Peace in the Middle East?

By: Yoni Manor

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” United States President Donald Trump said in a speech delivered from a White House balcony. On Tuesday, Sep. 15, President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa gathered at the White House to sign a historic peace agreement between their respective countries. The Abraham Accords mark a major pivot in the course of history in the Middle East and contain promise for a brighter, more peaceful future.

To put this peace deal into biblical terms, the accords were named after Abraham because his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, represent the religions of Judaism and Islam, respectively. It is believed that the Jewish people originated from Isaac and that the people of Islam originated from Ishmael. These two religions who occupy the majority of the Middle East have seemingly been in conflict for centuries, even though they are religious cousins.

Originally, the peace deal was between Israel and UAE, as they agreed to terms several weeks before the official signing on the 15th. Bahrain joined in on the deal shortly before it was finalized. This historic agreement between the Jewish state of Israel and two moderate Muslim countries marks a new era in Middle East diplomacy. The deal opens up official diplomatic relations and full normalization between Israel, UAE, and Bahrain. The only other peace agreements Israel has signed with Middle Eastern countries were with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

More notably, the deal mentions nothing of the Palestinian conflict, exhibiting a trend among moderate Muslim countries of prioritizing the needs of the Palestinian people less, as they come to acknowledge the existence of Israel. However, the real impact of this peace agreement goes far beyond the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The Muslim world is divided into two sects of Islam: Sunni and Shia. Most countries in the Middle East are majority Sunni and have become more moderate over the years. Iran, however, is a radical Shia nation that has vowed to destroy Israel time and time again. Iran also funds Hezbollah, a terrorist organization head-quartered in Lebanon, which kills Israeli civilians. However, Iran is not just seen as a threat by Israel, but by the moderate Arab world. The government in Tehran, Iran’s capital, funds a plethora of other groups whose main objective is to bring the Middle East under Iranian control.

Their extremist regime has worked for decades towards having nuclear capabilities and has accelerated their nuclear enrichment program since President Trump pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Prior to the Iran deal, the country was moving rapidly towards having nuclear capabilities with their uranium enrichment refineries, but it reportedly stopped once the U.S. and other European nations relieved economic sanctions and other benefits.

Arab countries do not want a radical nation like Iran dominating them with nuclear capabilities. UAE is a prosperous Arab nation that has modernized and has adopted a more western culture, seeking to collaborate with and benefit from Israel’s technological start-ups and innovations. Bahrain, a smaller country, also looks to reap the numerous benefits of the peace agreement. The world is seeing an Israeli-Arab coalition forming in the Middle East to combat an unpredictable Iranian government, creating an alliance that would have never been imagined just a few decades ago. Iran now has many more enemies to deal with on top of Israel, and Israel no longer has to fight for its existence with few regional allies.

Trump emphasized in a press conference prior to the White House ceremony that people should not be surprised if more Arab nations sign peace agreements with Israel over the coming months and years. Countries including Oman and Saudi Arabia are being seen as the front runners to make the next peace deal. Many Arab nations are starting to lessen their support of Palestinians in their cause for an independent state due to the corruption and inefficiency of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, as well as the destructive terrorism caused by Hamas who control the Gaza Strip. Instead, these nations look to cooperate with Israel to benefit their countries technologically and militarily, and are starting to accept the reality that Israel is here to stay. Unfortunately for the Palestinian people, this makes them the ultimate losers of the Abraham Accords.

We will see how this revolutionary peace agreement will alter the political landscape and play out in the months and years ahead, as tensions rise and alliances develop across the Middle East.