In the Muslim world, the push is on to normalize ties with Israel
Osama bin Laden, a bad man who still understood the Arab and Muslim mind, said, "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." In slightly more than three and a half years, Donald Trump has turned the United States–Israel alliance into a strong horse. That's why the UAE made official its relationship with Israel, and that's why other Arab and Muslim nations are signaling that they will follow.
President Trump, with help from Jared Kushner, did something extraordinary. When Trump entered the White House, the Middle Eastern status quo since 1967 had revolved around the Jewish state of Israel and its relationship with the Muslim Palestinians, a relationship that was often a pawn in the Cold War. In 1974, a new wrinkle occurred with the oil shortage, which elevated the importance of Arab backwaters in Western eyes.
Another wrinkle was the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which pitted Shia Iran against both Israel and various Sunni Muslim nations. Sunni nations were conflicted because Iran made them share a common enemy with Israel, yet they had a Muslim-based moral obligation to support the Palestinians — with the added wrinkle that the Arab nations intensely dislike the Palestinians, whom they view as whiny troublemakers. More wrinkles came along when Iran-funded Hezb'allah aligned with the Palestinians against Israel.
At this point, the Middle East situation was as wrinkled as one of those shar pei dogs. And indeed, if I were inclined to bore and confuse you, I could throw in innumerable other wrinkles, including Chinese, Soviet/Russian, and Turkish interference and the effect of the two Gulf Wars.
The crowning wrinkle was Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's insistence on the Iran deal. Iran was sinking economically, but Obama and Biden threw it a hefty financial infusion while greenlighting its nuclear program. Suddenly, a radical, unstable, apocalyptically oriented theocracy was on its way to a nuclear bomb, courtesy of the United States of America.
The Middle East had proven to be an intractable Gordian knot, one that every American president had tried to disentangle without success. And then President Donald Trump came along and, like Alexander the Great before him, he had a simple solution — don't fuss with the knot; cut it!
Trump's approach was to stop dealing with the Palestinians and Iran. Instead, he marginalized them. This meant focusing on Israel's security and status. He walked away from the Iran deal, announced that the settlements in the West Bank weren't illegal, and moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The Palestinians stood by helplessly, unable to stop this pro-Israel trend.
Meanwhile, Sunni nations saw Iran grow economically weaker, watched the U.S. kill Qassem Soleimani without significant repercussions, and suspected that Israel was behind the systematic sabotage and bombings within Iran's military facilities. Trump's administration not only supported Israel as the strong horse, but it also revealed that Iran and the Palestinians are practically dead in their stalls.
So it was that, on August 13, 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates entered into a peace agreement. That was a historic moment, and, again, all that the Palestinians and American leftists could do was sputter. Additionally, it was a sign to the Muslim world that it's okay to join with Israel — a country that brings peace and prosperity, as well as being a shield against Iran — and to abandon those whiny Palestinians.
The rush is now on. Accordingly to Israeli intelligence, which is usually solid, Bahrain and Sudan intend to follow the UAE. Intelligence minister Eli Cohen is optimistic:
Asked which countries might be next, he singled out "Gulf states that see Iran as a threat," Morocco — which has long had informal ties with Israel — and Sudan. Leading the roster will be "Bahrain among the Gulf states and Sudan in Africa because there is already movement there," with Oman and Saudi Arabia potentially following suit, Cohen said.
Indeed, on Tuesday, Sudan made a move in the direction of peace with Israel, only to back off. The fact that it got nervous is less relevant than the fact that it already envisions peace with Israel as its future. Even Lebanon's president is contemplating peace. As with Sudan, his reservations are of less importance than the fact that Lebanon sees allying with Israel as a possibility. Saudi Arabia is also contemplating formalizing its already robust relationship with Israel.
None of this will happen overnight. However, the genius of President Trump is that he's created a new paradigm in the Middle East, one that ignores the troublemakers. Instead, the Trumpian reality signals to the Muslim world that it's okay to join with Israel, a country that brings peace and prosperity to its friends and serves as a shield against Iran — and that nothing bad flows from sidelining the whiny Palestinians.
Image: Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot by Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1767), public domain.