Wicker: It’s time to celebrate historic Middle East peace agreement

Published 6:38 am Tuesday, September 22, 2020

It is always an important day when the Israeli Prime Minister visits our nation’s capital, but his arrival at the White House on Sept. 15 was something truly momentous. Hosted by President Trump, the Prime Minister signed a historic peace deal with leaders from two Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

This agreement, known as the Abraham Accords, is the first Arab-Israeli peace deal to be signed in more than 25 years. It is especially significant given that only two Arab countries had previously recognized the Jewish state. This agreement strengthens Israel’s standing among Arab nations and gives Israel new economic partners in the region.

This landmark achievement makes possible a new era of Arab-Israeli cooperation. It paves the way for other countries, like Saudi Arabia and Oman, to follow suit and recognize Israel. Such a development would have been impossible to imagine a generation ago, when memories of the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War were still fresh.

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In both conflicts, Israel was surrounded by enemies but emerged victorious. Even in recent years, most Arab nations have refused to acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy. The signing of the Abraham Accords signals a strong desire to turn the page on old hostilities.


President Trump set aside conventional thinking

President Trump deserves praise for bucking the conventional wisdom and brokering this deal. For decades, many analysts argued that Israel would have to strike a deal with Palestinian leaders before peace could be achieved in the region. This meant Israel would have to cede land to the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

This naïve approach ignored the fact that Palestinian leaders showed little interest in striking a peace deal, having rejected generous offers in the past.

President Trump brought a fresh approach to the situation. Instead of undermining Israel, he boosted Israel by moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. These actions strengthened Israel’s position and sent a message that the Jewish state was not going anywhere. This signal encouraged the UAE and Bahrain to come to the table and negotiate a durable peace.


Iran poses a common threat

One of the most dangerous threats to Israel continues to be Iran. Since Islamic revolutionaries seized power in Tehran in 1979, Iran has become the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. Iran has also continued working to develop nuclear weapons. A treasure trove of documents captured by Israeli intelligence in 2018 showed that Iran lied to the world about its nuclear activities.

More recently, Iran launched an attack on Saudi oil fields in 2019 and shot down an American drone in international airspace. New reports have surfaced that Iran has plotted to assassinate the American ambassador to South Africa, which would be a brazen act of war.

The Abraham Accords could spark a power shift in the Middle East that will create a bulwark against Iran. Arab countries are realizing that Iran is the greatest threat to regional stability and that cooperation with Israel is in their interest. Such partnerships would boost Israel’s security and would serve American interests by reducing the need for U.S. troops in the region.

I continue to support President Trump’s sanctions on Iran to put pressure on the regime to change its malicious behavior. Even as we continue to exert influence in the Middle East, I hope these budding partnerships between Israel and more Arab nations will counter Iran’s influence and bring much-needed stability to a turbulent region.