The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin concerning the fall of Afghanistan and the strategic, regional uncertainty that it has unleashed – particularly with regard to Iran, the Palestinians and the future of the Abraham Accords.
WASHINGTON — US Jewish organizations were following closely as the drama was unfolding. Even before Thursday’s terror attack, it was already clear that the Afghanistan withdrawal will overshadow the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But the deadly attack near the Kabul airport made it clear that the administration’s attention is currently elsewhere, as the President and his close staff monitored the developments from the situation room, postponing the meeting to a later timing.
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post that “as we watch the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the alliance and partnership between the United States and the State of Israel is more critical than ever.”
Speaking about the meeting, Daroff said that he expected the two new administrations “to make significant progress on issues of mutual and fundamental importance to all Americans and Israelis during Prime Minister Bennett’s first US trip to Washington since assuming office — the first opportunity for the two leaders to meet face-to-face during their many years in public service.”
“These priorities include sharing knowledge and resources to counter the COVID-19 virus and its variants, how best to deter Iranian aggression and hold its nuclear program accountable and in check, and defending and promoting Israel’s security, peace, and stability,” he said.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told the Post that with the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and all of the strategic uncertainty that it has unleashed, “events would hopefully dictate a further closing of the ranks between Washington and Jerusalem on Iran and the Palestinian issue.”
“This is clearly no time for risk-taking with Iran, including sanctions relief, especially given the election of Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran’s ratcheting up enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program, and its malign behavior throughout the region,” said Mariaschin.
“With regard to the Palestinian issue, the PA’s pay-for-slay program and its incessant efforts at the UN and elsewhere to demonize Israel suggests more business-as-usual in Ramallah,” he continued. “There should be no rush to proffer additional incentives to the PA —such as re-opening of the PLO office in Washington and certainly not re-opening of the consulate in Jerusalem — in the face of its zero-sum recalcitrance.”
“Finally, we hope that the success of the Abraham Accords will move the administration to proactively seek out, together with Israel, new partners for peace and cooperation in the region, to join those already committed to this camp,” Mariaschin said.
Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett is the first meeting between a new US president and new Israeli Prime Minister in more than a decade. “It ushers in a new chapter for the United States and Israel, and reaffirms the strength of our historic and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship,” she said.
“President Biden entered office with a longer and stronger record of support for Israel than any of his predecessors, and has been steadfast in his support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense,” she said.
She went on to say that The United States and Israel “share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. With the future of a renewed Iran nuclear agreement remaining, at best, uncertain, we welcome close collaboration between the US and Israel in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, President of the progressive group, J Street, said in a statement on Thursday that “while the US builds common ground with the new Israeli government in a number of areas, we also must make clear that the “status quo” is too dangerous to accept.”
“J Street is urging President Biden to make clear in [the] meeting that a strong, enduring, bipartisan US-Israel relationship demands fidelity to our shared values of democracy, peace and respect for human rights,” said Ben Ami. “That means pushing for an end to harmful settlement expansion; an end to discriminatory evictions in East Jerusalem and demolitions in the West Bank; an end to the policy of perpetual occupation; an end to the twin erosion of Israeli democracy and Palestinian hopes for self-determination,” he said in a statement.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Sudan agreeing to normalize relations with the State of Israel.
(October 23, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups immediately reacted to U.S. President Donald Trump announcing on Friday that Sudan has agreed to begin the process of normalizing ties with Israel.
Sudan follows the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which normalized ties with Israel through signing the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15 in a White House ceremony. The two Gulf states were the first to normalize relations with the Jewish state. Jordan and Egypt made peace with Israel in 1994 and 1979, respectively.
In a statement, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the development “a historic milestone as yet another country joins the UAE and Bahrain in building a new era of Israeli-Arab relations” and “a byproduct of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
“Through decades of support and deepening ties, America and Israel have demonstrated that the security and viability of the Jewish state is not up for debate, and those seeking peace and prosperity benefit from a relationship with Israel,” said AIPAC.
The pro-Israel lobby continued, “We call on other Arab leaders, particularly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to end their boycott of Israel and engage in negotiations to bring peace and stability to more citizens across the Middle East.”
“Today’s announcement is indicative of a very positive trend—a change of heart—among Arab leaders across the region regarding Israel,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a statement. “In this peacemaking endeavor, [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s vision and [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump’s dedication to advancing Arab-Israeli peace have been transformative.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS, “This agreement is another critical step in expanding peace between the Arab and Islamic world. The entire region will benefit from this, and agreements yet to come between Israel and its neighbors. This trajectory of normalization is in the interest of all who seek stability in a region too often torn by conflict.”
Republican Jewish Coalition spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS that Friday’s announcement proves that Trump “is once again proving he is the most pro-Israel president in history,” and that “today is a great day for Israel, Sudan and the entire peace-loving world.”
Even J Street expressed approval of Friday’s news, but with a caveat.
“It’s good that Israel is establishing diplomatic ties with more countries in the region,” tweeted J Street. “Let’s also be clear: Agreements like this don’t change the need for comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
“While Trump has rushed these deals through for pre-election headlines, his admin[instration] continues to empower and excuse the creeping annexation that is designed to prevent an Israeli-Palestinian agreement,” added J Street.
‘Normalization is the new normal’
In a statement, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations remarked that Sudan, following the UAE and Bahrain’s lead to normalize ties with Israel, paves “the way for more Arab and Muslim countries to embrace peace and reconciliation” in which the “rapidly shifting dynamics of the Middle East signify a future that will be defined by diplomacy and cooperation, with rejectionism and extremism relegated to the past.”
Regarding a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, the Conference said, “As the consensus for peace expands with more countries joining in the peaceful coexistence that will define the future of the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority finds itself even more isolated in its opposition to the Jewish state. The stubborn reluctance of Palestinian leaders to even discuss peaceful solutions leaves them increasingly out of step with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.”
The umbrella organization called on the Palestinian Authority “to heed the wind of change, have a change of heart, choose peace over war, and finally return to the negotiating table in order to achieve a lasting peace with Israel.”
CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee in a statement, “We are thrilled to see yet another country end hostilities with Israel. Those who would attack, demonize or boycott the Jewish state have lost. The Palestinian Authority should take note; normalization is the new normal. Peace is on the march.”
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) founder and president Sarah Stern noted that Sudan hosted the Arab League summit after the 1967 Six-Day War, where the “Three Nos” under the Khartoum Resolution was announced regarding the State of Israel: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations.”
Friday’s news “demonstrates just how far the Sunni Muslim world has evolved since then, in acknowledging that Israel is here to stay; that peace and acceptance of Israel and the normalization of people-to-people ties with Israel can only be of benefit to the region in agriculture, medicine, high tech and cybersecurity, and that they can unite together to fight their common foe: Iran,” she told JNS.
American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman told JNS that “Sudan was once home to a vibrant, Sephardic Jewish community whose chief rabbi, Hakham Solomon Malka, exemplified the pluralist values Sudan joins the U.S. in affirming today.”
“Sudan was also once host to the Khartoum Conference, whose rejectionist declaration led to decades of strife and stagnation,” he continued. “The ascendancy and genocidal drive of Islamist and pan-Arab socialist regimes to eliminate minorities and impose ideological conformity was an aberration, an ‘evil hope’ that is at last being repudiated, fittingly in Khartoum today.”
The Algemeiner published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman on the historic Abraham Accords and the official signing ceremony at the White House.
Witnessing the Abraham Accords signing last week generated the kind of stimulation that usually accompanies a very strong cup of coffee. The effect of such excitement? It’s tough to fall asleep.
The night of September 15, in fact, was different from all other nights. That familiar phrase is generally reserved for a spring holiday that involves the story of the Exodus, unleavened bread, four glasses of wine, a popular spread of chopped apples, cinnamon and wine, and, finally, a proclamation to gather in Jerusalem. Four questions address what makes this night of the treaties different from all other nights.
In the context of the Abraham Accords, these questions might go something like this. On all other nights, Arab leaders would exhibit unconditional animus toward Jews and Israel, dreaming of their destruction. They’d issue curricula and textbooks that are written to poison the minds of schoolchildren, injecting hate against Jews and Israel into the core of their pedagogy. But on this night, no hateful disagreements will disrupt progress, trade, or innovation; same for fighting hunger and sickness. And on this night, the United Arab Emirates will encourage young people to travel to and from Israel to enjoy great food and entertainment, visit and pray at holy sites, and engage in tech mining.
On all other nights, extremists might operate inside major oil-producing countries to plot and fund terror attacks on Western targets, but on this night, the top imam in Mecca, the holiest city among the world’s Muslims, says cooperating with Jews is acceptable and a good idea.
On all other nights, Israeli planes would take a circuitous, serpentine route to fly from Tel Aviv to the Far East. On this night, Israeli commercial flights will be cleared to fly over Saudi Arabian airspace.
On all other nights, Jews continuously pray at the Western Wall of the ancient temple. On this night, the colorful images of the Israel, Bahrain, and UAE flags are projected on the walls of the Old City. Meanwhile, Arabs will be welcome to visit holy sites in Israel and pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site of the Muslim faith.
Finally, after at least 3,000 years of ancient history and 72 years of modern history, there is an official, public rejection of hostilities, with embassies and diplomats planned in each other’s capital cities. The policy model of hate-war-destruction has given way to a very different option — one of diplomacy, a peaceful partnership built on mutual trust, and economic progress. Compared to other historic treaties signed on the South Lawn of the White House, the one signed on September 15 felt very different, according to those who observed them all.
Witnesses to the other Middle East milestone signings recalled the events involving battle-weary Egypt and Jordan, noting distinct caution in the air. On September 15, the leadership of the UAE, Bahrain, Israel, and the US stood shoulder to shoulder. On this day, there were no awkward handshakes, no dubious, glaring looks — or half-hearted, forced, or distrusting full smiles.
Leaders could honestly and publicly state their modified interests in the Palestinian cause, without making their plight conditional to a greater goal — moving forward with cooperation with Israel. In fact, UAE and Bahraini officials are positioned for a new role as an independent third-party, acknowledging that the treaties give Israel and the Palestinians time and space to negotiate an agreement without the looming reality of an “annexation” in Judea and Samaria, commonly known as the West Bank. If the two parties aren’t willing to come to the negotiating table, the new partners are saying publicly, there’s nothing much they can do to advance that process. Meanwhile, the rules governing Areas A, B, and C from the Oslo Accords will remain in place.
The Abraham Accords model is there for the taking, for other Gulf States and even for the Palestinians — the cornerstone to an agreement that is likely to engulf other Gulf States and extend into Africa is economic cooperation. Make no mistake, the Emiratis and Bahrainis still have a soft spot for the Palestinians. However, in the wake of creating a gleaming, modern-day Oz, the UAE and Bahrain are no longer willing to be dragged to a halt, waiting for the Palestinian leadership to fulfill its aspirations. The 72-year-old hate-war-destruction refrain has played like a tired old tune. That strategy has proven far too costly, with zero reward for the risk. These two Arab countries decided to cut their allowance to a petulant child without kicking them out of the house. Their tough love, in effect, came with this advice: “It’s time for you to go find a real job.”
The primary opponents of the Abraham Accords, not surprisingly, were Iran, Turkey, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, among others. Meanwhile, other Arab countries, ready to pull the trigger on an outstanding investment opportunity, were dialing up the partners, wondering, “How do we get in on the action?”
The world is witnessing the beginnings of a tectonic shift — or a “tech-tonic” economic shift. For many Israelis, meanwhile, the feeling of this geopolitical win might be as monumental, if not euphoric, as the 1977 European Cup Championship win by Maccabi Tel Aviv, a victory that lifted the spirit and identity of Israel from such horrifying events as the Olympic massacre in Munich, the Yom Kippur War, and the hostage crisis at the Entebbe airport.
Finally, the winds of change on that bright, clear day last week in Washington opened another door — to broaden the reestablishment of a Jewish community in the UAE and Bahrain. Jews won’t have to conceal their faith to visit these countries. Instead of the destruction of Israel serving as the ideological impetus of the Arab world, the guiding principle offered by the Bahrainis and Emiratis is peace and prosperity. It is not mere policy. It is a plan already being implemented. The peace dividend articulated by the participating countries will manifest itself in young people living and prospering in peace. When words like these filtered through Covid-19 masks worn at the White House, the witnesses knew that leaders were genuinely banking on a future. And that feeling is why this night was different from all other nights.
Kethimerini covered a virtual discussion of the B’nai B’rith Israel-Hellenic Forum focused on Greece in relation to Israel and Middle East peace.
The accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is set to be signed at the White House today. The ceremony will also be attended by Bahrain, which became the fourth Arab country, after Egypt, Jordan and the UAE, to recognize Israel. Israel, for its part, is stepping back from its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees the so-called Abraham Accord as a potentially “major step for the establishment of dialogue and mutual understanding between the peoples of the Middle East” and has also welcomed Bahrain’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The historic deal and its impact on international affairs came to the center of attention during a virtual discussion of B’nai B’rith Israel-Hellenic Forum that the author co-convenes.
It is necessary for Greece to carefully monitor changes in the Middle East landscape. Although the Palestinian cause has not lost support among Arab countries, it arguably is no longer considered a priority. Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and some other Arab states place more emphasis on Iran. This is also the case for the American administration which brokered the Abraham Accord. Greece needs to find a delicate balance between its historical ties with the Palestinians as well as Iran and the new Middle East realities.
Athens continuously supports the prospect of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and is aligned with the European Union position on Iran, although it certainly understands Israeli security concerns.
Additionally, Turkey appears highly critical of the normalization of ties between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. In his effort to take the lead in the Muslim world, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is highly concerned about the consolidation of the alignment of other regional powers that might also encompass additional Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia in the future.
This entails both opportunities and risks for the Greek government. While Greece along with Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have some common interests at stake in the Eastern Mediterranean – for example in Libya – the country sometimes gives the impression it is entering an obscure military environment that contradicts its peace-loving philosophy. Another midway solution is required here.
Last but not least, President Donald Trump has shown he is able to score some significant foreign policy points. Whether the Abraham Accord, which was also followed by the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, could be a precursor for a successful mediation in the Eastern Mediterranean remains to be seen. No doubt Trump delivers when he wants to.
Under the circumstances, Greece could intensify its effort to better promote its positions in the US. The momentum after the Abraham Accord favors the effort that should rather aim at both the president and the Congress.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Jewish and pro-Israel groups praising the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for signing historic agreements to normalize relations with Israel.
(September 15, 2020 / JNS) WASHINGTON—Jewish and pro-Israel groups applauded the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for signing historic agreements at the White House on Tuesday to normalize relations with Israel, the first Persian Gulf nations to normalize ties with the Jewish state.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the ceremony “a historic event in the advancement of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.”
“Today’s ceremony sends a clear message that it’s a new era for Israeli-Arab relations. Peace in the region is possible through diplomacy, mutual recognition and negotiation,” said AIPAC. “We hope other nations in the Middle East and the Palestinian leadership will follow this inspiring example to bring conflicts in the region to an end and promote prosperity and cooperation.”
“The historic agreements signed today show that peace is on the march and the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict is increasingly an anachronism. Israel is strong and flourishing, and the Arab world is coming to see the Jewish state not as a foe, but as an ally against Iran and a partner for peace and prosperity,” said Christians United for Israel (CUFI) chairman Pastor John Hagee in a statement. “It is my sincere hope and prayer that other Arab nations will follow the UAE and Bahrain’s lead, and that the Palestinian leadership, in particular, will accept that peace with Israel is the only path forward.”
In a statement, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said that the Abraham Accords “mark the start of a new phase in relations between the Jewish State and the Muslim world. These landmark understandings represent a realignment, a paradigm shift wherein peace is prioritized over conflict. In becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, the UAE and Bahrain lead the way for others to follow.”
President of the American Zionist Movement Richard Heideman told JNS that the occasion was a “historic breakthrough for Israel and her relations with not only the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who have signed agreements today at the White House, but for the future of Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people with all people.”
He added that “we are witnessing another significant achievement on the road to Middle East peace and an important step towards establishing a better day for Israel and all her Arab neighbors. We hope that the day will come when the Palestinian Authority itself will be prepared to achieve a permanent peace with the State of Israel for the benefit of all people in the region.”
Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, expressed to JNS hope that these deals are “a meaningful first step towards warm, active relations between Israel and other countries throughout the Middle East region” in that “peace and normalization should be preferred to the alternative, and this exciting development gives us a renewed feeling of hope and optimism.”
“NORPAC strongly applauds the Abraham Accords signing at the White House. The agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain represent a diplomatic breakthrough for the Middle East and a remarkable achievement in United States diplomacy,” the organization’s executive director, Avi Schranz, told JNS. “These agreements will serve to further halt Iran’s aggression and improve Israel’s security.”
“The Abraham Accords show the world that Jews and Arabs can live, work and grow together in the Middle East,” he continued. “The leaders of Israel, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the UAE have taken this bold step forward, and it’s our sincere hope that this fast-tracks peace in the Middle East between Israel and all Arab neighbors.”
B’nai B’rith International Daniel Mariaschin emphasized to JNS that the “importance of today’s signing ceremony cannot be overstated,” and that the Arab-Israeli conflict “is becoming undone one country at a time. This holds great promise for Israel and its neighbors, but also sends an unmistakable message to those who desire to undermine normalization that the future is not in their hands.”
American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman told JNS that the signing ceremony “reasserted the classical Middle Eastern values of moderation, pluralism and future-mindedness by recognizing the rightful place of Israel in the region.”
“The Middle East is the heartland of Jewish history, the home to our prophets, historical and holy sites,” he said. “Greater Sephardic Jews, whose roots are in Muslim lands and now constitute more than 50 percent of Israel’s population, were once one of a plethora of peoples who made Cairo, Tyre, Aleppo and Baghdad bustling hubs for trade and innovation.”
‘A potential security risk’
Not all Jewish and pro-Israel groups were as positive about the development.
“While we welcome openings between Israel and Gulf states, we see the signing ceremony for what it is—a recklessly planned foreign-policy stunt driven first and foremost by Trump’s political calculations, and a potential security risk to Israel given Trump’s reported plans to sell advanced fighter jets to the UAE,” said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, in a statement.
While the Israel-UAE deal calls for cooperation in areas such as tourism, commerce and health care, Israel has objected to the United States giving F-35s to the UAE.
However, in a statement, Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said that the Emirati and Bahraini normalization deals with Israel demonstrate that “the countries of the region are moving towards real peace with Israel,” and that following “decades of failed diplomacy and bloodshed, the Middle East is at the dawn of a historic moment when Israel and its neighbors will benefit from cooperation in trade, security, technology, and other fields that will make life better for all the peoples of the region.”
Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told JNS that the Abraham Accords “debunked” the “conventional orthodoxy of Israeli-Arab relations that all roads must go through Ramallah.”
“For years, standard operating procedure in terms of Israeli-Arab relations in general and for the Palestinians in particular has been rooted in rejectionism and anti-normalization,” he said. “The [Palestine Liberation Organization’s] goal of maintaining the Palestinian question as the essential ingredient to all Israeli-Arab relations has been eroding since 1979.”
Moreover, said Romirowsky, the signing of the accords “should finally convince the Palestinians that notwithstanding their diplomatic temper tantrums, their strategy of insisting that all peace agreements between Israel and Arab countries be conditioned on a prior agreement between the PLO and Israel has failed.”
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Bahrain agreeing to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
(September 11, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups instantly applauded Israel and Bahrain for agreeing on Friday to normalize relations between the two countries—the second of its kind between Israel and a Persian Gulf nation in the wake of the United Arab Emirates.
It’s also the fourth peace accord between Israel and a Middle Eastern country, following Egypt in 1979, Jordan in 1994 and the UAE, which agreed to such a deal on Aug. 13 and is scheduled to formalize it in a White House ceremony on Tuesday.
Bahrain will also be part of the ceremony, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani will sign a declaration of peace, according to a joint statement released by the United States, Bahrain and Israel.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted that the agreement is “Another HISTORIC breakthrough,” spoke on Friday with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa and Netanyahu, who called the agreement “a pivot of history, a pivot toward peace.”
Between Israel and Bahrain, they will exchange ambassadors, have direct flights and launch economic initiatives, said Trump in the Oval Office shortly after announcing the deal.
It is currently unknown where the Bahraini embassy in Israel will be located. Most countries have embassies in Tel Aviv. The United States and Guatemala are the only ones to have theirs in Jerusalem, both having relocated there in May 2018. The Emirati one will be in Tel Aviv.
The full details of the Israel-Bahrain deal have yet to be announced.
‘A very auspicious moment’
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the development “another historic demonstration of a new promising era in Israeli-Arab relations.”
“These diplomatic achievements are a testament to the fact that a strong and secure Israel, backed by the United States, is critical to bringing reconciliation to the region,” said AIPAC in a statement. “The old and unproductive paradigm of boycotts and rejectionism is collapsing, and a new model of peace, prosperity and cooperation is emerging.”
“Now is the time for other countries in the region and the Palestinian leadership to embrace this model, and cement new ties and forge lasting peace and security in the Middle East,” continued AIPAC.
“Historically, sustainable Arab-Israel peace agreements have been achieved with active United States leadership. The back-to-back agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and now Bahrain, were achieved with the full engagement of the U.S. administration,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “We thank President Trump and his team who saw these possibilities, and welcome the winds of change in the Middle East that lay the foundation for greater peace, cooperation and prosperity.”
Jewish Council for Public Affairs president and CEO David Bernstein told JNS that his organization “could not be more pleased that Bahrain and Israel are normalizing relations. This is a very auspicious moment for Israel and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.”
Jewish groups from both sides of the political aisle applauded the development.
“Bahrain’s decision to normalize relations with Israel demonstrates the growing conviction in the region that now is the time to set aside old conflicts, stand united against the threat of Iran, and engage in economic, technological, scientific and cultural cooperation with Israel that will improve the lives of all the peoples of the Middle East,” said Republican Jewish Coalition national chairman former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) in a statement.
Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman told JNS, “From Bahrain and the UAE to Chad and Malawi, countries once at best skeptical of Israel are turning into friends. We salute the wisdom of all these countries in recognizing both the mutual benefits of strong ties with Israel, and Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in peace and security.”
“Bahrain’s decision to normalize relations with Israel is yet another positive indicator that change in the region is moving in a welcome, positive direction,” B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS. “The UAE, and now Bahrain, are sending a strong and unmistakable message that peace and stability in the region are indeed reachable.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), called Friday’s development “yet another indication of the blossoming of warm relations between Israel and the Sunni Gulf states that had been up until now ‘under the table.’ ”
The new development “shows that these Arab partners understand and appreciate that the Jewish state is not going anywhere, that Israel is here to stay; that they have a tremendous amount that they can share and learn from Israel, in terms of high tech, cybersecurity, water irrigation and agriculture, and in the age of COVID-19, medicine,” she said.
At least since 2019, Bahrain has been improving its diplomatic relations with Israel. In June of that year, it hosted the “Peace to Prosperity” conference, where the United States released the economic component of its Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. The following August, Bahrain joined the U.S.-led coalition against to protect shipping in the Gulf against Iran.
Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain opened its airspace last week to allow flights between Israel and the UAE.
This week, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain agreed to open their airspace to flights east from Israel.
‘A sea change of attitudes’
Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS that the Bahrain-Israel normalization deal is a loss for two of Israel’s enemies—Palestinian leadership and the BDS movement—and that U.S. President Donald Trump “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize,” which the president was formally nominated for this week for brokering the Israel-UAE peace deal.
American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen told JNS, “The more Islamic countries that make peace with Israel, the less impact the Palestinian terrorist dictatorship’s anti-Semitic propaganda lies and the BDS movement against Israel will impact. We are witnessing a sea change of attitudes: the Israel-UAE agreement, the decision of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to allow Israeli flights to use their airspace, the refusal of the Arab League to condemn the Israel-UAE accord.”
American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman told JNS that the Emirati and Bahraini normalization deals with Israel exemplify “a new era, but one rooted in history.”
“Muslims and Jews, as in centuries past, will once again be able to channel their considerable talents and resources into projects that will benefit all of humanity,” he said. “For the Greater Sephardic community, these developments are at once historic and personal in ways that may be difficult for others to understand. With shared roots in the region and [those] who have in recent memory experienced the trauma of exile, it is deeply moving to see one Arab country after another welcome them, in freedom and friendship, to be fully Jewish.”
“Acceptance of Israel and its integration into the Middle East is a positive development for regional stability, for American interests, and no less importantly, for Israelis not being unfairly ostracized by other states,” said Israel Policy Forum in a statement. “We hope that Bahrain’s addition to the list of Arab states that have open and official relations with Israel paves the way for more such developments in the months and years ahead.”
At last, “the walls of isolation around Israel are crumbling,” Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations told JNS.
Even J Street, which is usually highly critical of Israel, welcomed the deal.
“As with the UAE agreement, this is a positive development. Here is some context on the long history of Bahrain-Israel relations, from [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak] Rabin under Oslo [in the 1990s] to today,” tweeted J Street. “And while normalization is welcome, real *peace* requires an agreement that resolves the issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
There are many definitions of the Yiddish word “chutzpah”: temerity, audacity, nerve, are chief among them.
Any of these definitions aptly fit the upcoming, and grandly-named, Paris Conference on Middle East Peace. Seventy countries will soon gather in the French capital to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more likely than not, will propose—or perhaps will try to impose a solution to it.
Israel will not be in attendance, and for good reason.
French authorities, in introducing the idea for this conference seven months ago, said that they were “compelled to act” on the issue, which they presumptuously profess was necessary to bring the parties together. The conference spokesman says that discussions will center within three working groups, dealing with civil society, institution building and economic assistance.
This all may have been another exercise in “international conference futility,” as the Geneva peace conferences of decades past attest, had it not been for the passage of Resolution 2334 in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the speech of Secretary of State John Kerry outlining his “six principles” late last month.
Huge assemblages of diplomats from dozens of countries, some of which don’t even have relations with Israel, normally wind up letting off steam at these gatherings, and close with presumptuous declarations that either raise Palestinian expectations or frustrate Israel because they have never dealt with the rejectionism of the Palestinian camp.
But this time may be different.
Protestations coming out of Paris about not seeking to impose a settlement on the parties ring hollow. Armed with both the resolution and the Kerry declaration, the Palestinians, who will be attending the gathering, will seek to use the meeting to further isolate Israel. With friends like Sweden, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, mischief-making could very well be the order of the day.
The conventional wisdom is that the conference will endorse the Kerry principles, which placed the blame and onus on Israel for an absence of progress on a two-state solution, and send it on to the Swedish-chaired UNSC, for adoption. At that point, with the parameters not only enunciated by Kerry, but then backed by both the Paris Conference and the Security Council (how could the U.S. veto its own policy?), what would be left to negotiate?
It defies understanding how the French organizers, or any other parties, can still speak both of prejudging an outcome, as well as a serious return to direct negotiations.
Indeed, some Palestinian leaders rejected out of hand the Kerry parameters and called for negotiations within hours of the speech. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti dismissed three of Kerry’s points, saying that the refugee issue must still include the right of return, that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that Kerry’s proposal for Jerusalem being the capitol of two states did not go far enough—presumably meaning that Israeli neighborhoods like Gilo and Har Homa would need to be evacuated in a final agreement.
In showing his hand, Barghouti underscores not just Palestinian rejectionism, but the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) incessant desire to wear down the international community and insist that it continue to attempt to marginalize and weaken Israel, both diplomatically and economically, until there is nothing left to talk about. Full diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state could very well follow this conference. With that in hand, there would be no need for the PA to make any concessions. What next? A PA invitation for Iran to send Revolutionary Guards to set up an operation in Ramallah or Hebron?
So is it any wonder that Israel has decided not to appear before this latest version of an international kangaroo court?
Where have the 70 countries joining this gathering been over the past decades, failing to strongly insist that the PA enter negotiations with Israel following offers made by a succession of Israeli governments of concessions ranging from custodianship of Islamic religious sites in Jerusalem (2000), evacuating settlements in Gaza (2005), further concessions on settlements in Judea and Samaria (2008) and most recently, a 10 month settlement freeze (2014).
The responses to these opportunities are well known: intifadas, rockets, incitement and utilizing the United Nations agencies to circumvent the very idea of a negotiated peace, at the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and now, the Security Council.
The massive amounts of time and energy the international community has wasted on these gatherings cannot be regained. Castigating Israel—and by all accounts that will be the end result of the Paris conference, notwithstanding whatever diplomatic language is used—is a non-starter. This is especially so now, when on every one of Israel’s borders there is chaos and uncertainly, ascribable not to the Palestinian issue, but to intra-Arab and intra-Islamic rivalries, mistrust and shifting ideological and strategic currents.
Security Council resolution 2334, and the Kerry speech, have already set back the notion—adhered to by many who back a two-state solution to the conflict—of directly negotiating its end.
Already, some diplomatic scholars and Middle East experts are suggesting ways to, if not rescind the resolution, then to at least mitigate its fallout.
As that unfolds, on into the new Trump administration in Washington, the PA should understand that its zero-sum strategy is also a non-starter.
The Paris conference could send that message to the PA, but it won’t. Those countries participating in these deliberations should do no more harm to this process.
The maps label Gaza and the West Bank but do not demarcate Israel, instead depicting Jordan and Syria as extending all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas,” the publishing company said. “This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense caused.”
“The willful error was exacerbated by the initial tone-deaf defense by HarperCollins of its decision. … Does the publisher’s acquiescence to ‘local preferences’ take into account that many of Israel’s neighbors have the singular goal of destroying Israel and its people?” B’nai B’rith International said in a statement.
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