Thursday, October 29, 2020

The recent U.S.-brokered “Abraham Accords” that Israel reached with the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are a big deal, a very big deal, a huge deal.

It is such a significant deal, for so many reasons, that I want my children to have a full appreciation for it, because they will live in a more peaceful world than did their preceding generations. This deal is, to quote my children, hujongous! It is a pivotal moment in history! I know where I was when Israel made peace with Jordan; my parents’ generation knows where they were when Israel made peace with Egypt. Therefore, I strongly feel that my children’s generation should know where they were when Israel made peace with Bahrain and the UAE.

If they do not know where they were, at least they will remember that their dad wrote something about it, so that they should know. “And you shall tell your children,” says Exodus 13:8.


Therefore, in honor of my children, I present to you some fascinating tidbits of Israel’s acceptance in the field of nations, some snippets of related history you likely might not have ever heard, and some entraining trivia, though this matter is anything but trivial.

“Business is war,” they say in Asia, but nothing is better for peace than business. Israel has always known this, has always extended its hand, and it seems that we are at a point in history that is in a stretch run, of sorts, for full, universal recognition.

Currently, Israel has recognition from 85% of the world’s countries. It is one of six established countries not currently recognized by 100% of its colleagues. The others are South Korea (not recognized by North Korea), Armenia (not recognized by Pakistan), Cyprus (not recognized by Turkey), North Korea (not recognized by France, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and China (not recognized by Bhutan).

For a country to be considered an entity in the community of nations, and thereby a sovereign state, a two-thirds acceptance vote must be received by the United Nations General Assembly, and must not be vetoed by any of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.S.

Israel reached this threshold—on its fourth attempt—on May 11, 1949.

Kosovo, for example, because it has the most international backing for an entity almost in the fold, is not yet a country because: a) only 97 countries have accepted it, and b) China and Russia say no.

There are two kinds of recognition: de facto and de jure. De facto describes an unignorable, factual reality of present conditions. De jure refers to the situation as prescribed into law.

Famously, the United States is known as the first entity to recognize Israel’s status as a sovereign state on the same day of Ben Gurion’s historic declaration on May 14, 1948, and one day before Israel filed its application with the United Nations.

It should be clarified, however, that this was de facto recognition. De jure recognition was established on January 31, 1949. The U.S. was therefore the 20th country to legally recognize the state of Israel.

The first? The Soviet Union, on May 17, 1948. Ignominiously, the Soviet Union is also the first of Israel’s recognizers to eventually sever relations. They did so in 1967.

That year is one you will recognize as the year Israel endured the Six-Day War. This is noteworthy because, curiously, recognition of Israel has waxed and waned throughout its history.

The waning has frequently occurred in response to Israel’s wars, so we have a batch of recognition-rescinders in 1967, 1973 (Yom Kippur War) and 2006 (Lebanon War).

The waxing has frequently occurred following Israel’s famous diplomatic outreach vis-à-vis overseas hospital units in response to natural disasters, contribution of water technologies to countries in desperate need, agricultural foreign aid and other such technical wizardry, and of course, peace itself. The latter is why a flurry of countries came on board in 1991 (collapse of the USSR), 1993 (Oslo Accords) and 1994 (Jordan treaty).

In Israel’s history, 44 countries have severed relations for various reasons, and all but six have resumed the relationship. Those six countries are Cuba, Venezuela, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Iran. Someday, they will be back.

The peace treaty with Jordan in 1994 looms so large that most folks do not realize that between that signal event and the current crop of signatories, 10 other countries made official peace with Israel.

The most recent of these is also the latest newly-established country on earth, South Sudan, in 2011.

It is a curious fact of history that major Israel-Arab peace seems to come around every quarter century. Egypt was the first in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994, and UAE and Bahrain in 2020. Only 18 countries in the Arab League to go!

As a way of satisfying my curiosity, I had a look at how many countries have made peace with Israel since the day I was born: 61 have done so, at a clip of 1.35 countries per year.

I, of course, should not be considered any kind of marker of progress for Israel’s peace initiatives, but if matters hold to that pace (and I remain in good health), then country No. 193 should come on line sometime around my retirement in 2041.

May that happen, and may it happen sooner, but for more immediate interests, may I, very soon, write an article subtitled, “165 Down, 28 to Go.”

Have a wonderful Jewish New Year.

Martin is the author of eight books, including The Emoji Haggadah.