We recently saw a historic event in Washington D.C. Representatives from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel signed a normalization and peace agreement under the auspices of the United States.
Although there have been clandestine contacts with these nations for years, to see such a visible display of rapprochement was something that was hardly expected.
There are geo-political and strategic reasons for these three nations to sign agreements, the most pressing being Iran, which is just across the Persian Gulf from UAE and Bahrain. Because of Iran’s proximity and regional dominance, allying with Israel, the strongest military power in the Middle East, makes strategic sense.
And there are other tangible benefits. As part of the agreement, the United States has agreed to sell the UAE F-35s, its most advanced warplane. Israel already has an activated squadron of them.
While Israel has been successfully fighting a proxy war against Iran, targeting its missile locations and air bases in Syria, part of this agreement will surely include significant increases in military and intelligence cooperation between the three nations.
Furthermore, the agreement serves to ingratiate UAE and Bahrain with the United States, Israel’s closest ally. These are not the first peace treaties Israel has negotiated with Arab states, but there is reason to hope that they will lead to warmer relations than exist with Egypt and Jordan. Significant military and intelligence cooperation are planned, as is outreach in civilian sectors (agriculture, water conservation and hi-tech).
Israeli hospitals have already signed agreements with their counterparts in the UAE. Universities have done the same.
Finally, The UAE is expecting an influx of tourists from Israel, and Abu Dhabi, its capital, is the first and only city in the world to mandate that hotels have kosher options.
While this agreement is rightly seen as the start of a new era in the region, the Arab-Israeli conflict is far from over.
The Palestinians, which have legitimate grievances, deserve their own state. They are not going anywhere, continuing to live under military occupation even though there are legitimate and justifiable security reasons why the occupation might exist.
Clearly, this agreement shatters Arab unity on the Palestinian issue. (There are rumors of several other Arab and Muslim nations ready to sign similar agreements with Israel). Palestinian leaders recognize that they are worse off now than they were before these agreements were signed.
A two-state solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict is a moral and strategic imperative. It has always been the most viable solution. The small minority who advocate for a one-state solution with Palestinians given full citizenship in a greater Israel are wishing for something that simply will never happen.
The full implications of these agreements will play out in the weeks and months ahead.
True, work must still to be done on the Palestinian front, but any time adversaries take steps towards understanding and cooperation is a good thing.
(Matt Goldberg is the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)