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Neither Shall They Learn War Anymore: Two Years into the Abraham Accords

by Matthew Robinson

Etched onto an imposing wall circling the Ralph Bunche Park — named after the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1979) — in central New York City, just across from the United Nations HQ, is the ancient biblical prophecy of Isaiah 2:4 that reads: ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.’ Sadly, the history of the Middle East, both ancient and contemporary, is not replete with narratives that surround the eruption of peace but rather of war, and injustice and pain. Yet the international community should not be blinded by the heavy clouds of history. Strides have been taken, regionally, that are trying to change the historic trajectory and create a stable, safe, fair and inclusive region. The 2020 Abraham Accords is one such stride.

 

The Accords have, as of today, marked their two-year anniversary. They remain a landmark agreement on the formalisation of relations between Israel and Bahrain, and Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), brokered by the Trump Administration and signed at the White House on 15 September 2020, with Morocco joining the Accords shortly after. The seemingly impossible became the possible and peace has erupted—infusing all segments of the signatories’ societies from politics and security, economics, trade and investment to culture and science. The Abraham Accords are not simply a drafted document, they are reshaping political realities throughout the region…and beyond.

 

After decades of relative regional isolation — with the exceptions of strategic peace with Egypt (1979, Camp David Accords) and Jordan (1994, Wadi Araba Treaty) — Israel now has real psychological space and can enjoy the warm embrace of friendly neighbours in the sands of the Arabian Gulf. This is a milestone for Israel as well as for Jewish people the world over which sought to be part of the Middle East, to integrate into the region. At the same time, the steps undertaken by Bahrain, Morocco and the UAE should not be underestimated—it took vision and strength to put in motion a comprehensive end to the exclusion of Israel. This does not mean that they abandoned Palestine or the idea of a two-state solution. Instead, they sought to breathe new life — and incentives — into an Israel-Palestine agreement and contribute, ultimately, to a final deal to end one of the most entrenched conflicts in the world.

 

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Peace momentum is gather pace. The Abraham Accords are changing the way Israelis and Arabs view each other…and themselves. They share common challenges ranging from crime, terrorism, extremism and asymmetric violence to climate change, food insecurity and water shortages. They also share certain cultural values that tend to be displayed over mountains of food and song. There is certainly more that binds Arabs and Israelis than divides them and the Abraham Accords is also an important reminder, to both communities, and the wider world, of that fact.

 

The Negev Summit this past March (2022) saw Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, host the Foreign Ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the UAE, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. A functioning forum to discuss regional issues is now in place, building an arena where previously hostile countries may work as partners to deal with vital challenges of the day. This was followed, in quick succession, by the 27 June segment which was held in Bahrain and decided on how to operate the six working groups initially decided on. This is not a talking shop; it shows a longterm commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East.

 

None of this would have been possible without the engagement of the United States and recognition of the former US administration’s efforts must be noted. While many EU decision makers have dismissed what they often term as the ‘Trump Peace Plan’ it was largely due to plucky US diplomacy, not European pessimism, that saw the agreement inked two years ago. War and the Middle East tend to be synonymous in the political vocabulary of far too many decision makers around the world. As we mark the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords it may be time to reevaluate that sentiment and help turn those swords into ploughshares.

 

15 September 2022