Trump presents the Abraham Accords
Trump presents the Abraham Accords Joyce N. Boghosian/Pool / Latin America News Agency/REUTERS

The Abraham Accords, signed yesterday at the White House by two Gulf states, the US and Israel, are a triumph for two men: Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump. For that reason, many people in the diplomatic community have dismissed the Accords, which mean that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are formally recognising the Jewish state. Hitherto, only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, have taken this step.

Rather than hailing this breakthrough as the prelude to a further normalising of relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab world, critics have grasped at straws in order to downplay its significance. Opposition figures in the Gulf, usually ignored by the West, are suddenly given a platform to denounce the absolutist ruling families of the UAE and Bahrain.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist President of Turkey, which recognised Israel as long ago as 1949, now sneers at other Muslim states for following the Turkish example. And of course Iran, the sower of discord across the Middle East, denounces the Accords, named after Abraham, the common ancestor of Jews and Muslims.

Here in Europe, the reaction has been one of studied indifference. Neither the UK nor the EU has played any part in the negotiations that paved the way for this historic pact. Partly for that reason, they were absent from the ceremony in Washington. More importantly, however, the Europeans, including the British, have consistently prioritised the so-called Peace Process between Israel and the Palestinians. They see this new process, which bypasses the fraught question of a two-state solution, as at best a distraction, at worst a betrayal by their American partners.

There is still no love for the Jewish state on the Arab street, but there is a grudging respect for Israeli military prowess.
In reality, the Trump Administration has not ignored the Palestinian problem. Indeed, the President has (for once) put his country’s money where his mouth is, by offering the Palestinians a generous bribe of $50 billion in exchange for a final settlement with the Israelis. The Trump Peace Plan was immediately rejected by the Palestinian Authority, without even engaging in negotiations. Hamas, which controls Gaza, restated its standard rejectionist line: “Jerusalem is ours, the land is ours, everything is ours.”

Rather than put pressure on the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to engage with the US plan, Europe turned a blind eye and continued to bankroll his intransigence.

Not surprisingly, Netanyahu has subsequently ignored both international and Palestinian objections to his foreign policy. He faces both yet another election to end Israel’s political stalemate and a trial on corruption charges that could end his career. The Abraham Accords crown two decades of his ruthless but pragmatic leadership. The likely consequence of his achievement is that other Muslim states, such as Oman, Morocco and perhaps even Saudi Arabia will, sooner rather than later, recognise Israel.

There is still no love for the Jewish state on the Arab street, but there is a grudging respect for Israeli military prowess. Fear of Iran and its Shiite proxies, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen or Hezbollah in Lebanon, now outweighs hostility to Israel. Many people in the Muslim world long ago departed from the official refusal to acknowledge the Israelis, in favour of the adage: if you can’t beat them, join them.

Here in Britain, by contrast, there is a simmering resentment, fuelled by ignorance, towards Israel. This is typified by a leading article in the Times today about the Abraham Accords. It does concede that “Mr Trump is holding his head high,” and that “his achievement should not be underestimated”. This is true: the Accords will help to solidify the Evangelical vote behind the President. Yet this leader also claims that “Israel itself is no closer to reconciling its conflicting commitments to be a Jewish state and a democratic one while denying the vote to the Palestinians.”

The greatest obstacle to democracy for the Palestinians of the 'West Bank' and Gaza comes not from Israel, but from their own leaders.
There is no contradiction between being a Jewish state and a democratic one. Uniquely in its region, Israel has managed to remain both from its inception. Democracy there has thrived, as nearly two million Israeli Arabs can testify. Whether Muslims, Druze or Christians , they have distinct cultural identities and equal rights that are enshrined in law — again, unlike most minorities in the Middle East. Not only can they vote: they are represented by the Joint List, which is now the largest Opposition party, second only to the Likud in the Knesset. Palestinian Israelis, as many now prefer to call themselves, certainly make their presence felt in Israel, across the board.

It is true, of course, that Palestinians who live under the Palestinian Authority in the 'West Bank' or under Hamas in Gaza are indeed denied the vote. The last presidential election to be held there was in 2005. Mahmoud Abbas, now 84, has effectively made himself President for life, as did his predecessor Yasser Arafat. The greatest obstacle to democracy for the Palestinians of the 'West Bank' and Gaza comes not from Israel, but from their own leaders.

The patriarch Abraham, whose name means “father of many nations”, would surely have approved of the Accords named after him. He it was, after all, who made a covenant with God Himself. Now that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are at last burying their differences, it is time for the rest of the world, including Britain, to play our part in a new effort to bring about a comprehensive peace. That includes giving not only the UAE and Bahrain, but also Trump and Netanyahu their due.

Daniel Johnson is the founding Editor of TheArticle. For two decades he was a senior editor, editorial writer and columnist for The Times and the Daily Telegraph, before leaving to set up Standpoint magazine, which he edited for 10 years. He contributes regularly to Daily Mail, Wall Street Journal, Commentary, New Criterion, National Review and other papers, magazines and websites.@DANBJOHN| @DANBJOHNSON

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