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by Ophir Falk

Peace is a universal value, the highest virtue in Jewish tradition, and cherished by anyone longing for a brighter future for his children. Pragmatic Muslim leaders are no exception and with the recently reached “Abraham Accords’, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel have proven that Peace for Peace is possible.[1]

On August 13, 2020 the world witnessed a fundamental shift in the Middle East peace process paradigm. The UAE, one of the most advanced and prosperous nations in the world, and Israel, one of the most innovative and resilient nations, decided to officially normalize their relations for the best common interest of their people.

The accord suggests that peace between Israel and leading Arab countries can be achieved without Israeli withdrawals from biblical land or uprooting Jews from their homes. Practical Muslims want peace as much as Jews do. They want true peace and are no longer willing to hold back their future due to the doggedness of Palestinian leaders.


Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, signing the Abraham Accords at the White House, Sept. 15, 2020. Credit: Alex Brandon/AP

Peaceful Muslim tourists and worshipers will be welcomed in Israel. They will visit Jerusalem, the city of peace, and Israelis will be welcomed to see the UAE’s many marvels. The first direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi took off on August 31st.[2] People will meet people and business to business interactions should in turn encourage leaders to further cement peace.

By being willing to suspend the extension of Israel’s sovereignty, as sanctioned by the U.S. peace plan, Netanyahu made it “… peace for peace, not land for peace.” as explained by former ambassador Itamar Rabinovich immediately after the historic announcement.[3]

Even one of President Trump’s stoutest critics, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, called the deal “a geopolitical earthquake”[4] and David Ignatius of the Washington Post said “Trump is right. The Israel -UAE agreement is a huge achievement.” [5]

All this did not come out of the blue. For years, in the face of media mockery and self-regarded pundit nay-sayers, the Trump administration, moderate Muslim state leaders, and Israeli statesmen were determined to fix wrongs and form a better future.

It started with Trump’s “Riyadh address” calling on Arab leaders to do their share to fight Islamist extremism.[6] It was followed by the U.S. withdrawal from the perilous Iran nuclear deal, which would have paved the path to an Iranian nuclear bomb and in fact helped finance its state terrorism and infiltration into Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and elsewhere.[7] That was subsequently complemented by the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital[8], of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights[9], and the legitimacy of settlements[10].

Once other nations saw that these daring deeds didn’t bring down the sky, the time was ripe to form a pragmatic pact with a 60-nation strong conference held in Warsaw last February, intended to “Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East”.[11] Senior representatives from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, and Bahrain set the stage for normalization and peace. The big question was who would jump into the water first. The UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed was first, then came Bahrain, followed by Sudan.

Ivy League and Mount Scopus academics who ridiculed and denounced the “Peace for Peace” doctrine are the same type of old-school professors who taught in the late 80’s that the cold war would last for a century to come and ridiculed Reagan-led initiatives.[12]

Palestinian representatives have refused all peace attempts to put an end to the conflict. They said no to Churchill and subsequent British white papers dating back to 1922, no to the UN partition plan in 1947[13] and no to the Rogers plan in 1970. After more than a generation of PLO terrorism, a “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” (aka the Oslo Accords[14]) was signed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat on September 13, 1993. The Accords laid grounds for further negotiations but an agreement that would put an end to the conflict was unobtainable. Agreements proposed by Prime Ministers Peres, Barak[15], Olmert[16]/[17], or the most recent White House peace plan proposal[18], were rejected, regardless of how forthcoming these attempts were[19]. After all these years, Palestinian leadership still refuses to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.[20]

Why? Because Palestinian leaders had a different business plan

Had they invested the billions, perhaps hundreds of billions, donated by the international community over the years to better the lives of Palestinians, Ramallah and Gaza would look like London and Dubai. Instead, Palestinian leaders and their cronies have mansions in Europe and the Emirates while Gaza continues to look like Gaza. The Palestinian people were betrayed and a generation of opportunity was lost[21].

The Doctrine – From Jabotinsky to Netanyahu

The peace-for-peace doctrine and the logic of formalizing relations between Israel and moderate Muslim states prior to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a novel concept. Nearly 30 years ago, Netanyahu wrote about it at length in “A Place Among the Nations”[22], proclaiming that a durable peace will not be made possible by appeasement and unconditional concessions, but rather, only after the Arab world recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

That doctrine was derived from a Zionist forefather: Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s writings on the issue dating back to “The Iron Wall” of 1923, where he underscored the importance of a strong Jewish state that can defend itself, by itself if it has to, and refrain from concessions until its neighbors acknowledge the Jewish state’s eternal existence in its homeland.[23]/[24] Jabotinsky was the first to point out that peace in the Middle East will not result from pity, but will be a product of power.[25] At the time, his doctrine seemed like science fiction; had it been taken more seriously by more people, the tragic destiny of the Jewish people could have been different.

Netanyahu internalized and implemented Jabotinsky’s principles. He steadily and steadfastly built Israel’s strength and alliances with the overall intension of bringing peace and prosperity to Israel. He understood that that could happen only if Israel were to become an economic power that had something to offer potential partners[26]. The kinship with America, Israel’s strongest ally is common knowledge, but in addition, Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to visit South America and Africa, creating strong relations based on common interests and goals. He also created strong relations with a number of Arab countries who had not recognized Israel, including Oman, Bahrain, and the UAE.

In 2014, Netanyahu reiterated at the United Nations General Assembly that “…Many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab World… I think it may work the other way around: Namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace. And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also to Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere.”[27]

At the time, and for long after, Netanyahu was one of the few leaders who presented that view publicly. Even otherwise-supportive U.S. administrations did not accept this position. In 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry illuminated the contrast in concepts by declaring, at a Brookings conference, that no peace between Israel and the Arab world would be possible without the Palestinians being onboard. “There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world,” Kerry declared. “I want to make that very clear with all of you. I’ve heard several prominent politicians in Israel sometimes saying, ‘Well, the Arab world is in a different place now. We just have to reach out to them. We can work some things with the Arab world, and we’ll deal with the Palestinians.’ No. No, no, and no.”[28]

Kerry’s statement echoed the joint declaration made by Arab heads of state who convened in Khartoum, Sudan after the 1967 war that they would jointly act to cause Israel’s withdrawal from all lands it obtained as a result of that war, emphasizing three primary principles – “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it…”[29]

Netanyahu’s doctrine, thankfully, passed the test of time and the USA, UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan (where the 1967 Khartoum convention was held) have now said “yes, yes and yes”.

Moving Forward

Twenty-nine days after the UAE agreed to the Abraham Accords, Bahrain followed up with a joint declaration for normalization with Israel[30] and Sudan joined[31] shortly thereafter. Significantly, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and other Arab or Muslim states are expected to join this peace-for peace-paradigm as well. Kosovo, a nation with a Muslim majority, has already declared it will recognize Israel and move its embassy to Jerusalem. So will Serbia.[32] Prosperity and the fruits of peace for the region are virtually boundless. The Israel-Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates railway project[33] that is planned to connect the people of the region, the way Amtrak does in America, is just one small example. Similar scaled projects in agriculture, water, health, and finance sectors are also in the works.

As for the Palestinians, with the soon-expected exit of the 84-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, there will be a short-lived vacuum. That brief interval will be an opportunity for a “reset” in order to create a truly tangible “New Middle East” that should unconditionally seek peace and prosperity for the people of the region.

For the first time in a very long time – perhaps ever – the U.S. president sees eye to eye with his Israeli, Saudi, Egyptian, and many other key Sunni counterparts on the strategic issues of the day, primarily those pertaining to Iran.

The leaders agree that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable and that its tyranny and adverse effect on the region must be stopped. Not all is agreed upon, but the core issues are, and the rest can be resolved. One such issue is the Palestinian predicament. Unlike the peace-for-peace agreements between Israel and distant Arab countries, the agreement with the Palestinians will require compromise and concessions. Mutual ones.

The Palestinians are entitled to self-determination and land that they can call their own. The century-long conflict has entailed hardship, but the Palestinian people have much, perhaps the most, to gain from peace. The White House’s January proposal for “peace to prosperity”[34] is not what the Palestinian leadership dreamed of, but it offers a lot more than their people have ever had. It is not what many Israelis have hoped and prayed for either. The proposal calls for the formation of a Palestinian state – a state that never existed before – on approximately 70% of the Judea and Samaria territory obtained by Israel in the 1967 war and on land swaps. The proposal also suggests practical measures for territorial continuity throughout the Palestinian state and sets a real path to prosperity and economic opportunities.[35] The strongest Sunni states in the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Morocco are among the supporters of the plan and can be crucial in its facilitation.[36] Israel has accepted the White House proposal, which calls for major Israeli concessions. The Palestinians have refused to discuss it.

All the peace-seeking countries in the region have a strong interest in the success of the White House proposal. That includes Jordan (having a 68% Palestinian population), despite not supporting the proposal, and Egypt, which will share borders with the planned Palestinian state.

An “historic compromise” between Israel and the Palestinians, and perhaps all the countries in the region, will require not only Israeli concessions but also bold Palestinian leadership and a real contribution by other stakeholders. If Egyptian and Jordanian leaders really want a durable solution, they will also need to give real estate along with their call for Israel to do so. Giving small parts of Sinai and of Jordan to a Palestinian state could go a long way to achieving peace. Although never officially put on the table before, it is reasonable that Jordan and Egypt allocate territory to Palestinians. It is in everyone’s best interest. It would surely be supported by Israel and Palestinians should also be in favor of it. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Israel is smaller than New Hampshire with a population larger than New York City. Egypt recently gave two islands to Saudi Arabia in return for financial support in 2016 [37]. This may serve as a fitting model to help resolve the Palestinian problem.

Notwithstanding international support, at the end of the day, it is up to the Palestinians to produce their peace-seeking representatives. No one can do it for them. That leadership will need to educate its constituency for peace based on facts and reality, not on fantasy and conspiracy, and certainly not on hate, incitement, and violence.

In the meantime, by implementing the Abraham Accords, pragmatic and peace driven leaders will continue to fundamentally shift a flawed paradigm and prove that prosperity and Peace for Peace in the Middle East is possible.End.


Dr. Falk is the author of Targeted KillingsLaw and CounterTerrorism Effectiveness, is a research fellow at the International Counterterrorism Institute (ICT), was a visiting scholar at Georgetown University and is a founder of Acumen Risk Ltd.



[1] ‘What’s in the Israel-UAE Deal?’ Wall Street Journal August 13, 2020
[2] Dov Lieber, ‘Israeli Flight Lands in U.A.E. to Mark New Diplomatic Era’, Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2020,
[3] Viliyana Filipova, ‘Israel and the UAE have carried out geopolitical defibrillation in the Middle East’ Economo August 15, 2020
[4] Thomas Friedman, ‘A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Middle East’ August 13, 2020
[5] David Ignatius, ‘Trump is right. The Israel -UAE agreement is a huge achievement’, Aust 13, 2020 Washington Post
[6] ‘Trump Summons Muslim Nations to Confront Terror of all Kinds’, Washington Post, May 21, 2017
[7] Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, May 8, 2018
[8] ‘Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and Orders U.S. Embassy to Move’ New York Times, December 6, 2017
[9] Vaness Romo, ‘Trump Formally Recognizes Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights’ NPR, , March 25, 2019
[10] Felicia Schwartz and Courtney McBride ‘Trump Administration Says Israeli Settlements Aren’t Illegal’, Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2019
[11] Ophir Falk, ‘A pragmatic pact formed in Poland’, Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2019
[12] Cox, M. (2009). Why did We Get the End of the Cold War Wrong? The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 11(2), 161–176.
[13] Walter Laqueur (ed.), The Arab-Israeli Reader; A Documentary History of the Middle east Conflict (New York: Bantam Books, 1969), pp.113-122
[14] The Oslo Accords were a declaration of principles signed by Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat on September 13, 1993 at the White House. It was stipulated that a final status agreement would put an end to the conflict and would address the issues of Refugees, Jerusalem and a Palestinian State. In his last speech before Israel’s parliament, the late Prime Minister Rabin emphasized that the Palestinians, would have “less than a state,” Israel would retain security control over the Jordan Valley “in the broadest meaning of that term,” Jerusalem would remain united under Israel’s sovereignty, and settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria would become part of Israel.
A number of Israel’s subsequent Prime Ministers (Peres, Barak and Olmert) offered the Palestinians much more than that. Offers that are no longer on the table.
[15] ‘Barak Proposes Land Deal; Arafat Rejects Offer’ ABC News, January 6, 2006
[16] ‘PA Rejects Olmert’s Offer to Withdraw From 93% of West Bank’ Haaretz and Reuters August 12, 2008
[17] David Ignatus, ‘The Mideast Deal that could Have been’ Washington Post October 26, 2011
[18] Peace to Prosperity – A vision to improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People’ January 2020
[19] Benny Morris, ‘Arafat didn’t negotiate – he just kept saying no’ The Guardian, May 23, 2002
[20] ‘Arab League, Abbas reject recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish state’, Reuters March 9, 2014
[21] Ophir Falk and Yaron Schwartz, ‘The Lost Generation for Palestinians’, July 8, 2018; Isabel Kershner and Ben Hubbard ‘Saudi Prince Accuses Palestinian Leaders of Failing Palestinians’ New York Times, October 6, 2020
[22] Benjamin Netanyahu, A Place Among the Nations, A Bantam Book, May 1993 pgs. 329 – 357
[23] Ze’ev Jabotinsky, ‘The Iron Wall’ originally in Russian, Razsviet, 4.11.1923
[24] Jabotinsky wrote that Israel should strive to be able to defend itself, by itself if needed, but he also strove for strong alliances. Primarily with the United Stated and England.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ophir Falk, ‘Economy First’, Yediot Aharonot,,7340,L-3704871,00.html April 22, 2009
[27] PM Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly September 28, 2014
[28] Secretary Kerry in a Conversation at the 2016 Saban Forum (minute 12:45 to 13:30)  December 4, 2016
[29] The Khartoum Resolution, September 1, 1967
[30] ‘Bahrain Will Normalize Relations with Israel, in Deal Brokered by Trump’ New York Times, September 11, 2020
[31] Felicia Schwartz  and Nicholas Bariyo ‘Israel, Sudan Agree to Normalize Ties in U.S.-Brokered Deal’, The Wallstreet Journal, October 23, 2020
[32] ‘Serbia, Kosovo to open embassies in Jerusalem’ al-Monitor. September 4, 2020
[33] Railway Pro – Communication Platform website August 1, 2019
[34] ‘Peace to Prosperity – A vision to improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People’ January 2020
[35] ‘Peace to Prosperity – A vision to improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People’ January 2020 Sections 6, 10 and 11
[36] Mohamed Abdelaziz, ‘Arab Reactions to Trump’s Peace Plan: An Analysis and Recommendation’, Washington Institute, January 31, 2020
[37] Declan Walsh, ‘Egypt Gives Saudi Arabia 2 Islands in a Show of Gratitude’ New York Times April 10, 2016

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