Sunday, August 16, 2020

Peace for peace: Treaty with UAE changes the historical equation - Boaz Bismuth

by Boaz Bismuth

Anyone who doesn't understand how novel this is will probably never get it. A new Middle East indeed; not the one they tried selling us, but one where Israel is a strong, desired ally.

The various pundits in their television studios dusted the cobwebs off the Oslo Accords on Thursday, as if the historic peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, sponsored by US President Donald Trump, was achieved in the same spirit. Not quite my friends, not quite.

It's fair to say that this peace treaty, the third signed between Israel and Arab countries after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, is completely unlike what we've been accustomed to and were led to expect over the years, as if Israel needs to concede land to receive peace. Indeed, the new formula is as follows: peace for peace. Trying saying this out loud. Peace from a position of strength and might, as stated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now officially the second leader from the Right to strike a peace agreement with an Arab country. Apparently, when it comes to making peace, the Left isn't needed. 

It was obvious, then, that someone would argue that we did, in fact, give up land for this peace with an important Gulf state. Not just any land either, the land of our forefathers – Judea and Samaria. Or, if you will: Take Abu Dhabi, give up Ariel and Karnei Shomron. Not so fast, though. If the Oslo Accords stipulated Gaza and Jericho as the first stops on our journey of territorial concessions, in this case the Emirates is the first stop. First we take the peace treaty on the table – with a country that for two decades has demanded our relationship be kept in the dark, yet now has suddenly upgraded its status from secret mistress to official partner. All without binding us to talks with the Palestinians.

Anyone who doesn't understand how novel this is will probably never get it. A new Middle East indeed; not the one they tried selling us, but one where Israel is strong, where other countries want it as an ally, where Israel is a leader in almost every possible field from technology, agriculture, water, energy, commerce, banking and yes – security, too. Contrary to the peace treaties signed by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, this time peace is peace, without the inferiority complex.

President Trump deserves a big, warm embrace from each and every one of us for another peace agreement, but mainly for the fact that the prospect of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is still viable. As someone who knows this administration intimately, I can say that the idea of sovereignty has only been paused. The problem is that Trump's re-election in November is critical for us.

As members of the Right, it's okay to say, without contrition, that applying sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and establishing our eastern border is just as important as raising the Israeli flag in Abu Dhabi, but the two aren't mutually exclusive. If there are any complaints, they should be directed at the Blue and White party, mainly at Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi and certain folks on the ideological Right who played a role in delaying the plan after completely flummoxing the Americans, who believed there was a consensus in Israel surrounding their initiative. Yes, if Gantz and Ashkenazi had adopted the historic initiative without reservation, perhaps we would be in a completely different and positive situation right now. First sovereignty, then the Emirates.

The world is changing and the Middle East along with it, and if the guiding principle was ever to appease the Palestinians, today Arab countries want to appease themselves. The monarchies and regimes want to survive. Amid all these changes in the Middle East, only Iran insists on remaining in the past, as expected of a revolutionary regime (a shame Obama didn't understand this). Hence the other Gulf states are applauding the UAE, which has opened the path for Bahrain, Oman and who knows, maybe even Saudi Arabia.

Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is dear and important to every Jew across the globe. The return to the land of our forefathers – it's entirely uncertain that one has to come at the expense of the other. Note what we've received since Trump ascended to the fore of the historical diplomatic stage:  recognition of Jerusalem as our capital; the relocation of the US embassy; recognition of our sovereignty on the Golan Heights; and recognition of the settlement enterprise's legitimacy under international law. We wanted sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, absolutely, in the meantime, we'll "make do" with peace – and not in exchange for territory. Peace in exchange for peace. Peace with an economic horizon, a bulwark of moderation against the tide of radical Islam. It is unnecessary, almost ridiculous, to grumble to the gardener when the lilies bloom before the roses. What are the critics from the right (and some from the left) complaining about, that we got gift number two before gift number one?

And one more thing to those who are evoking Oslo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas isn't taking this peace treaty between Israel and the UAE very well. Perhaps the 2020 version of Abbas understands something our pundits don't, similar to Arafat in 1993. And to the cynics who would say to me "Gaza and Jericho first," I'll only respond with this: Good morning; happy to see you've finally gotten the picture. And maybe I'll just add "Emirates first" – the tables have turned: This time it's only up to us, and Trump. It's just too bad I can't vote in November.

Boaz Bismuth


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