“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth”.
In the 1996 Israeli national election campaigns, the word “peace” played a major role. The election slogan of Benjamin Netanyahu, who managed to win against all odds and be elected Prime Minister after defeating Shimon Peres by a margin of 30,000 votes, was “making a secure peace”. However, the thousands of Israelis murdered following the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada caused the word to no longer play a major role in our political system.
It is not that Israelis gave up on peace. They just became more sceptical because they do not believe that the Palestinian leadership is willing to make the necessary historic compromises required to ensure peace. As the years passed, Israelis realised that the “territories for peace” paradigm in the Palestinian context – meaning that Israel will give up territories and receive peace in return – no longer works. This is because from every area that Israel withdrew, terrorist activities filled the vacuum. The disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the rise of Hamas and the daily rocket fire towards southern Israel are clear examples of the veracity of this perception.
The “territories for peace” paradigm had been adopted by most Arab countries. Moreover, for years, leftists in Israel and around the world have argued that Israel will not be able to integrate properly into the entire region if it does not lend a hand in establishing a Palestinian state. When Netanyahu began to challenge this claim in the mid-1990s, everyone thought he was delusional. For years he was the object of ridicule by Israeli political commentators.
And now, after Netanyahu has turned Israel into a global power, combined with the accelerated nuclear programme of Iran, Arab countries — once Israel’s enemies — have realised that their interests were backwards. Although it is unclear whether a Palestinian State will ever be established, Israel’s cooperation with countries in the region was known but rarely acknowledged publicly. With the assistance of President Trump, the United Arab Emirates decided to break the taboo and announced that it would sign a peace and normalisation agreement with Israel. The hope is that other countries will follow suit.
This agreement can be viewed in several ways: first and foremost, it breaks the abovementioned paradigm. Second, it will improve the lives of countless residents of the region by opening new markets and economic possibilities. Israel can even export gas and import oil.
One of the most interesting things is the new geopolitical reality created though the agreement. On the one side, there is one democracy and numerous countries changing their philosophical and political perspective: Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and possibly Oman. It should be remembered that Israel and Egypt each have separate agreements with Greece in the Mediterranean. On the other side, are countries that finance terrorism and harm their citizens, where democracy and human rights are foreign concepts: Iran, Syria and Turkey together with Hezbollah and Hamas.
This latest political move rearranges the players in the region. The free world powers together, with the traditional powers including Russia and China having to choose the first group, because if they do not, they will have to deal with the destructive consequences of the forces on the other side. After all, they have already gotten a taste of the alternatives.