Published in The Jerusalem Post, September 18, 2020; and in Israel Hayom, September 21, 2020.
The Left can’t acknowledge Netanyahu’s historic achievement of peace with the Gulf states. I say that nothing less than full-throated celebration is called for!
Party-poopers on the Israeli left and sourpusses on the left-wing of Diaspora Jewry were out in full force last week, pouring cold water on the peace accords signed between Israel and two Gulf states: The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
These killjoys found it hard to say anything positive about the exciting developments. Instead, they took a curmudgeon approach, even attaching sinister intentions to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s great diplomatic achievement.
The left’s crabby criticism of the agreement with the Gulf states begins with the argument that it is not really peace! Haaretz crankily noted that Israel hasn’t fought a war with an Arab country in nearly 40 years, and never with the UAE and Bahrain – so what’s all the pomp and ceremony about? The naysayers bay that Netanyahu is trumpeting a mythological “peace for peace” while “pretending that the conflict is an Arab-Israeli one.
As if the UAE’s warm peace with Israel with real cooperative ties in dozens of fields isn’t a historic breakthrough! As if the left wouldn’t have feted a UAE peace deal with fireworks, street parades and Nobel prizes had it been brokered by Benny Gantz or Yair Lapid.
The second wet blanket thrown by Netanyahu’s faultfinders is about the latter’s “detachment” from the grim coronavirus lockdown situation that Israelis are facing. Critics griped that Netanyahu flew-off to party in Washington with his wife and boys (“the royal family,” sic.) while citizens were frantically stockpiling for three weeks of curfew and business owners were fast spiraling towards bankruptcy!
The fact that this is the first time in eight months that Netanyahu has left the country (and only for two days, and for a major world event). This didn’t prevent these bellyachers from accusing Netanyahu of rushing to America in order to divert attention from his “historic mishandling” of the pandemic.
Thirdly, the left alleged that the Gulf peace deals were reached “underhandedly.” Maybe there is even something sordid in them, hinted several columnists. It is a sign of Netanyahu’s authoritarian rule, they wrote, that the Knesset did not have the chance to review in advance the texts of the accords!
Of course, now that the texts of the accords have been published in every global newspaper, there is no sleaze to be found; and the Knesset will have an opportunity to ratify the accords next week – just as it did (after the fact) with the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties.
The oh-so-sore Chemi Shalev in Haaretz went one step further, accusing the “two unscrupulous scoundrels Trump and Netanyahu of collaborating with two of the world’s most repressive regimes” to fashion “a Trojan horse harboring sinister designs.” Shalev superciliously wrote that “this veritable rogues’ gallery of political leaders desperately seeks to divert attention from their glaring failures at home.” And then he called their peace a “peace of the knaves.”
As if the US and the EU haven’t signed (far more dangerous) diplomatic accords with the genocidal Islamic Republic of Iran. As if Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan were signed by democratic Arab leaders. As if the peace with the Palestinians that Shalev and his progressive buddies want would be signed by Palestinian Authority paragons of democracy and human rights.
Shalev even has the temerity to allege that Netanyahu may be “angling for a personal cut” of the Gulf riches that are expected to flow Israel’s way, given his supposed role in opening the door to US F-35 sales to the UAE. After all, Shalev snidely reminds us, the allegations of Netanyahu’s involvement in the corrupt German submarine deal have not been properly investigated.
The rockets launched by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza on Ashdod and Ashkelon at the exact moment Netanyahu was signing the “Abraham Accords” on the White House lawn also served Netanyahu’s critics well. The television news broadcasts switched to a split-screen in order ensure that no viewer could revel in the peace festivities without seeing enemy missiles striking Israeli civilians.
Of course, four Israelis were killed by PLO terrorists on the day that the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn, but at that time the Israeli media hardly made a mention of it. It would not have been nice to rain on Yitzhak Rabin’s and Shimon Peres’ parade. Dumping on Netanyahu is another matter all-together. It is an automatic media reflex.
Which brings us to the core problem felt by the Israeli and American Jewish left regarding the Gulf state peace accords; that the accords distract from the “urgent need” to give the Palestinians a state of their own.
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami wailed that the Abraham Accords cannot be a substitute for diplomacy with his beloved and peaceful Palestinians. The New Israel Fund hiccupped that “while peace agreements are always to be celebrated, Israelis must still make a choice between ending the occupation or continuing to maintain an unjust system where Palestinians are both separate and unequal.” IfNotNow barked that the accords “are simply Trump and Netanyahu’s latest sleight of hand,” meant to “keep the Palestinian as political pawns.”
As if Israel’s peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt two and three decades ago ended conflict with the Palestinians! As if those accords hadn’t nonetheless provided enormous strategic value for Israel, by strengthening it and normalizing its international standing. As if the new accords with the Gulf states shouldn’t be judged on the same standards.
ALL THIS NASTY nattering reflects the deeply partisan climate in both America and Israel. Alas, neither Trump nor Netanyahu can do any good in the eyes of their political opponents.
The political left can’t stand the fact that the peace accords are a personal success and a diplomatic vindication for Netanyahu, who for years has argued that only a strong and successful Israel will bring peace; not an Israel that bows its head and begs for peace at any price.
The political left can’t stand the fact that for all Trump’s prejudices and shenanigans, his team set clear goals in Mideast peacemaking and brought about concrete results.
The political left can’t stand the fact that their darling underdog Palestinians have been exposed as one of the most intransigent, rejectionist, antisemitic and anti-American actors in the Middle East – aligned with Iran, Turkey and every other radical Islamist group in the region.
The left can’t stand that Jared Kushner has proven that the Palestinian cause is no longer the “crux” of Middle East conflict; and that all the billions poured down the Palestinian Authority drain indeed may have been a mistake.
Less partisan and more reasonable pundits should be able to agree that the Abraham Accords are a gargantuan gain for everyone involved.
They expand and solidify a critical regional alliance against a dangerous common enemy: Iran.
They break the circle of enmity around Israel, and perhaps have done so more already than the Egyptian and Jordanian accords ever did.
They lend religious legitimacy to Arab peace with Israel, by referencing the Abrahamic common heritage of Arabs and Jews, and thus implicitly acknowledging that Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel. This is a mammoth transformation in the Arab approach to Israel.
The accords are demonstrable proof that Israel is a force for good, knowledge, prosperity, and stability in the Middle East. After all, that is the reason the UAE and Bahrain (and hopefully soon other Arab states) are bandwagoning with Israel.
Nothing less than full-throated celebration is called for. Shana tova!