An Inside Look at the Greatest Deal Ever Made in the Middle East

by Phil Schneider

In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David peace deal that Jimmy Carter engineered. It was unquestionably the greatest achievement of the Carter administration. Jimmy Carter, who was no known for his negotiation skills, brought together two stubborn adversaries and placed enormous amounts of pressure on both sides – especially Israel – and the deal was signed after many months of negotiations.

The peace deal with Egypt was not accepted by other Arab countries. It was rejected. But more importantly, it was rejected by most of the people in Egypt. Within a few years, Anwar Sadat was assassinated in Egypt by his own people who treated Sadat as a traitor for signing a peace treaty with Israel. Historians have debated what Sadat’s real motives were. Did Sadat have a change of heart or was he looking for a way to take back the Sinai peacefully in order to have a better jump-off setup for the next attempt at attacking Israel.

Whatever the truth may be, the peace with Egypt has lasted for more than 40 years. It is not a warm and fuzzy peace. It is not as good as the Israel-Jordan peace treaty signed by Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. But Israel has not fought any wars with Egypt for 40 years. In the first 25 years of the State of Israel, Egypt and Israel fought four wars and endless numbers of skirmishes and attacks. So, the peace agreement must be judged as a successful agreement.

But what took place under the Trump administration will probably be looked at as a more consequential agreement. What happened was not necessarily dictated by brilliant advisors of Donald Trump. Nor was there a major change of heart that happened overnight. There were two major shifts that led to the Netanyahu government and the United Arab Emirates reaching the historic agreement brokered by the Trump administration.

The first shift was that the UAE and Bahrain, for the last few decades, have become much more focused on business interests than religious extremism. They are small, but extremely wealthy countries that have gradually become more and more westernized with every skyscraper that dots their skyline. At the same time, Israel’s hi-tech prowess became too large to ignore for these business-minded countries who wanted access to the growing success in Israel.

But the other massive change was Iran. The fundamentalist country does indeed pose an existential threat to any oil-rich country in the Middle East. The UAE and Bahrain do not have strong armies. They rely on the United States to make sure that Iran does not foment rebellion in their countries the way Iran has in Lebanon and Syria. Just like the United States defended Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf War, the UAE and Bahrain are dependent on the United States too for their security.

Netanyahu has done an excellent job of explaining to the world how much Iran threatens Israel existentially. But this is just as true about at least 6 or 7 other countries in the Middle East. The Abraham Accords bring together a coalition of countries who oppose extremism from Iran and who are looking to focus on economic success together.

This is what Ambassador Friedman and Jared Kushner deserve much credit for engineering. They received the blessing from Donald Trump and represented the interests of the United States faithfully while building a long-lasting durable peace treaty. Not only have the accords lasted. They will probably be followed up with more padding with a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. If Netanyahu succeeds in becoming Prime Minister yet another time, this will be one of his main goals. But it will only happen in a situation where the White House has leadership that believes in sidelining Iran and understands the economic needs of all of the countries in the Middle East.

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