- Jonathan DaCosta
The Abrahamic Accords and the Question of Arab-Israeli Peace
On May 14th, 1948 David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, declared independence for the Jewish state marking an end to the Palestinian mandate. The Palestinian mandate was an area consisting of Trans-Jordan and Palestine created after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. The British Empire oversaw the region until its dissolution in 1948. Just one day after Gurion declared independence for the Jewish state, the Arab world declared war and the armies of Trans-Jordan, Egypt, and Syria began engaging Israeli forces. The ensuing 1948 Arab-Israeli war would not be the only conflict that defined the young nation’s history. For the next half-century, Israel became involved in numerous military exchanges with its neighbors that would go on to define the current state of diplomatic relations in the region.
It is safe to say that for the past 60 years Israel has been stuck in a metaphorical
diplomatic “pickle.” Ever since the state's creation, effort to create peace in the region consistently fell flat. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, many attempts have been made to ease the tension between Arabs and Israeli’s but one outcome always is constant more conflict. From the Camp David Accords in 1978 spearheaded by the Carter administration to the Oslo Accords under the Clinton administration, peace deal after peace deal was brokered then broken. Although the Camp David Accords were successful in ending the nearly constant state of war between Egypt and Israel between 1948-1978 and the Oslo Accords were successful in setting up a timetable for an independent Palestine, relations between the Arab’s and Israeli’s are still extremely hostile.
Despite the treaty’s initial success, the White House has signaled that they want to expand the view of the Abrahamic Accords to include more gulf states and others that have harbored more of a hardline view of the Jewish state. However, this desire may be more difficult than perceived. If lasting peace is to be created in the Middle East the Trump administration is going to have to address the core issue of the problem itself: the question of a Palestinian state.
Under the original United Nations partition plan of 1947, the Palestinian mandate was to be divided amongst Jews and Arabs evenly with the Arabs being in control of their own sovereign state. However, as the 20th century progressed and conflict consumed the region, a stable and sovereign Palestinian state never actualized. Israel had also made the realization of the 1947 UN plan difficult after dozens of settlements began popping up all over the west bank from Jerusalem to the Golan Heights which is a disputed piece of territory that Israel shares with Syria. As a result, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has reacted in a hostile manner to Israeli encroachment which has stoked further confrontation between PLO forces and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
More recently, Trump’s close relationship with Netanyahu has also made it difficult to fully answer the Palestine question. Back in January, the Trump Administration had proposed a peace plan which included a two-state solution however it was widely considered to heavily in favor the Israeli interests, and as a result, was met with swift condemnation from the Arab League and the entirety of the Arab world. The United States’ alliance with Israel under the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indeed made it difficult for serious talks of a lasting Middle East peace to be held. Under the Netanyahu administration, far-right conservative rhetoric and policy towards Palestinians have been extremely hostile. From illegal settlements in the West Bank where Palestinians are forced out of their home by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to the moving of Israel’s capital to Jerusalem, the executive branch of Israel’s government has taken an inflammatory approach to the Palestinian question.
In looking at these roadblocks, the United State’s recent brokering of the diplomatic normalization agreement between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates seems largely symbolic. The accords do not address the core tenant of the issue which is the Palestinian question. Instead of bringing both Israeli’s and Palestinian Arabs to the table in order to discuss meaningful solutions to decades of conflict, the administration pursued a strategy of securing peace with nations that don't do anything tangible to help their Palestinian brethren. The Trump administration wants to continue pursuing this strategy of normalizing relations between Israel and the Gulf states, however, the question remains as to what advantages this would bring the gulf states themselves.
This is a symbolic peace deal, but that does not necessarily mean that a step toward normalizing relations is a miscalculated one. By choosing states that act as intermediaries for Middle Eastern regional superpowers the administration is trying to isolate Israel’s adversaries in the region which could provoke war. However, if President Trump is determined to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East, it will have to confront the Palestine question head-on. This means the U.S will have to converse with countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran, and Lebanon. Nevertheless, If the Trump administration continues to pursue his current strategy of swaying non-confrontational states and avoiding those that directly involve themselves with Israel, a lasting peace will not be achieved.
Will the Abrahamic Accords bring a lasting peace to a region that seems to be in a constant unwavering state of war? The answer is most likely unknown. For decades, countless numbers of diplomats have tried to resolve the deep seeded causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict but it continuously evolves into a growing animosity between both parties. So, if history is any indication of the Abrahamic Accords success, then the future of peace in the Middle East looks questionable.