If you said that Israel would only be able to make peace with its Arab neighbors after it agreed to a resolution with the Palestinians, it is sort of problematic to argue now that Israel was always at peace with its Arab neighbors, so that you can argue that the agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are not peace agreements.
Admittedly, it may be more accurate to describe the Israel-UAE and Bahrain agreements as Open Declarations of Peace. One could argue whether these came about because of efforts by this administration, the efforts of PM Netanyahu, the efforts of the governments of the UAE and Bahrain, or are simply the result of changing dynamics in the region, including a completely unreliable US foreign policy that may shift wildly every few years that has made it clear that Israel is a necessary stable strategic partner in the region, especially for those concerned about the influence of Iran and Turkey.
If you begin with the assumption that Arabs and Israel were in a state of hostility, best defined by the “No, No, No” of Khartoum (No peace. No recognition. No negotiations.) in response to the possibility of peace and you add in that during the Obama Administration, Sec. State Kerry said of the assumption among some Israeli leaders that Israel could make peace with the Arabs before making peace with the Palestinians, “No! No! No! No!” (he was asked this question, outlined this possibility, and gave that response), then it is clear that these agreements are radical departures from what was assumed a few years ago by the Sec. State and could be considered peace agreements. If you add in the fact that the Arab nations themselves are calling them “Peace” agreements, it would also seem reasonable to call them peace agreements.
Trying to argue that they’re simply economic or military agreements is a denial of the history of the region and the history of the Jewish and Arab peoples, and likely is more the result of concern about where credit for the achievement may be given than over the importance of the achievement.
Whether and how these agreements might help lead to a peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a separate issue. Some will argue that these agreements remove an incentive from Israel to negotiate, making those negotiations more difficult. Others will argue that the involvement of these Arab nations will help the process, long stagnated, move in a positive direction. I think the response here is that “time will tell,” but it’s fairly clear that the status quo of maintaining a state of belligerence between the Arab nations and Israel in order to promote negotiations wasn’t getting the job done, nor helping anyone. Maybe this will.
For the first time in a very long time, there is some optimism in the region that real peace is possible. To see so many people attacking all of this out of hatred of the President and Prime Minister is sad to see. Like them or not, these agreements are very positive developments for the region, for Israel specifically, and for real hopes that a lasting peace spanning the entire region may be possible.
When, in 1948, Israel declared statehood and the U. N. validated that declaration, the Arab states declared war on the nascent Jewish state. Their rationale was that the Middle East was Muslim and had been so for centuries. Moreover, whatever Islam had conquered was to be so in perpetuity. The fact that Jews were returning to their homeland flew in the face of Islamic claims to land they had (once) ruled.
The peace that the UAE and Bahrain have now signed with Israel may or may not accept the presence of Jewish sovereignty over once-Islamic land. Perhaps, in the “yes” of the Emirates, the Jews are simply “renting” the land of Israel for a time. Whatever may be the vehicle by which they are recognizing the Jewish state, their doing so puts the lie to the claim that peace with the Palestinians had to precede any agreement with any other Arab state. It seems that the adage that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ has trumped all other adages including ones based on religious claims to the land.
Apart from how all this came about whose truth historians will be attempting to discern for decades to come, it is quite a New Year’s present to Israel and a long overdue step into the 21st century for two Sunni entities…and hopefully a few more in the future.
The benefits that will accrue from these agreements may bring the Palestinians to climb out of their vaunted victim-hood status and swing around to trying statehood and some prosperity in place of the kleptocracy from which the mass Palestinian population can’t be either enjoying or gaining very much.