It’s taken 41 years since the first, and 26 years since the second, but the third peace deal between Israel and a once-hostile Arab nation is now a reality.
Whatever else people might say about the new Israel-UAE rapprochement, it means one less enemy for Israel to worry about.
The announcement on Aug. 13 that Israel and the United Arab Emirates would forge a joint peace treaty along the lines of Israel’s longstanding accords with Egypt, signed in 1994, and Jordan, in 1979, seems to have broken a seven-decade logjam. Are other Arab countries in the region next in line?
Yes, but perhaps not as fast as was hoped last week, when a flurry of optimism surrounded the UAE deal amid hasty predictions that the dominoes would start falling right away.
On Aug. 18, a spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry sparked a diplomatic flurry by publicly disclosing normalization talks with Israel, which he said would lead to peace by 2021.
He was fired the next day. But not because what he said was untrue; the reason given was that he spoke without authorization.
The symbolism of peace with Sudan cannot be overstated. The capital city of Khartoum is the site where in 1967 the Arab League formulated the infamous “Three No’s” when it comes to Israel: no peace, no recognition, no negotiations. Arguably, today they have become the three maybes.
If Sudan is potentially on board, we would hope that Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Morocco and Saudi Arabia would see the wisdom and potential payoffs of peace and fall into line sooner rather than later.
Although it’s true that Lebanon’s president did not rule out peace with Israel in an interview with French media last week, he did clarify his remarks later, seeming to cast doubt on peace prospects.
And the Saudi foreign minister this week threw a wet blanket on prospects for a formal peace agreement with Israel, saying his nation will abide by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which precluded a comprehensive peace deal with Arab nations unless Israel made mutual peace with the Palestinians, withdrew from occupied territories and established a Palestinian state.
Of course, it’s an open secret that Israel and Saudi Arabia have for some time maintained unofficial cooperation on a host of issues. But an open, official and comprehensive peace treaty obviously would be better.
What is driving this dramatic shift? Let us venture to say it is not love for the Jewish state. There are multiple explanations, primarily having to do with business interests and mutual apprehension over Iranian influence in the region.
The Palestinian issue remains unresolved. But with more peace deals in hand, Israel no longer should have to act alone in that regard. That, too, is a very good thing.