In the tangled web that is the Middle East, peace breakthroughs are few and far between. They seem to happen once a generation. But when they do happen, they’re historic. And in every case, the United States has played a significant leadership role.
Remember Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shaking hands with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in recognition of the 1978 Camp David Accords brokered by President Jimmy Carter? Begin and Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize for that agreement.
Or Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat after signing the 1993 Oslo Accords negotiated during the presidency of Bill Clinton? Rabin and Arafat shared another Nobel Peace Prize for their agreement.
Fast-forward to today, and we have just witnessed another historic Mideast peace agreement. The significance of the deal between Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the leader of the United Arab Emirates, cannot be overstated. It is a historic agreement on a par with the Camp David and Oslo accords. If past is prologue, Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed should be candidates for yet another shared Nobel Prize.
And just as Presidents Carter and Clinton rightly deserve great credit for helping usher through those earlier agreements, so President Trump deserves equal credit and congratulations for his administration’s role in bringing about another historic Mideast deal. What was accomplished in bringing this agreement to fruition is also of great significance.
It sends a sign to other Mideast leaders that it is time not only to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but also to normalize relations with Israel and fully accept it in the community of nations. “Peace by peace,” major powers in the region have come to accept Israel’s right to nationhood.
The question now is which Arab country in the region will be the next to summon the courage to make peace with Israel? What about Saudi Arabia, an independently powerful nation that could lead the way for other Arab states? If the young leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wants to reclaim the mantle of reform, he should begin by moving forthrightly toward peace with Israel. And the U.S. should push him hard to do so. Saudi Arabia owes a great deal of its own peace and stability to the United States, which supplies it with both arms and diplomatic support.
America’s hand today in the Mideast is infinitely strengthened by our own energy independence. Oil states like Saudi Arabia can no longer hold us energy-hostage. In fact, the tables have turned: the U.S. can and should press Mideast states to make peace with Israel, and focus the attention of the entire region on the nation that is the last remaining stumbling block to peace.
I’m taking about Iran. Iran is an outlaw nation that has done more to stir turmoil and suffering in its neighborhood than any other country. Its support for terrorism is widespread and indisputable. Just one glaring example is its continued support for the terrorist organization Hezbollah, based in Lebanon. Hezbollah has fomented instability both outside and within Lebanon’s borders. It should be stamped out. And Iran should be warned that if it interferes, it risks a military conflict it cannot win.
America sent a strong signal when we led the military campaign to destroy ISIS, which briefly threatened to establish an Islamist terrorist caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq. Even Russia agreed to help dismantle ISIS, as Russia faces its own deadly internal threats from radical Islamist terrorists. Now that the UAE has led the way for the next possible round of peacemaking in the Mideast, we should not wait another 20 years for the next peace agreement. The U.S. should continue to push strongly for it.
And the rest of the free world should help. We know we can’t count on the feckless United Nations, which recently couldn’t even summon the intestinal fortitude to continue the arms embargo on Iran. But the democratic nations of Western Europe should step up and help lead the way to Mideast peace and stability. That begins and ends with stamping out Iranian support for terrorism and doing everything possible to end the dictatorship of the corrupt ayatollahs in that country.
Amid all the turmoil in the Mideast, there is a strong glimmer of a possibility that this troubled region may be on the brink of true and lasting peace. America should continue to lead the way.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.