US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had one message for journalists aboard the first El Al flight from Israel to Bahrain this week: More of President Donald Trump’s resources and more normalization between Israel, Arab and Muslim countries, writes Lahav Harkov, who also lecture at MIFF’s conference in 2019, in the newspaper Jerusalem Post.
– We have high hopes that there will be more announcements. It is, of course, our expectation that President Trump will win the upcoming presidential election and that the current trend will continue… There is much more on the way, Mnuchin said.
If Trump loses the presidential election, will it also put an end to the wave of normalization with Israel?
Mnuchin’s response was, “I hope not.” But the question remains open.
The Trump administration has been pushing hard for more countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel since the Emirates announced on August 15 that they would normalize their relations with Israel. The Trump administration hopes there will be a surprise from Sudan in the coming days. Every single country that normalizes its relationship with Israel is a victory for Trump and another way of presenting himself, as a peacemaker and a president who gets the agreements implemented.
It may raise concerns that Trump will lose interest in the issue after re-election – he will no longer be forced to appeal in the same way to his pro-Israel voters during his second term.
But the Trump administration’s promotion of new ties between Israel and Arab countries goes deeper than just a politically-motivated campaign strategy. The approach of the administration has been very different from the norm in recent decades. Read MIFF’s articles on the Abrahamic agreements between Israel, the Emirates and Bahrain in Washington on September 15, 2020.
President Trump’s special adviser Jared Kushner and former Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt spoke about the secret relations between Israel and the Gulf states. become open and official long before it happened – back then it seemed like a utopian dream.
The momentum to create open relations between the Emirates and Israel came from the Emirates’ Ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, who wrote in it Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that it would be possible to establish official ties between the countries, provided that Israel would abandon plans to exercise sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria. Read MIFF’s articles on the subject here.
The Trump administration seized the opportunity. After all, Trump is always willing to go against conventional logic; he and members of his administration are clearly happy with the cases where their new and unconventional approach works, after the old ways of not being able to break the ice or get agreements in place. Creating peace between Israel and an Arab country before the establishment of a Palestinian state has turned decades of foreign policy misjudgments on what it takes to create peace in the Middle East. Read MIFF’s article that the Palestinians have refused to have their own state since the 1930s. Read MIFF’s articles on Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
After the US administration reached an agreement with the Emirates, they continued to push for other countries to take the step as well. Bahrain followed suit and Sudan is probably the next country on the list. There has also been talk that Saudi Arabia will take the plunge – although it will probably take longer and according to Trump, several other countries are also considering official ties with Israel.
The Trump administration seems unequivocal focused on the goal that benefits Israel. Last month, Morgan Ortagus, a spokesman for the US State Department, said that peace creation in the Middle East is also important for US national security.
But that does not mean that dominoes will not continue to fall if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the upcoming presidential election.
Although it seems unlikely that he will make what has become one of Trump’s biggest foreign policy achievements his top priority, pushing just as hard as the Trump administration does , Biden has chosen not to attack his opponent at that point
Biden said Trump “accidentally” stumbled upon the normalizations of his remarks during a J Street fundraising event last month, but still welcomed the Abrahamic agreements.
– It is good that see others in the Middle East recognize Israel and even welcome them as a partner, Biden said after the Emirates and Bahrain signed the Abrahamic agreements with Israel. and work to harness the growing ties for progress towards a two-state solution and a more stable and peaceful region, “said Biden.
There are also those who believe that it is not so bad that it is not good for something, and that a Biden administration will be able to ensure that Israel has ties with more countries. The bite does not have to directly promote the relationships for them to happen; his actions could bring Israel and some Arab states together in other ways.
Former US President Barack Obama’s administration with Biden as vice president went to great lengths to get a nuclear deal in place with Iran. The agreement made Israel and the Gulf states very uneasy. Israel suddenly had common interests with, among others, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and the ties between them flourished – even if it happened below the surface.
Biden has said that he wants to return to the Iran agreement and then negotiate adaptations of it to “ensure [Israel] can defend itself against Iran and its henchmen,” he wrote on CNN. But as former US Ambassador Michael Oren said last week (which also reflects the views of the top echelons of the Israeli government and defense authorities), an agreement “similar to the JCPOA will be terrible for Israel and a recipe for war and nuclear weapons in Iran. ” Read MIFF’s articles on Iran here.
It could also be a recipe for closer cooperation between Jerusalem and several Middle Eastern capitals, which sees Tehran as a common threat.
At the same time, other parts of Biden’s stated political goals could push Israel and the Gulf states further apart – for example, his plan to distance the United States from Saudi Arabia.
– Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the Kingdom, end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and mourn for the United States not to relinquish its values of selling arms or buying oil. The United States’ commitment to democratic values and human rights will be a priority, even with our closest security partners, Biden has stated.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states may see ties to Israel as less crucial to them if they do not help bring them closer to the United States. Alternatively, Arab and Muslim countries could continue to see relations with Israel as a way to approach Washington, thereby easing the pressure on their handling of human rights.
Will Trump’s possible loss of the upcoming presidential election mean a halt to the wave of normalization with Israel? The answer is, like so much else, unclear until after the presidential election.