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Monday, 05 December 2022
How to Sustain the Abraham Accords Momentum?
Dalia Ziada

The scene in the Middle East, these days, is remarkably tragic. That is not because of the armed conflicts, terrorist groups, and economic crises that have been stable features of the region, but mainly because of the political inconsistencies that are cruelly engraving the face of the new Middle East.

At the eastern gates of the Middle East, the Iranian regime is mercilessly killing civil rights activists and chasing them with UAV drones in the mountains of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. Sadly, up to this moment, neither the regional leaders nor the international community has responded to the brutality of the Iranian regime.

In the interim, Turkey is overwhelmed by mitigating the political and economic consequences of the conflicts happening in its surroundings, particularly in the Black Sea and Eurasia, in addition to handling its diplomatic clashes in the eastern Mediterranean and the declared war on terrorism in the levant region.

Nevertheless, there is a glimpse of hope in this gloomy scene, presenting itself in the growing cooperation between Israel and its Middle East neighbors, including Arabs and Turkey. The Abraham Accords signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), two years ago, marked the beginning of this budding drive of normalization and reconciliation among Middle East countries. They took the Arab-Israel relationship from a state of cold peace to realistic coexistence and cooperation, even though it required pushing aside the unresolvable disputes that overwhelmed the region for too long, such as the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

For decades, the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been labeled as an Arab-Israel conflict. However, the crucial transformations that the region has gone through since the Arab spring have shown that the Arab-Israel relationship and the Israel-Palestinian relationship are two parallel, rather than intersecting, tracks. They are correlated but do not necessarily affect the progress of each other. This liberating concept, inspired by the Abraham Accords, has opened the door for positive regional transformations that are meant to last.

Although, the change in the Arab-Israel relationship from conflict to cooperation does not happen overnight. It has been brewing for at least ten years. The Arab Spring revolutions threw out the long-established dictators, who used to amplify the Israel-Palestinian conflict to distract their citizens from the failure and corruption of their regimes. Egypt is one of the most prominent examples of the drastic shift in government and public attitudes towards Israel after the fall of the Mubarak regime.

On the flip side, Israel, disappointed by the flawed Middle East policy of the United States Administration of President Biden, has started to consider balancing its historical dependency on the United States with healthy security and economic codependency with its Arab neighbors.

The momentous Negev Summit, in March, is one peak point of this regional transformation. The summit picture of Arab and Israeli leaders holding hands inside Israel showed that the Middle East is going through a phase of political maturity, wherein regional leaders are willing to cooperate on realistic and pragmatic terms. At the conclusion of the Negev Summit, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Lapid, boldly noted that this summit is giving Iran something to fear. “The shared capabilities we are building intimidates and deters our common enemies, first and foremost Iran and its proxies;” Lapid emphasized.

Indeed, the growing cooperation between Arabs and Israel is mainly motivated by confronting the common security threat of Iran and its widely spread militia. The angry waves of popular revolutions that swept the Middle East region from Tunisia to Syria, a decade ago, created a security vacuum that got swiftly and cunningly exploited by Iran to infiltrate into the security structures of countries with critical geo-strategic locations around the Arabian Peninsula.

However, the current momentum of accord in the Middle East cannot be sustained for the long term only on the background of confronting the common threat of Iran. Instead, Middle East countries need to work together from a place of choice, not a place of necessity. The sustainability of the Abraham Accords momentum depends on creating a state of interdependent cooperation between Israel, Arab countries, and Turkey, beyond the temporary collaboration to face a common threat.

In the meantime, there has to be a way to use the current momentum of Arab-Israel cooperation to reach a workable solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which can again pop up to the front causing severe damage to the hard-won regional peace. Sheikh Jarrah protests that quickly developed into a war in Gaza, last year, are one example.

Finally, to guarantee the sustainable growth of the peace trend in the region, efforts should be exerted on a level deeper than state-to-state relations. Reaching the core of people-to-people understanding between the Arabs and the Israelis remains a big challenge, despite the Abraham Accords and the growing economic cooperation between Israel and Arab countries.

BY: Dalia Ziada