Those of us who have spent more than a few days in Southwest Asia, commonly referred to as the Middle East, are more than a little excited about President Trump’s latest foreign policy triumph. Before completing his first term, he has managed to double the number of countries who have publicly agreed that Israel has the right to exist and that have codified it by beginning the process of establishing full diplomatic relations.
“Full diplomatic relations” involves a lot more than renting a building in another country’s capital and hoisting your own country’s ensign on the roof. We are talking an embassy staff that will live and work there. We are talking about economic cooperation and trade involving citizens from each country moving back and forth between the two. In most cases, there will be commercial aircraft service both ways, from both countries. Generally speaking, the two nations concerned have agreed to a number of activities that will take place between them in the full light of day.
This isn’t always the case. Although we had diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union, in no way was there ever the full spectrum of international intercourse as compared to say, between the United States and the mother country, Great Britain. There was some commerce and some (very restricted) air travel.
Sometimes, the achievement of diplomatic relations is even more limited. For the longest time after the Camp David Accords, relations between Israel and Egypt could only be described as “coldly correct,” each side exactingly adhering to the terms of that particular treaty. It took the Persian threat along with that posed by Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, to move both Egypt and Israel from coldly correct to active, positive, nay enthusiastic (if covert) intelligence sharing and full cooperation. This brings us to the recently changed relationships between Israel and United Arab Emirates & Bahrain—and Saudi Arabia.
That’s right. I wrote and Saudi Arabia. Along with UAE and Bahrain, there have been lots of backchannel cooperative activities between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This is especially significant, as the Kingdom is the recognized keeper of all that is Holy in Islam…to include the cities of Mecca and Medina.
You can easily imagine how difficult it is for the Royal Family to make open and notorious gestures towards a nation that many of their religion believe has no right to exist. This new set of diplomatic advances was accompanied by the Saudi government publicly allowing (and announcing that fact) direct flights starting or ending in Israel to overfly its territory. That is a far cry from clandestine meetings between the Saudi Intelligence Service Agents and Mossad Operatives.
Here is the most important part that fosters some cautious optimism going forward. I mentioned it to David Webb** during a segment on his morning show, upon which we had a (very cordial) disagreement. Mr Webb opined that the critical element in this particular achievement, was the desire for stability. I agreed that Webb’s view was important, but not the most important part. The most important…and far-reaching piece I saw, was the beginning of friendships.
Remember the coldly correct former relationship between Israel and Egypt for a long time post Camp David? I watched Tuesday’s signing ceremonies, one after the other. I agree with David Webb when he says all these folks are professionals and always have their game face on for these things. That said, I’ve been to a number of ceremonies (although at several pay grades lower).
There was something different about Tuesday’s event. I was watching the faces…and also the body language…especially during the part where each party had to sign multiple copies of the treaty…one in English, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic (2nd ceremony had two in Arabic). Netanyahu was asked by his Arabic counterparts where to sign on the Hebrew version, while he in turn asked them the same on the Arabic one. The same thing occurred on President Trump’s end of the table, except he needed help from both an Israeli and an Arab.
I realize that I’m not a State Department Professional, but there was something different. The vibe I was getting was almost that of 4 or 5 guys who get together regularly for poker or golf. These leaders looked happy to be there, doing what they were doing and most importantly, doing it with others they wanted to be doing it with. I credit President Trump for this.
With the Camp David Accords, President Carter was the only one who was trusted by all sides, hence the long period of coldly correct relations. In fact, one of the Egyptian demands, was that every two years, the United States must conduct military exercises in Egypt as a deterrent to possible Israeli attack. Thus was born operation BRIGHT STAR. This agreement starts at a point decades further than Camp David. President Trump through his point men Kushner and Pompeo (in that order) has helped foster good relationships well before the treaty ceremony. The ceremony merely codified a lot of what has already been working and made the relationship public.
This brings me to my final point. There is important reason these are called the Abraham Accords. Christians, Jews and Muslims are all descendants of Abraham. This breakthrough, if followed by a majority of the Arab League (especially Saudi Arabia) is a giant leap towards bringing about a lasting peace between Judeo-Christianity and the Arab world. When we have Arabs who take the lead on defeating Islamic terrorism is when we win that fight. More on that in another article.
**David Webb can be found on Sirius XM Channel 125, M-F from 9-Noon, M-F