May 21, 2024
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How Not to Make Peace Between Israel and Saudi Arabia

I don’t even think Biden can make peace with Netanyahu, his supposed friend for decades, whom he has been snubbing unnecessarily for more than seven months.

When the Abraham Accords were brokered by the Trump administration between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, I wrote about how they had set a new paradigm for peacemaking in the Middle East that would be much more successful.

Attending the White House ceremony in which the accords were signed and my visits to the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco have underscored the success and viability of the accords. “This agreement with the UAE is the first of what will become the new trend,” I wrote three years ago. “Instead of land for peace, from now on, Israel will be trading peace for peace. Israel will no longer relinquish land and evacuate Jews from their homes in return for calm and instead receive rockets, terrorists’ tunnels and suicide bombers in return. The Palestinians will have to overcome their internal divisions, their corruption, and their misplaced priorities, or they will be rightly forgotten.”

I wrote that none of the concessions Israel made for decades led to the Palestinians reciprocating. Rather than make the concessions necessary to help their own people, Abbas and other Palestinian leaders stalled for time, resorted to violence and incitement, and missed countless opportunities.

“This agreement should be a wake-up call to the Palestinians that no one is waiting for them to overcome their stubbornness anymore,” I wrote. “Whether they like it or not, those days are now officially over. Their ability to hold Israel hostage has been lost forever.”

In hindsight, I admit I was wrong.

There are at least two people who are still waiting for the Palestinians, enabling their stubborness, and are not only willing but genuinely excited about the prospects of holding Israel hostage: current American President Joe Biden and his top advisor on the Middle East, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

Biden and Friedman have clearly learned nothing from decades of failure to achieve peace by forcing Israel to make concessions that would put the Jewish state in peril. They have turned a blind eye to the success in peacemaking of former President Trump, who was able to think outside the box and wisely reject those who told him that there was no other way.

Biden told his reelection contributors on Friday that a deal may be on the way with Saudi Arabia — after talks his national security advisor Jake Sullivan had with Saudi officials in Jeddah — aimed at reaching a normalization in relations between the kingdom and Israel.

He didn’t say what the deal would entail. But he doesn’t have to, because he has Friedman for that.

“I believe that, at a minimum, the Saudis and Americans could (and should) demand four things from Netanyahu for such a huge prize as normalization and trade with the most important Arab Muslim state,” Friedman wrote after meeting with Biden.

These four things are: an official promise not to annex the West Bank— ever; not to build new West Bank settlements or to expand existing settlements; no legalization of “wildcat” Jewish settlement outposts; and transferring some Palestinian populated territory from Area C in the West Bank (now under full Israeli control) to Areas A and B (under Palestinian Authority control) — as provided for in the Oslo Accords.

Friedman ended his column with what may have been seen as a joke at the time: “If it also forced Netanyahu to abandon the extremists in his cabinet and make common cause with the Israeli Center-Left and Center-Right, well, wouldn’t that just be the cherry on top?”

Now it is clear that Friedman was not kidding. This is actually Biden’s plan.

He wants to overthrow the current Israeli government and replace it with a coalition he would like better, with Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz taking the jobs of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. He doesn’t care about making peace between Israel and the Saudis. He wants to make war with the Israeli voters who elected a right-wing government.

Anyone who understands Israeli politics knows there is no chance for this. Lapid and Gantz will not suddenly become Bibiphiles, even if it means Israel making peace with the entire Arab world. Gantz said it himself in English in June.

The Times of Israel reported that during an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Gantz was asked whether his party would be willing to swap out Smotrich and Ben-Gvir in the coalition in the event that an agreement is signed with the Saudis. Gantz said his faction would not join the government but would act as “strategic backup” from the opposition benches.

“I think peace is always a good trend for the State of Israel, and if it needs my backup for that, it will get my backup for that, but I will not get into this government,” he said.

But Friedman doesn’t care. He wrote about how he told the president in the White House that a US-Saudi mutual security pact that would involve Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel depended on Israel making concessions to the Palestinians that would preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.

He admitted that he warned Biden that if he made a deal without a significant Palestinian component, “it would simultaneously strike a death blow to the Israeli democracy movement – by giving Netanyahu a huge geopolitical prize for free after he just did something so antidemocratic – and to the two-state solution, the cornerstone of US Middle East diplomacy.”

“It would spark a rebellion in the progressive base of his party and make ratification of the deal well nigh impossible,” he also admitted warning the president.

So now the cat is out of the bag. Not only can there be no peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia using the successful strategy of the Abraham Accords that left the Palestinians and their intransigence out, Biden and Friedman are now giving veto power over any possible deal to the Palestinians and their allies in Congress.

No, Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud will not be allowed to decide the terms of a peace agreement between their countries. Biden and Friedman will put the likes of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in charge.

These developments have only persuaded me even more that I have been right in saying for three years that no agreement will be reached on expanding the Abraham Accords as long as Biden remains president.

The Saudis just don’t trust America under Biden, who came to Saudi Arabia from Israel and couldn’t even get the Saudis to lower the price of oil ahead of an American midterm election.

The Biden administration can’t even broker normalization between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., which is an obvious prerequisite for him to deliver a deal with Israel. I don’t even think Biden can make peace with Netanyahu, his supposed friend for decades, who he has been snubbing unnecessarily for more than seven months.

Peace is not around the corner between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and it’s not because of Netanyahu, Smotrich, or Ben-Gvir. Netanyahu has made peace with three Arab countries, and he is willing to go far to broker a Saudi deal.

Speaking to Fox News last week, Netanyahu said a Saudi deal would “be a pivot of history. It will effectively end the Arab-Israeli conflict and enable us to end the Palestinian-Israel conflict.”

But Netanyahu added a dose of reality in the interview that I hope Biden watched from the White House. He said he has long believed that Israel must first make peace with the Arab world and only then with the Palestinians.

“The Palestinians, who refuse to recognize Israel in any boundary, are only 2% of the Arab world,” Netanyahu said. “If we make peace with the other 98%, the Palestinians will stop believing that one day the broad mass of the Arab world will destroy or dissolve Israel, and that will bring them into a more realistic position.”

If Biden had done the right thing and invited Netanyahu to the Oval Office instead of Friedman, he would know the truth. Instead, he is unfortunately doing everything to prove that he does not know how to make peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia

The writer is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and a committee member of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He was appointed by President Trump to the Council of the United States Holocaust Museum. [email protected]

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