The United States has successfully brokered a series of normalization deals between Israel and moderate Arab states in the Middle East. Washington acted. Forged ahead. Turned obstacles into footnotes on agreements. And in so doing, changed the world.
There is no longer a united Arab world dedicated to destroying – or at least obstructing, the small Jewish State located in their midst. A new era, a more enlightened era, is upon us.
The deals cascade into partnerships and investments and so some of the new deals are directly between Israel and an Arab neighbor. Others are a three-way partnership, with the United States playing a significant role and benefiting in a significant way. This was, after all, diplomacy. It was not altruism.
As good as these deals are for Israel, as positive as they are for each of the Arab nations that signed on to them, these deals, first and foremost, advance U.S. interests. They advance their world interests.
The United States, sidelined by Russia for the past several years, has repositioned itself as both a deal-maker and as a peacemaker. These deals reaffirm the position of the United States as a serious player in the Middle East. As a player that makes an impact. It is a significant change.
U.S. influence in the region has been slipping and sliding. For nearly a decade, the United States had been virtually absent. Other than for Israel, Washington and Foggy Bottom had consciously decided to abandon that part of the world.
Militarily, that has not changed. Diplomatically, it has changed. Economically, it has changed. The United States is still withdrawing many of its forces from the region. Military scaled down, diplomatic and commercial influence raised up.
Abandonment of the Middle East by the United States began during the eight years of the Obama/Biden administration. It was then that the role of the United States diminished, bit by bit and then almost entirely. That diminution, that departure, left a vacuum. The Russians were only too happy to step up their involvement in the region. So, too, were the Iranians. And then China found a way in, too.
U.S. world influence was teetering.
The compelling force behind the decision of the United States to re-enter the Middle East region and create these agreements between Arab nations and Israel was to “check” the influence of Iran in the Middle East. Then came the influences of Russia and of China. The pieces on the world diplomatic chessboard are moving. The United States is now, once again, directly influencing areas that Russia and China were claiming as their own.
This diplomatic muscling in by the United States and the tag-along of Israel, refocuses attention and divides countries down the line. Countries in the region must now make a public choice – they must identify which side they are on.
Syria, Turkey, Qatar and the Palestinians are on the side of Iran and Russia. Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Sudan, Jordan and Egypt are on board with the United States and Israel. Many Gulf States, with the notable exceptions of Qatar and Iran, are considering normalizing with Israel. Many will soon join that side of the board.
This is a massive move on the diplomatic chessboard. Iran, Russia and China are expert at the game of diplomatic chess, but none of them saw this coming. None of them believed that Donald J. Trump had the skill to pull any of these agreements off. And to do it in the final stretches of his presidential election campaign was a complete surprise.
The leadership of Iran, Russia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority are all rooting for a massive defeat of Trump. A resounding Trump loss at the polls would prove that they are correct and that normalization with Israel is wrong.
The best part of the normalization is that, unlike peace treaties, normalization deals are predicated on economic and other exchanges. And those are already shaping up. Deals on tourism, high tech, and bio tech are being signed. Investments from Arab countries and corporations into startups have begun to pour into Israel. These results are immediate.
There are those who believe that these deals go to prove that the United States and Israel are so very connected and so very closely linked. They are connected in many ways and there is a link. But that is not what these deals prove.
Above all else, these deals were done to help the United States. Knowing that Israel is a stable democracy in the region is an important constant. Relying on Israel’s military strength and the ability to use it offers an added advantage. Israel’s quick response and measured military strikes are a very important cache that the United States knows is important when sizing up enemy power and the armies. But believe me, the Russians and the Iranians are using the same calculus.
From the point of view of the White House, these normalization deals were certainly a feather in the cap of the Trump campaign. But honestly, and I say this as someone whose bailiwick is foreign affairs, very few people’s votes are swayed by foreign affairs.
Globally important, certainly. But it will not move the dial. Just Google or Bing Jordan. The first entries are for sneakers and basketball — not the country in the Middle East. People care more about their Air Jordan sneakers by Nike than they do about Amman, Jordan.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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