Learning the Lessons of the Abraham Accords

After more than a year has passed since Israel signed its normalization treaties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Robert Nicholson considers how their success—as well as the subsequent agreements with Sudan, Morocco, and Kosovo—can guide future diplomatic efforts. Among his key takeaways:

Take interests seriously. Last year’s breakthrough came not because of interreligious dialogue or cross-cultural understanding. It came because of secret military and intelligence cooperation between Arabs and Israelis against the looming threat of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The goodwill came later, and that shouldn’t be surprising. Peace never starts with goodwill—it produces goodwill. It starts with mutual concerns about national security, because nations can’t think about peace when they feel threatened.

Don’t avoid religion. Even “secular” people in the Islamic world tend to be more religious than their Western counterparts, unapologetic in their particularism, and ready to defend faith and fatherland on pain of death. Yet the Ivy League-trained peacemaker presents himself to the region as a disinterested observer, a neutral friend of Muslims and Jews who brings no beliefs or agenda of his own. In a region where everyone belongs to some tradition, this posture looks suspicious. The expectation isn’t to hide one’s faith, but to profess it openly while affirming the role that religion plays in political life.

Take what you can get. Critics complain that the Abraham Accords fail to secure full peace with the Palestinians or address the human rights violations of the parties. But in a region devastated by war, every handshake brings the temperature down one more degree, rolling back the climate of hatred and making room for a deal with the Palestinians. Of course, we should be vigilant when dealing with flawed regimes to ensure that we’re never used to sanction evil, but . . . total moral satisfaction is impossible in relations between states, and yet it is states that make war and thus to states that we must look for peace.

Read more at World

More about: Abraham Accords, Diplomacy, Religion and politics

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus