Trump's diplomacy of strength pays dividends in the Middle East

The "experts" were wrong — moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem did not make peace in the Middle East impossible.  

This week, under and with the encouragement of the Trump administration, Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates in recognizing Israel and establishing pathways to peace.  Additionally, Kosovo, a Muslim-majority country, established diplomatic ties with Israel and promised an embassy in Jerusalem.  

This is a truly monumental and historic moment.  Finally, parts of the Sunni Arab world recognize Israel's right to exist, in peace, in their ancestral homeland.  And Israel will be a great ally to them.  There could be enormous prosperity in the Middle East for Jews and Arabs alike if more neighbors join this righteous cause.

This should be the biggest headline of the decade.  Yet this deal happened at Trump's table, so the predictable cogs are in motion to dampen the win.  

Nancy Pelosi called the peace deals "a distraction."

Joe Biden later claimed that Trump's foreign policy is "bad for Israel."

The Washington Post dedicated significant editorial space to calling the deals "a mirage." 

"Both the UAE and Bahrain already communicate and engage with Israel," argues Ishaan Tharoor, "and the three countries were not locked in anything close to conflict."  

This misses the larger picture.  Yes, informal cooperation between Israel and her neighbors occurs all the time.  The Middle East constantly hangs in the delicate balance of unspoken agreements and reluctant cooperation.

Egypt has had peace with Israel since 1979 and Jordan since 1994.  Even Israel and the Palestinians cooperate in the West Bank.  Mahmoud Abbas knows he wouldn't still be in power if it weren't for the stability of their mutual cooperation.  However, this is stalemate, not peace.  It couldn't last.  

What happened this month isn't unspoken cooperation — it is real diplomacy.  The prime minister of Israel stood on the balcony of the White House shoulder to shoulder with representatives from the UAE and Bahrain to proclaim to the world that they recognize each other and want true peace.  

It may sound insignificant.  But recognition isn't a low bar.  It's huge.

Israel fought for its freedom and kept itself alive through major existential wars with its neighbors in 1948 and 1967.  Each narrow victory was a miraculous survival.

When the Arab world then realized that they couldn't defeat Israel militarily, they launched a campaign of anti-normalization defined by three "nos."  No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.  These were the words directly from the Arab League in the summit of 1967.

These were the words that the Middle East used to live by.  

For nearly 50 years, peace was hindered by this attitude among Arab countries.  Each of them knew this campaign required unanimous Arab front.  In many ways, these attitudes became ingrained in Arab society.  

From this hard line, such insidious causes as the intifadas and BDS were fed.  

To formally recognize Israel with diplomatic channels, to negotiate in the White House together for the whole world to see, and for the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE to publicly proclaim they welcome peace with Israel make for the defeat of the anti-normalization campaign.  

But the headlines don't stop there.  

Following news of peace between the Israelis and the Emirates, the Palestinian ambassador to the Arab League drafted and submitted a resolution condemning the move.  The draft resolution was rejected. 

If this holds, and the Arab League refuses to reignite its former stance on Israel, then region-wide peace is a real possibility.  

Some believe that Saudi Arabia may be the next to accept the olive branch.

This is all occurring not despite America's embassy move or recognition of Israel's sovereignty in the Golan Heights.  This is arguably because of it.

Sunni Arab states don't see an America who may let Israel's destruction slide.  They don't see Israel backing down.  And they certainly don't see success in their campaign of anti-normalization.

So they must recognize that their approach to Israel must change.

Radical Islamic cells pose real threats to Arab domestic security.  Egypt watched most of its Sinai peninsula become home to ISIS.  Syria's power vacuum invites dangerous usurpers.  And with an increasingly nuclearized Iran, Israel may just be the friend that the Arab world needs right now.

A moment of celebration is in order for the new era — an era of "yeses" to peace, recognition, and negotiations.  

Hooray for peace, and hooray for a new approach to a problem long hindered by Washington norms and expectations.  

Bryan Griffin is a lawyer, author, and senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research specializing in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.  He is the author of the "Encyclopedia of Militant Islam."

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