White House

Trump’s Middle East Achievement

President Donald Trump speaks about a peace deal reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 13, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Flanked by some of his top advisers in the Oval Office on Thursday, President Trump announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates would be normalizing diplomatic ties. The deal advances the cause of peace in the Middle East.

The agreement, called the Abraham Accord, will lead to diplomatic normalization between the two countries, starting with an exchange of ambassadors, then leading to further agreements in technology, security, health care, and other critical areas. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East–peace consigliere, said during the press briefing to expect flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv, creating greater interfaith exchange.

The deal will also ease domestic political pressures in the two countries. To cement Emirati support for the agreement, the Netanyahu government has agreed to freeze its plans to “declare sovereignty” over West Bank settlements.

This is a historic accord, and the UAE is the third Arab state to consummate this normalization with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Crucially, the UAE is the first Gulf state to take the plunge, which is not surprising in light of the two countries’ unofficial years-long cooperation on a range of issues. It’s hard to imagine that the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed took this courageous step without first consulting the Saudis, who themselves have been predisposed to quietly work with Israel against Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region. With any luck, more dominoes will fall — Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia could follow.

The Trump team deserves praise for recognizing that the strategic environment was ripe for a deal. It took Trump’s unconventional strategy for Middle East peace, which Kushner heads, to bring the agreement to fruition.

For more than three years, the naysayers brayed that the Trump administration’s moves in the region would hinder the peace process and potentially lead to conflict. At every turn, they have been proven wrong.

The Obama–Biden legacy in the Middle East can be traced back to two policies: the negotiation of the flawed Iran nuclear deal, and the administration’s betrayal of Israel at the U.N. Security Council after the 2016 election. Obama officials aimed to seek peace by reaching an accord with Iran, flooding the country with cash, and enabling the regime’s “moderates.”

Trump and his advisers set out to reverse the courtship of Tehran, which had destabilized the region and hurt U.S. ties with Israel and the Gulf states. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (which was just an endorsement of reality) and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Trump ripped up the Iran deal, opting instead for a maximum-pressure campaign, and he ordered the killing of terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq.

By moving against Iran and supporting Israel, Trump paved the way to today’s agreement, not war, as Ben Rhodes and other Obama advisers have warned.

Unlike Rhodes, who diminished the deal’s importance on Twitter, Joe Biden celebrated it as an achievement (though he elided Trump’s involvement in the negotiations). In his statement, amazingly, the former vice president found it appropriate to credit “the efforts of the Obama–Biden administration.”

And it does deserve some credit — for the reckless coddling of Iran that created a security threat pressing enough to bring Israelis and Arabs together. The former vice president has pledged a wholesale reversal of the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East, a position that ignores the new facts on the ground, including, now, the most significant diplomatic breakthrough in years.


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