peace was based on two assumptions: the land for peace principle and the centrality of the Palestinian problem. However, since the Palestinians are not ready yet for genuine reconciliation, every attempt to give them territories has failed to generate peace and has engendered rejectionism. Or terrorism. Or a combination of rejectionism and terrorism. That led us to a dead end. The Israeli left abandoned the idea of peace and replaced it with “anyone but Bibi.” The Israeli right pushed for dangerous Messianic annexation. And the Palestinians fell in love with the notion of a single state-which would make our lives hell. Whereas old peace died, no one replaced it with an alternative program. Israel was on a path that was liable to lead it to catastrophe.
* And then, within the space of a single summer, a new peace process evolved that no one had either anticipated or planned. A new peace. What does this new peace say? That the road from Jerusalem to Abu Dhabi (and Bahrain. And Khartoum. And Riyadh) no longer passes through Ramallah. To the contrary. The road from Jerusalem to Ramallah passes through Abu Dhabi (and Bahrain. And Khartoum. And Riyadh). Israeli-Palestinian peace isn’t going to pave the way to Israeli-Arab peace but, to the contrary, Israeli-Arab peace is going to lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace. With that being the case, the initial stage of this new peace is based on four elements of the 2020 Arab-Israeli alliance: a shared hawkish strategy vis-à-vis Iran; strategic patience vis-à-vis the Palestinians; security and intelligence cooperation vis-à-vis radical jihad; and economic-technological cooperation vis-à-vis backwardness and radicalism. Succinctly-progress, progress, progress. Life-loving pragmatism that soberly deals with the threats of Middle Eastern radicalism.
* But this new peace has a second stage as well. Once Mahmoud Abbas leaves the arena, the United Arab Emirates and its sisters in the Persian Gulf will revisit the Palestinian issue. Until that moment, Dubai is likely to be the new Turkey: hundreds of thousands of Israelis will vacation in its hotels and shop in its malls. The dynamic of life that this new peace will create will soften the extreme right wing’s hold within Israel. And so, once a ring of peace encircles Judea, Samaria and Gaza-Israel and the Arabs will begin to work in cooperation in an attempt to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once that stage arrives, the current cries of celebration on the Israeli right will prove to have been premature.
* And the skepticism on the left will prove to have been unjustified. Paradoxically, the moderate Arabs are going to be the ones who accomplish something that the Israeli center-left never was able to do-and will save Israel from itself. All of which means that we ought to rejoice this evening with all our hearts. We can all raise our heads above the coronavirus and politics and despair to see how history is beginning to move down a new and promising path. The Israeli-Arab conflict is beginning to end today. Peace.