My initial reaction to the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE was complete and utter cynicism.
Netanyahu in 2019: Don, I need some election help. Can you give me Jerusalem & the Golan?
Trump: Well what do I get out of it?
Bibi: When it’s your turn we won’t annex lands we already control AND we’ll agree to a peace we always wanted.
Trump: Sounds like the art of the deal! https://t.co/OWtL4iDHGR
— Yoni Leviatan (@songsofyoni) August 13, 2020
The day after the US Democratic Presidential ticket, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, got a swarm of positive news coverage, President Trump announces a historic breakthrough in ties between Israel and the UAE – without either party present??
The more it became apparent that nobody in Israel knew about this – not the foreign or defense ministers; not the notoriously leaky-as-a-catheter Israeli press; not even esteemed political journalist Amit Segal who is our canary in the Israeli coalmine for anything worthy coming from the right-wing (see: Barak Ravid for his left-wing counterpart) – nobody saw this coming on August 13, 2020. It was clearly an election stunt designed to switch the news cycle in President Trump’s favor.
Not to mention Prime Minister Netanyahu, who knew he’d be waking up today to a front page on Israel’s leading (paid) newspaper detailing yet another scandal involving his wife’s never-ending abuse towards the victims she employs.
I’m not sure Israel is going to get very much out of this “normalization” with UAE but just like every other gesture from Trump, this comes along at a fortuitous moment for Netanyahu. It will totally overshadow tomorrow’s story in Yedioth on his wife’s racism towards black maids pic.twitter.com/qOOL0LQ2zr
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) August 13, 2020
Then I stopped looking at this through American eyes – and a wave of emotion overtook everything.
Israel hasn’t made peace with an Arab country in more than twenty-five years. Although the nit-picky among us are fixated on the fact that we were never at war with the UAE, those of us capable of zooming out to the Arab League’s 1967 Khartoum Summit, otherwise known as the “Three Nos” – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel – understood the historic weight of this moment, semantics be damned.
The UAE wasn’t even formed until 1971, four years after the complete rejection of any hope for peace with our Arab neighbors, yet here they were breaking down barriers in order to advance something other than war.
True, it’s the threat of war that drove us together more than anything. The economic possibilities between the Middle East’s leading economies are phenomenally high, but the fear of Iran’s encroachment upon every corner of the region is no doubt the leading driver behind Israel’s rapprochement with the Arab Gulf states.
Wasting no time, Oman and Bahrain shortly followed suit. That wasn’t a big surprise.
Hearing they were jealous about not being first certainly was.
There is no containing the excitement coming out of Israel right now. Netanyahu got the news cycle he wanted. And though I harshly criticize him 9 days out of 10, on this day I gave him the credit he fully deserved.
So did the city of Tel Aviv in its now customary fashion of proclaiming Israeli emotions on the flickering screens of city hall in Kikar Rabin.
The #TelAviv-Yafo Municipality building is lit tonight with the flags of the State of @Israel and the United Arab Emirates, following PM @netanyahu's announcement regarding the normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates! نبعث الحب من تل ابيب@UAEmGov pic.twitter.com/Tl0QbwvDqn
— Tel Aviv (@TelAviv) August 13, 2020
But of course, we live in the cynical Middle East. We’re not allowed to talk about anything the least bit positive if we don’t include a heavily negative caveat about the Palestinians.
We’ve never had a day’s conflict with the UAE, Bahrain, Oman or most of the countries who make up the 22-nation Arab League, yet many in the world believe we’re not allowed to have relations with anyone if we don’t have relations with a people who have rejected every single offer of peace we’ve ever made.
Most pathetic of all, is the sector of American Jewry who exploits their Jewish identity, Jewish culture and sacred Jewish religion to arrogantly pontificate Mideast foreign policy from the Hamptons – without a vote or a say – in anything but their own miserable view of the world.
"If I belonged to the victors, I would turn out for demonstrations of solidarity with the victim…Let Arafat besiege Tel Aviv, and I would turn out to demonstrate against him.”-Mahmoud Darwish
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) August 13, 2020
The gross ignorance that pervades this more-loud-than-important school of thought was on full display from all the typical actors playing out a role they will never be cast for. The Arab world has finally woken up to the fact that a ban on normalization with the region’s most powerful military – and most technologically advanced economy – has brought them nothing but the same misery that pervades the American Jewish far left.
The unwillingness to admit (or even realize?) the threat of annexation they’ve naively been railing against for so long was no longer a threat – something anyone who follows Israeli politics in the native Hebrew of our people knew was never going to happen – is further proof these Ivy league thinkers-not-doers aren’t interested in anything but furthering their own egos.
All it takes is kindergarten-level math to understand that if annexation was ever a real threat – the UAE is the one who put a stop to it – most visibly with their Hebrew op-ed for all the Israeli people to read. And the next time this issue comes up they will be in an even stronger position to fight for the Palestinian cause.
Therein lies the foolishness of the strategy of pressure put forward by this school of thought which believes a tough hand is needed to move Israelis forward on issues of peace. Two existential wars with the Arab world did not move Israel one inch towards peace with Egypt fifty-plus years ago.
All it took was Anwar Sadat getting off a plane at Ben-Gurion airport, trading in the hatred for a bit of humanity.
And fifty years of “no” did not bring normalization between Israel and the UAE. All it took was the willingness to say “yes.” (Doing it in Hebrew didn’t hurt their case either.)
The Palestinians – and no less importantly, the American Jewish far left – would do well to learn a thing or two about how to persuade Israelis.
We’re not going to let anyone rain on this parade. My aunt ז”ל passed away from cancer six months ago. A few months before that, she took her last trip in this world to see a country with her two sons that she had never seen before in her long, gracious life.
When they landed in Dubai they entered with their British passports. The fact that we can go there now as proud Israelis is a feeling beyond explanation.
I truly hope that some of you one day will learn to understand it.