The Real Netanyahu (and Trump) Dilemma

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The Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision to award the prize to the World Food Program this year assuaged the fears of elitists from New York to Paris and Berlin. The Abraham Accords, which include bilateral peace treaties between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and most recently Sudan, and Israel have fundamentally changed the Middle East. They have upended fifty years of failed peace processing on the part of Western foreign policy elites who seem to fall into deeper and deeper funks with word of each new peace deal.

Newsweek’s cover story on Oct. 2 nicely encapsulated their distress. The cover featured a leering black and white photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a red and white headline, The Netanyahu Dilemma: Can The Nobel Prize Say No to Bibi?

By giving the prize to the World Food Program, the committee kicked the can down the road. Maybe President Donald Trump will be defeated next week. Maybe Netanyahu will be ousted from power. And then things can return to normal, they console themselves. They will be able to forget all about the unpleasantness.

What is it about the Abraham Accords that makes the foreign policy “experts” so upset?

Three aspects of the deals really get their goat. The first is their authors. For the likes of the British Foreign Office and the Council on Foreign Relations, few are held in greater contempt than Netanyahu and Trump. The Newsweek article, which dealt with Netanyahu specifically, called him “widely loathed.” And of course, there hasn’t been a US President as despised by “the smart set” as Trump since Andrew Jackson.

The second aspect of the Abraham Accords that drives the peace processors to distraction is the fact that they were done at all. The Arab-Israel conflict isn’t supposed to end this way. For 50 years, the “experts” have all agreed that the road to peace goes through the PLO. So long as Israel doesn’t make peace with the Palestinians, it cannot make peace with the Arabs. And in the two instances where Israel was able to sidestep the Palestinians – its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and its 1994 peace treaty with Jordan – both the Jordanians and the Egyptians refused to implement the normalization clauses of the deals so long as Israel didn’t make peace with the Palestinians.

The absence of normalization reduced the deals from actual peace to little more than long-term ceasefires. The same hostility and anti-Semitism that fueled the Arab wars against Israel which Egypt and Jordan led, remained and even grew within their societies in the years and decades after they signed the peace agreements.

As Newsweek put it, with barely disguised fury, “The agreements that Netanyahu has wrangled with Arab states of the Persian Gulf fail to resolve, or even address the situation of the Palestinians – a cause with passionate supporters in Europe, on US college campuses and with many US liberals.”

The fruits of this widely held passion are the most powerful reason for the elites’ heartbreak over the news that peace is finally arriving.

For decades the foreign policy establishments in the US and Europe have held as sacred the notion that peace between Israel and the Arab world can be forged only after the Palestinians. Two strategic assumptions that have guided Western Middle East peace policies have been founded on this sacrosanct idea.

The first is that the Palestinians will only make peace with Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state encompassing all or virtually all of Judea and Samaria, northern, southern, and eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The second assumption flows naturally from the first. Since the experts all agree that the only way to achieve peace between Israel and the Arabs if for a Palestinian state to be established on lands Israel controls, and indeed, has the sovereign right to control, settle and govern, Israel is to blame for the absence of peace.

These twin assumptions have been the foundations of all international peace efforts since the 1970s. They are also the way that European governments, the UN, and much of the American left (which comingles with large swathes of the American foreign policy establishment) justify their ever-increasing hostility towards Israel.

They are used to justify discriminatory treatment of Israelis and of Israel in everything from arms sales to cultural cooperation to free trade deals. The EU uses them to justify their anti-Semitic labeling rules for Jewish products from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights and their finance of anti-Israel political pressure groups in Israel and around the world. These assumptions – that peace goes through the Palestinians and Israel is to blame for the absence of peace with the Palestinians – are also used to justify campaigns that demonize Israel and its supporters and reject Israel’s very right to exist.

And this brings us back to the Abraham Accords.

Events of the past week make clear just how completely the Abraham Accords repudiate the foreign policy establishment’s core convictions.

Monday, the top leadership of the UAE’s Dubai Ports World, one of the largest maritime logistics companies in the world, travelled to Israel’s Red Sea port in Eilat to discuss the prospect of opening a shipping line from Eilat to the Saudi port of Jeddah. The initial purpose of the line would be to transport Israeli Muslims to Mecca for the Haj. Jeddah is a mere 70 kilometers from Mecca and the idea is to sail to Jeddah and then travel by bus to Mecca. Until now, Israeli Muslims have been compelled to travel overland through Jordan to get to Saudi Arabia.

DP World’s leadership expressed enthusiasm at the project and plans have been put in motion to implement it very quickly. According to Gideon Gulliver, the CEO of the Port of Eilat, over time the Eilat-Jeddah line has the potential to bring 2 million visitors to Eilat.

The meeting in Eilat came fast on the heels of DP World’s deal last month with an Israeli firm to bid on a tender to rebuild and operate the old port in Haifa. The first cargo ship from the UAE docked at the Port of Haifa last week.

Tuesday, the UAE Pro Football League signed a memorandum of understanding Israel’s Professional Soccer Association pledging to cooperate to further develop the sport in both countries. The UAE Pro League referred to the MOU as an “historic agreement.”

Also on Tuesday, A&E, the largest wine distributor in the UAE announced it will begin distributing wines from Israel’s Golan Winery in the UAE.

Bahrain, for its part continues to astonish Israelis with its enthusiasm over its the newly opened peaceful ties with Israel. Last weekend, Sheikh Khaled bin Khalifa al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s royal family who serves as the Chairman of the King Hamad Global Center for Co-Existence and Peace signed an agreement in Washington with Elan Carr, the US anti-Semitism monitor where both sides committed to work together to fight anti-Semitism. The Bahraini center adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism. The IHRA definition defines anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism.

In the MOU, the Bahraini institute and the State Department committed “to work together to share and promote best practices for combating all forms of anti-Semitism, including anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

When last week, Israel approved new housing construction in Israeli towns and cities in Judea and Samaria, the UN, the EU, Germany, the UK, France, Spain and Italy were quick to condemn the move. The UAE and Bahrain joined the US in ignoring the internal Israel decision.

These steps alone serve as a total repudiation of the West’s foreign policy establishment’s anti-Israel Rosetta Stone.

Consider the following. Six years ago, “peace activists” in San Francisco convinced the longshoreman union in Oakland to refuse to offload cargo from an Israeli merchant ship because it was from Israel. The ship was forced to sail to the Port of Los Angeles. The “peace activists” declared victory.

In 2015, the Palestinian Authority nearly caused the Israeli Football Association to be expelled from FIFA. The idea was that if the PA was able to get FIFA members to vote on such a move, they would support it because as is the case in the UN, there would be an automatic majority in favor of jettisoning Israel from the international soccer league. It took hard maneuvering by Israel to block the measure from going to a vote, no thanks to Europe.

Golan Wineries and its Mt. Hermon, Gamla and Yarden labels which will now be proudly sold at wine stores, hotels and restaurants in the UAE have long been targeted for boycott by “peace” activists.

Bahrain’s adoption of IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism is a sword in the heart of the foreign policy establishments. It’s not that the presidents of Harvard and Columbia and University of Michigan necessarily disagree that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Zionism. But their students do. And Bahrain has called their hand.

How are the university administrators going to be able to continue enabling their students to hold “Israel Apartheid Month” and harass pro-Israel students, faculty and invited speakers in the name of “free speech” when Bahrain says it’s anti-Semitic to delegitimize Israel or hold it to a standard to which no other state is held?

The BDS campaigns will no doubt continue. The likes of Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine and their comrades don’t care what Bahrain, Sudan and the UAE say about Israel. Like the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, they want the Jewish state gone. But the institutions that have enabled their anti-Semitism to run rampant in their campuses and corporations will be hard pressed to defend them without being judged anti-Semitic themselves.

And this brings us back to Newsweek and the agony of the elites its cover story described.

The Nobel Committee’s decision to give the peace prize to the World Food Program rather than to Netanyahu, Trump, Bahrain’s King Hamad and the UAE’s Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was a play for time. But even if Trump and Netanyahu are forced off the stage, the Abraham Accords will not go away. The peace that is bursting out from all quarters is real. It reflects the real desires of the people who live in the region. And it turns out their desires are far different from the sacrosanct anti-Israel catechisms taught and internalized by the peace processors of the West.

And this brings us to the real “Netanyahu Dilemma.” The real dilemma embittering the lives of the foreign policy elites is not whether to give the Nobel Peace Prize to men they hate. It is how to react to the peace these men have achieved.

For 50 years, the elites have insisted that ending the Arab-Israel conflict their greatest goal. Should them embrace and celebrate the peace that is now emerging? Or can they ignore it and continue condemning Israel, and so risk being exposed along with their false peace predicates as phonies and far worse.

Originally published in Israel Hayom.

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