Thursday, August 13, 2020

Quick Thoughts on the Israel/UAE Deal

As you may have heard, Israel and the UAE have announced a historic agreement to normalize ties, in exchange for which Israel has committed to "suspend" plans to annex the West Bank. My quick thoughts:

  • This is a good thing. And it's okay to say it's a good thing! It doesn't make you a Trump supporter to say this is a good thing!
  • If you can only take joy in policy announcements these days if they anger someone you hate, be advised that the extreme settler-right in Israel is furious about this -- they view it as Bibi once again Lucy-and-the-footballing them with regard to annexation.
  • In all seriousness, this is probably the biggest foreign policy accomplishment of Trump's entire term. Of course, when one zooms out, that means his biggest foreign policy accomplishment is "Israel establishing diplomatic relations with its third Arab neighbor, in exchange for which Israel steps off a ledge Trump put them on." Less impressive.
  • The best defense you can give of Trump's approach here, appearing to green-light annexation, is that it was a case of brinkmanship that paid off. Still a hell of a gamble though. When David Friedman says Israel could have annexation or peace, but not both, he's basically admitting his favored policy was one which would have denied Israel peace for generations.
  • In "brinkmanship doesn't always pay off", see also Iran, whose increasingly belligerent orientation towards its Arab neighbors has had the effect of drawing them closer to Israel in ways unthinkable in the recent past.
  • Will this announcement be an "icebreaker" for other Arab states to follow suit? I've seen Bahrain and Oman cited as candidates. One awkward but probably accurate assessment: It's simultaneously healthy for Israel and its Arab neighbors to develop closer ties and for the U.S. and Israel to have greater critical distance.
  • While stopping annexation is an unambiguous good thing, it still leaves in place a status quo where Palestinians are under occupation and lack full democratic and self-determination rights. "Stopping annexation" is not and should not be the be-all-end-all of American support for Palestinian equality.
  • Has annexation been stopped? Bibi is saying it is still "on the table". What's that I often hear about leaders who say one thing to their domestic audiences and another to international listeners? (I actually think this is Bibi once again playing the rule of Lucy vis-a-vis the settler-right and putting the football back down, but still).

1 comment:

Doc_P said...

As much as I despise Trump, if Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is the bar for earning one, then Trump should get it (or at least Bibi and the leader of the UAE. That is what happens when you turn something like that into a participation trophy