At the ceremony Tuesday on the South Lawn of the White House for the signing of peace deals between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, President Trump declared: “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.” These “Abraham Accords” have already changed the entire landscape of the Middle East, as for the first time in decades, pragmatic considerations are taking precedence over the fixed ideas that have guided the foreign policy stances of all the Muslim and Arab countries regarding Israel.
Although this aspect of the conflict has been little noted and is still routinely ignored by foreign policy analysts, the Muslim world’s opposition to Israel has not been based upon conflicting claims for land or anything else, but upon core principles of the Islamic religion. As The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process shows, the Qur’an commands Muslims to “drive them out from where they drove you out” (2:191). Even though it is a historical fiction that Israel actually drove Muslim Arabs out, this claim is a staple of pro-Palestinian propaganda, and hence it is a divine imperative, no more negotiable than the Ten Commandments are for Jews and Christians, that Muslims must destroy Israel and “drive out” the Israelis.
That means that as long as pious, believing, knowledgeable Muslims are in charge in Muslim countries, which is by no means always the case, no negotiated settlement will ever establish Israel securely and end the jihad against it. That in turn is why analysts ignore Islam when considering the conflict: People don’t like bad news, or problems that cannot be solved. Nonetheless, this is the reality of the situation, and no good can ever come from ignoring reality.
Why, then, did Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalize relations with Israel? Because it was in their interests to do so. The Islamic Republic of Iran has for years claimed Bahrain as Iran’s nineteenth province, and the UAE likewise feels the heat of being in close proximity to one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terror. In a certain sense, these deals with Israel are a byproduct of Barack Obama’s decision to send billions to the mullahs’ tottering regime: A newly secure and empowered mullahcracy threatens Bahrain and the UAE, and so it was in their best interests to look for assistance from a country that Iran also menaces.
Islamic law stipulates, based on the example of Muhammad’s Treaty of Hudaybiyya with the pagan Quraysh tribe, that truces can be made with non-Muslims for a period of ten years (although they can be extended if necessary) if the Muslim forces are weak and need time to gather strength. Muhammad broke the Treaty of Hudaybiyya when he no longer needed it, and that, too, is part of Islamic law for treaty-making with infidels: Muslims are bound to the agreement only as long as it is beneficial to them.
Do Bahraini and Emirati authorities regard their deals with Israel as akin to the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, which Yasir Arafat famously invoked to mollify enraged Muslims after concluding the Oslo Accords? The possibility cannot be discounted, and the Israelis would be foolhardy to proceed without bearing in mind Ronald Reagan’s old adage, Trust, but verify.
However, there are also numerous indications that many in the Islamic world have had quite enough of the Palestinians’ jihadist intransigence and resistance to all peace accords, and are willing to proceed on a pragmatic basis, quite aside from what Islamic doctrine and law say, in order to secure their own countries against the threat from Iran. And so in these agreements the Palestinians have been largely bypassed, and that is the brilliance of Trump’s move here. If the Palestinians won’t come to the table and make peace, he has chosen a path that no previous president and no previous negotiator has followed: leave the Palestinians to stew in their own rage and conclude agreements instead with other countries that are looking after their own interests.
Tuesday was accordingly a historic day indeed. Trump was correct when he stated: “Thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity,” and may well have been right also when he predicted that the deals would become “the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region.”
The president added: “We’re very far down the road with about five additional countries.” If five more Middle Eastern countries make peace with Israel, the Palestinians will be essentially isolated, and may consider that they themselves have no choice but to come to the table.
Thus, even though these accords ignore the Islamic imperative of jihad and its deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, they are a tremendous source of hope for the future. As I have noted many, many times, what Islam teaches is one thing, and what any individual Muslim or Muslim group may do is quite another. In this case, the UAE and Bahrain have demonstrated that their priorities are not to foster the growth of the jihad against Israel, and that’s all to the good. President Trump is to be commended for refusing to follow the advice of foreign policy “experts” who have failed again and again, and to strike out in a new direction. That’s a primary reason why the political elites hate him so much.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.