Now Is the Time for the Gulf States to Make Peace with Israel

August 11, 2020 | Richard Goldberg
About the author: Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and previously served on the U.S. National Security Council.

In the event that Joe Biden wins the upcoming presidential elections, there is a good chance that the U.S. will revert to the Obama-era policy of realignment with Iran, and to distancing itself from traditional Middle Eastern allies like Saudi Arabia. Richard Goldberg argues that Riyadh, along with the United Arab Emirates, can buy itself some security by establishing official relations with Jerusalem:

With Iran once again flush with cash from U.S. sanctions relief and importing advanced conventional arms from Russia and China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will have only one true ally in the Middle East: the state of Israel. . . . To make their case for continued U.S. arms sales and political support, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi should demonstrate their ability to advance the U.S. vision of Arab-Israeli peace and regional integration.

In effect, the Saudis and Emiratis should borrow a winning strategy from Jordan and Egypt, both of which have peace treaties with Israel. Jordanian officials claim that Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley would jeopardize Jordan’s treaty with Israel, but King Abdullah knows that his influence in the House and Senate appropriations committees would wash away if the treaty were ever abandoned. Even in the rockiest of times for Cairo—the election of the Muslim Brotherhood to power and an ensuing military coup—U.S. military assistance to Egypt survived, albeit with conditions, because of the Camp David Accords.

Conventional wisdom of the pre-Iran-deal era posited that the Arab world could not normalize relations with Israel until all Palestinian-related issues were resolved. But the last four years should have dispelled any lingering fears in Gulf capitals that normalization with Israel would spark an “Arab-street revolt.”

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