Editorial: Trump-brokered Middle East pacts really are big deals
The recognition of Israel by a second Arab state in a month is another major step in a regional strategy to neutralize Iran, and the significance shouldn't be downplayed as election year hype from President Donald Trump.
Bahrain follows United Arab Emirates in establishing full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. They bring to four the number of Arab nations that recognize the legitimacy of Israel, joining Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).
Critics of the Trump administration are seeking to minimize the importance of the most recent pacts. Some have contended the recent recognitions can’t be considered peace deals since Israel has never been at war with the UAE or Bahrain, also noting several of the Gulf states have quietly cultivated ties with Israel for decades.
True, but formalizing their ties sends a powerful message that the region is transforming and opens the door for other nations to join in normalizing relations with Israel. Oman and Sudan are likely to be next, and possibly Morocco.
The big prize is Saudi Arabia, and that's why bringing Bahrain into the fold is so important. Bahrain is basically a Saudi satellite, and would not have acted without its approval.
The goal of the Trump administration is to assemble a regional coalition powerful enough to counter the influence and ambitions of Iran, the major destabilizing force in the Middle East.
Traditionally, peace efforts in the region have centered on resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian interests were not ignored in the recognition pacts. Part of the incentive for the Gulf States was securing a promise from Israel to back away from a plan, supported by the Trump administration, to annex Palestinian lands on the West Bank.
Still, the Palestinians are objecting loudly to the deals. But as more of their Arab patrons recognize Israel without the precondition of a resolution of Palestinian grievances, the incentive for them to return to the peace talks grows.
Trump has shifted the focus from the frustrating task of brokering peace between Palestinians and Israelis to uniting Israel and its Arab neighbors in the common goal of countering Iran.
With that should come greater prosperity in the Middle East, as the riches of the Gulf oil states are joined with Israel's technology and entrepreneurship.
Interlocking the economies of the Middle East is the best way to assure long-term peace.
And building a powerful military force to keep Iran in check is likely to prove far more effective than the appeasement strategy favored by the Obama/Biden administration.
Trump is doing what few presidents have managed — moving the the Middle East toward stability and a broader alliance of nations friendly to the United States.
While the deals with Bahrain and UAE did not silence any guns, they may well prevent them from being fired in the future.