The deal Trump announced Friday between Israel and Bahrain, following on Trump’s deal to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE announced last month, is a gesture of power politics. And it has been cheered by many powerful players, including lead organizations of the Israel lobby that claim it transforms the Middle East. Democratic congresspeople have also praised the deal, with one Virginian congresswoman applauding Trump by name.
Rep. Elaine Luria represents a swing district in Virginia and tweeted Friday:
“I am encouraged by today’s announcement that Bahrain is joining the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations with Israel. As we reflect on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this decision brings us one step closer to a peaceful and secure Middle East. I applaud President Trump’s work to broker this agreement and urge other Arab nations to follow suit.”
Luria clearly wants to be on Trump’s side of this news as the election approaches. Trump won that district by 49-45 in 2016. And two years later Luria beat her Republican opponent Scott Taylor by only 2 points.
As for other power players, Israel lobby groups see a new dawn in Israel’s global image. AIPAC is triumphant— and uses the news to beat on Palestinians.
It’s #ANewEra in Israeli-Arab relations. A new model of peace, prosperity & cooperation is emerging. The old, unproductive paradigm of boycotts & rejectionism is collapsing. The Palestinians should embrace this model, stop boycotting the US & Israel, and return to direct talks.
The American Jewish Committee also attacks Palestinians: “Decades of Palestinian rejectionism have led to major frustration in Arab world.” The AJC’s ceo thanks Trump. David Harris: “We thank President Trump and his team who saw these possibilities, and welcome the winds of change in the Middle East that lay the foundation for greater peace, cooperation, and prosperity.”
The New York Times reflects the same outlook; its news story allows several Israeli Jews to berate Palestinians at length for not embracing Israel. There is just one quick quote from a Palestinian leader.
Long time peace processor and Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk also uses the deal to attack Palestinians. Indyk cites a quote from Mohannad Aklouk, the Palestinian envoy to the Arab League, from Facebook.
Palestinian envoy to the Arab League: “We have dignity, martyrs, prisoners and refugee camps of glory, and this is enough for us.” A classic expression of Palestinian victim-hood. Noble and proud but as a political strategy completely useless.
The liberal Zionist lobby group J Street celebrates the news, but says Palestinian sovereignty under a two-state solution is necessary to preserve the Jewish state.
J Street believes that comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors in the Arab world will only be achieved through an agreement that resolves the issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Some Democratic pols praise the deal but seek to run to Trump’s right on Israel. Former ambassador Dan Shapiro retweets FL Rep. Ted Deutch’s support for the deal but questions Trump’s military gifts.
[Deutch] supports the Israel-Bahrain deal (as do I) and raises an important point. If there is an F-35s-for-UAE-style commitment to the Bahrainis involved in this deal, the administration needs to make sure Congress is fully in the loop.
Josh Gottheimer of NJ also applauds the deal but hints at criticism of Palestinians and his own concerns about military gifts to Arab countries.
This agreement demonstrates the growing recognition in the region that peace will not come from rejectionism and denial, but from…acceptance, coexistence, and cooperation with Israel. I look forward to working in Congress to develop these new partnerships, while ensuring Israel’s retains its qualitative military edge in the region.
Dan Shapiro uses the deal to put pressure on Palestinians:
The Israel-Bahrain deal is a positive culmination of a years-long trend. A wider circle of peace in the region benefits all. Smart diplomacy can also help it be a source of new momentum for an Is-Pal 2SS.
In his announcement of the deal on Friday, Trump also sought to put pressure on Palestinians.
The [Palestinians] want to come in — they’re going to want to come in because all of their friends are in. …And I can see a lot of good things happening with respect to the Palestinians, which would be really wonderful. Whether you are on their side or not on their side, people want to see it all brought to an end, and brought to an end quickly. So that’s going to be very important.
Ambassador David Friedman also used the announcement to say that the Pax Americana means loving Israel.
What we’re seeing in real time, in this room today and last month, we’re seeing the paradigm for the Middle East completely change. … And it’s all because, if I may say, because of the policy that you began in May of 2017 of trusting our allies, of empowering our allies; and in my case, of course, of being the greatest friend that Israel has ever had — of putting people on the job who share those values and convictions. And the fruit is now being borne in this incredible peace agreement.
Friedman aimes his comments at the Obama administration, and Joe Biden:
Your policy of “peace through strength” has changed the world profoundly for the better. And I’m — as the Ambassador to Israel, I’m eternally grateful for the changes that you have made for the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports there is a battle royal for Jewish voters, and donors.
Also Thursday, Jewish Insider reported that Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire entertainment mogul who is identified with center-to-right pro-Israel policies, is organizing a minimum $500,000 a ticket fundraiser for the Democratic presidential candidate. Saban, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, had stayed away from presidential politics this cycle until now. He had indicated in the past that he would break with the party if the Democrats nominated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is critical of Israel and had talked of withholding U.S. aid.
Both fundraisers are signs that Biden is consolidating support from both the pro-Israel left and center as the campaign rolls into its final six weeks.
Dems are trying to run to Trump’s right on Israel, against parts of the UAE deal. Last Thursday 10 House Democrats wrote Trump to object to adviser Jared Kushner’s proposal to sell the UAE advanced aircraft. “Israel is our single most important ally in the Middle East. Central to our support of Israel’s security is ensuring that it maintains a qualitative military edge (QME) in the region.”
The JTA says, “Democrats are hoping to use that issue to counter Trump’s pro-Israel narrative.”
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., led 10 Democrats in writing to Trump on Thursday, saying they would take steps to scuttle any such sale. Along with [Debbie] Wasserman Schultz and [Brad] Schneider, other Jewish Democrats who signed are Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Max Rose of New York and Dean Phillips of Minnesota.
Former peace processor Aaron David Miller says Palestinians are the big loser in power politics, but the issue isn’t disappearing.
Palestinian issue won’t go away. Still not a single country in world today is prepared to make it a top priority…
Saudis greenlit this. Arab consensus on Palestine —,if there was one — is breaking apart. Arab states will nominally stick to 20O2 peace initiative while some will make their own arrangements with Israel.
Lastly, let me quote Harvard professor Stephen Walt, who said that all the power politics represented by the last normalization deal only increases the pressure for a democracy in Israel and Palestine. His argument:
It’s not meaningless, but neither is it a transformative, landmark event… [A]part from lip-service, most Arab governments abandoned the Palestinian cause awhile ago and have not been willing to do much to push a 2 state solution. Antipathy to Iran and to movements like Hamas plays a role here too. So what the UAE has done is not a sea-change…. anyone who thinks the [Israeli agreement] to forego annexation ends the Israeli right’s commitment to a Greater Israel is deluding themselves. What matters are facts on the ground, not annexation per se… [T]his situation shows that power politics > justice. Israel still has firm backing from the US; Arab elites care more about themselves than about the Pals, the EU is useless, Russia/China don’t give 2 hoots about I-P, and Iran is too weak to mount effective opposition….[L]et’s bear it in mind the next time US officials from either major party start waxing eloquent about the importance of “values” or “moral principles” in shaping US foreign policy… Bottom line: the road to one state just got a fresh coat of asphalt, and a “South Africa-like struggle for equal voting rights” (to use Ehud Olmert’s phrase) looms on the horizon.
Thanks to Michael Arria and Donald Johnson.