Arab-Israeli Talk-Fest for Peace
By Clifford D.
In Warsaw last
week, the Trump administration convened a conference on peace and security in
the Middle East. The two-day ministerial did not change the world. But it did
highlight significant ways in which the world has changed.
arrived from more than 60 countries, including 10 Arab nations. The one head of
state was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was clearly pleased to
be getting together with his neighbors. And they did not seem displeased to be
getting together with him.
this significant change there is a simple explanation: The Arab states and the
Jewish state agree, as does the current U.S. administration, that the most
serious threat to peace and security in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic
West European friends, by contrast, are ambivalent — despite Tehran’s
facilitation of mass murder by its client, Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad; its
continuing development of ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to
targets in Europe or America; its hostage-taking; its attempt to bomb a rally of
Iranian dissidents in Paris last summer, its attempt to assassinate a political
foe in Denmark last October, and credible Dutch accusations last month of
Iranian involvement with four additional assassination and bomb plots since
European Union’s chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, declined to attend the
conference. The German foreign ministry’s Niels Annen attended a celebration
of the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in Berlin before
proceeding to Warsaw.
Germany, France and Britain, the EU’s so-called E3, have been attempting to
devise a financial mechanism to avoid — or, one might say, undermine — U.S.
sanctions on Tehran.
the second significant change that was on display in Warsaw:
The fraught state of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Personality plays a role
— the Europeans certainly find President Trump’s problematic. But policy
differences are hardly incidental. The West Europeans don’t appear to
recognize that America’s adversaries are their adversaries as well. Or, if
they do, their willingness to burden-share in pursuit of the common defense
leaves much to be desired.
Europeans, with Russian President Vladimir Putin breathing down their necks,
have been more willing to accommodate Washington. Poland’s co-hosting of the
ministerial underscored that change (especially since Polish-Israeli relations
are currently tense due to disagreements over the role Poles played in the
Arab/Sunni diplomats gathered in Warsaw are
probably not, in their heart of hearts, enthusiastic about the exercise of
self-determination by the Jewish people in part of its ancient homeland. But no
other nation has both the will and the military power to stand up to the Shia
mullahs. Israelis have become the strategic partner of the Sunni Arabs by
In the past, the United States could be counted on to protect the
pragmatic Arab states. President Obama, however, shook their confidence by
agreeing with Iran on a nuclear deal which merely delays for a few years
Tehran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability. Mr. Obama also admonished them
“to share the neighborhood” with a regime whose hostility is obvious and
whose expansionist ambitions are undeniable.
President Trump has taken a harder line, who knows what the next American
election may bring? “We will be back,” former Vice President Joe Biden said
at another security conference, this one held in Munich over the weekend.
theory, increasing Arab-Israeli rapprochement should make it easier to find a
resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In practice, don’t bet on it.
Palestinian officials denounced the Warsaw conference
as a “conspiracy aimed at eliminating the Palestinian cause.”
Hamas, the Palestinian cause is the extermination of Israel. Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a master of ambiguity, and savvy enough to
understand that any agreement with Israel will be seen as a betrayal and a crime
not just by Hamas but also by Tehran and all the many jihadi groups. So long as
the Islamic Republic stands a chance of emerging as the regional hegemon, no
Palestinian leader can sign a peace treaty with Israel — no matter how
beneficial for Palestinians — without painting a bull’s eye on his back.
both Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel
al-Jubeir underscored that reality. “Who is supporting Hamas and [Palestinian]
Islamic Jihad, and undercutting the Palestinian Authority?” the latter asked.
He then answered: “Iran.”
Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan even defended efforts to prevent
Tehran from establishing military bases in Syria along the Israeli border.
“Every nation has the right to defend itself when it’s challenged by another
nation,” he said.
last time Israelis and Arabs got together to discuss Middle Eastern peace and
security was nearly 30 years ago. Conventional wisdom held that the Madrid
conference of 1991 was a huge success. Conventional wisdom proved wrong.
The Warsaw conference,
by contrast, has been derided by “progressives,” Obama administration
loyalists and, of course, spokesmen and apologists for the Islamic Republic. In
an editorial, The New York Times called it an “anti-mullah pep rally” and a
“bellicose bashing.” Perhaps those appraisals will turn out to have been off
the mark, too.
in the Middle East have suffered a lot because they have stuck to the past,”
Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi observed in Warsaw.
“Now we say, this is a new era, for the future.”
a region where history and historical grievances have consistently impeded
progress, not remaining “stuck to the past” would represent the most
significant change of all.