Kudos to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner and their diplomatic team. They have added the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to the list of Arab countries that recognize Israel as a legal entity and via the “Abraham Accords” agree to normalize diplomatic and other relations.
In recognition of President Trump’s brokerage of the Accords, a Norwegian official has nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize, seemingly totally oblivious of the fact that the peace deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain represent only two small steps in a complicated and lengthy process toward Middle East peace. Agreements between Arabs and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Iranians must be achieved before a lasting Middle East peace becomes a reality.
The Arabs and the Palestinians trace their origins to different parts of the Middle East region; there is little, if any, trust between the two groups. In several Arab countries, Palestinians have been confined to poorly maintained camps and exposed to miserable living conditions. Often they are not allowed to obtain citizenship in the country where they are forced to live.
Bringing the Arabs and Palestinians together presents a monumental challenge but such a task must be accomplished if social justice and a lasting peace in the Middle East is to be realized. Until a peace treaty between the two groups is achieved, long-term regional peace is questionable.
A centuries-old schism in the Middle East has simmered for centuries and involves the Sunni and Shia sects. In many Islamic countries, both sects have long lived peacefully together, but according to the Council on Foreign Relations, regional sectarian conflict is becoming entrenched in more and more Muslim countries. In certain Sunni countries, Shia have for years been despised and even killed. In the late 1960s, one major Arab country slaughtered several thousand Shia living within its borders.
For the past sixty years, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been marked by increasing discord; for several years, the two countries have been engaged in a proxy conflict with the purpose of achieving regional hegemony. The conflict has often been referred to as the Middle East Cold War with the United States supporting Saudi Arabia and Russia and China giving assistance to Iran.
President Trump has since his election in 2016 hoped to be the U.S. president who achieves a Middle East peace deal that will include all regional players and cover the whole geographic area; the two peace treaties he and Jared Kushner recently concluded represent only two small steps in a long journey. Before a regional peace treaty can be realized, President Trump must develop a new peace paradigm which includes the full range of regional players and addresses the many sub-conflicts. He must assume the role of diplomatic leader and cast aside his role as a dealmaker.