Who Will Israel Open Diplomatic Relations with Next? Saudi Arabia? Oman?

August 17, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Middle East Watch Tags: IsraelUAEHistoryDiplomacySaudi ArabiaDonald Trump

Who Will Israel Open Diplomatic Relations with Next? Saudi Arabia? Oman?

Scholar Michael Rubin breaks down all the possibilities. He argues that no matter what: "the best thing American diplomats and officials can now do is step out of the way and not put roadblocks in the path to peace." 

That there are now so many possibilities reflects the sea-change in the Middle East and Asia. There will always be rejectionist countries: Syria and Iran in the Middle East; Algeria and Somalia in Africa; and Pakistan and Malaysia in Asia. Turkey too may soon join the rejectionist camp as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues down his ideological rabbit hole. While Lebanese President Michel Aoun has recently raised trial balloons, the timing of his statement seems to suggest his motivation is more enlisting the West to protect him from populist outrage and less a sincere desire to reach peace. Nor is it apparent that Aoun can now extract himself from Hezbollah minders should he actually wish to move ahead with any peace talks.

When the UAE framed its agreement for its constituents, the Crown Prince justified his move by highlighting the concession he extracted from Netanyahu to suspend (rather than forever foreswear) annexation of large portions of the West Bank and Jordan River Valley. This may create some obstacle for the next Arab state, as not only Palestinians but also their own constituents might expect them to point to further concessions at least nominally favorable to the Palestinians. Still, the momentum now appears clear and irreversible.

U.S. presidents might each claim credit for brokering peace deals on their watch, but increasingly the United States will merely be a bystander as Israel and former adversaries close the chapter on rejection and recognize three realities:

First, the problems which most concern governments and citizens across the Middle East have much more to do with economics, security, and good governance than they do with Israel.

Second, rather than be an impediment to peace and prosperity in the Middle East, Israel can be a key to its fulfillment.

And, lastly, the greatest impediment to Palestinian self-determination is not Israel but rather Palestine’s corrupt and craven leadership. Simply put, both Arab states and the Muslim world more broadly are tired of being held hostage by a Palestinian cause which has repeatedly rejected peace deals and expects the rest of the region to subordinate their own interests to Palestinian narratives.

The best thing American diplomats and officials can now do is step out of the way and not put roadblocks in the path to peace.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). You can follow him on Twitter: @mrubin1971.

Image: Reuters.