The Trump administration’s proactive pursuit of ‘peace’ in the Middle East by helping establish diplomatic ties between Israel and the Arab states, e.g., the UAE and Bahrain, was at best a one-sided peace formula and a recipe of disaster at its worst. For one thing, The Abraham Accords focused on something where there was no conflict, i.e., between Israel and the UAE, while ignoring the epicenter of tensions, i.e., the constant tension between Israel and Palestine. Ignoring this seems to have contributed massively to the Palestinian’s frustration with Israel and the rest of the Arab world, leading Hamas to start, with possible support from Iran, its latest ‘war’, although one might argue that the actual perpetrator here is Israel itself drawing US$ 3.3 billion in aid – including military aid – from Washington. That ‘peace’ is nowhere to be seen in the region is in itself tantamount to the grand failure of Washington’s ‘accords strategy’, originally developed by the Trump administration and relentlessly being pursued by the Biden administration as well.
For the past 1 year or so, the Biden administration has been proactively pursuing the Saudis to join the accords. The Saudis, apparently willing to set aside Palestine, have demanded a NATO-like security pact with Washington and nuclear technology in exchange for joining the pact. Washington’s strategy, in other words, remains focused on sacrificing the people of Palestine and forcing Arab states to recognize Israel as the only legitimate government. Buying off Arab state’s support at the expense of the Palestinian people’s very legitimate struggle is thus contributing more directly to the ongoing violence than the mainstream western, otherwise blaming Hamas and Iran, would want us to believe. Therefore, if Washington’s – and Israel’s – expectation was that permanently ignoring and suppressing the people of Palestine would ultimately force the latter to accept the new status quo established via The Abraham Accords, that idea stands shattered to the ground completely.
The intensity of the violence itself speaks volumes about how badly the idea of ‘peace accords’ has collapsed. Israel, as of today, is imposing a total blockade of Gaza, which the UNO has said violates international law. Thus far, the death toll has surpassed 1500 people from both sides, and there are as yet no signs of de-escalation. What Hamas called the “Aqsa Strom” is already turning out to be the biggest armed mobilization against Israel since the Yom Kippur 50 years ago. Israel is living the past in the present, in spite of the ‘peace’ that the Trump and the Biden administrations said would be long-lasting.
When the Accords were signed in 2020, Donald Trump signaled the rise of a ‘new’ Middle East. “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East” in which “people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity”. Trump boasted about the pseudo significance of the pact, knowing that these accords will bring more violence. This was, in fact, communicated to the Trump administration by the US intelligence in a report in 2020.
But these warnings obviously did not change the policy, which is why the Biden administration, too, began to follow them. An additional impetus for the Biden administration was the military conflict in Eastern Europe and the imperative of controlling the flow, production, and the price of oil. As we all remember very clearly, Biden began with vows to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state. But, due to tensions in Eastern Europe from February 2021 onwards and the imperative of ‘isolating’ Russia, Biden decided to let bygones be bygones and shook hands with Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad bin Salman (M.B.S.). To woo Saudi Arabia, the administration offered to beef up the Kingdom’s security (against Iran) in exchange for Riyadh’s support for The Abraham Accords. Washington’s global geopolitical imperative thus contributed to the process of making the people of Palestine invisible, adding to their sense of being expendable and strengthening their resolve to replace intifada with armed resistance.
The Biden administration, by seeking to proactively convince Arab states to recognize Israel without necessarily first settling the Palestinian question, not only let the people of Palestine out of the picture, it also contributed to Israel’s sense of impunity. Following the ‘peace’ accords, Israel began to capture more and more Palestinian territories. Israel’s expansionism, encouraged by the complete absence of Palestine from the negotiations leading to The Abraham Accords, is the reason why Netanyahu showed a ‘new’ map of the Middle East without Palestine at the recent UN General Assembly session. The ‘new’ map simply erased Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
Basically, the ‘new’ map gave a vivid depiction of an old Zionist dream, i.e., creating a Greater Israel. The fact that Netanyahu showed this map at the UN, directly challenging many of its resolutions and principles, reveals the sense of impunity that the extreme-far-right coalition that Netanyahu is heading in Israel has at the global level. More importantly, this coalition is not facing any pressure from the ‘democratic’ West. Instead, Hamas’ reaction to the West-supported invisibility of Palestine is now being called “sheer evil”, to quote Biden. This is why, instead of learning from the horror inflicted on the Gazans for the past many decades, the US administration is sending more military aid to Israel so that it can safely decimate the Palestinians.
The Abraham Accords, thus, have completely failed to achieve any of their core objectives, let alone establishing peace and creating a ‘new’ Middle East. Already, it has been tough for states like the UAE to deal with Israel’s far-right to draw any benefits from the Accords. For states like Saudi Arabia, weighing the possibilities of establishing diplomatic ties with Israel is going to become even more difficult, showing why The Abraham Accords may have no future now.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.