When he retired from the army as a two-star general last fall, Miguel Correa had spent years in special operations, trained troops for winter warfare in Alaska, and served as a military attaché in Abu Dhabi. In his final posting, to the National Security Council, he helped negotiate the peace treaty between Israel and the United Emirates, which he suggested should be called the Abraham Accords. Correa was born in Puerto Rico and spent part of his childhood in the U.S. and some in Kuwait—where his father worked out of the American embassy as an engineer, and where Miguel would return during the Gulf War—before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for high school. Gabby Deutsch writes:
Correa completed eighth and ninth grades at the American School of Kuwait, which catered to the kids of diplomats and wealthy Kuwaitis. It was there that Correa learned Arabic and studied Islam, and it was also the first time he learned about Israel. Sort of.
“You spent the first three or four days of every single semester taking your textbook, and you’d have a teacher at the front, and there was a Ministry of Education [directive] that would mandate what parts of your book you had to take out,” Correa recalled. Armed with a pair of scissors and a marker, he went through his textbooks, looking for offensive language and imagery. Any depictions of the Prophet Mohammad were cut out. Maps that showed the state of Israel were colored over in dark permanent marker.
A couple years later, he found himself staring at an Israeli flag hanging in a friend’s dorm room at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, where he attended high school as a boarding student. He did not understand. “I remember taking this all in, like, ‘OK, what does this mean? He doesn’t have horns,’” Correa said of the first time he met Greg Wald, a Jewish teammate on the Pine Crest football team. Back in Kuwait, “anything that was derogatory to Jews was good.” His friends had taught him curse words in Arabic: inta kalb. You’re a dog. Inta yahoodi. You’re Jewish. “And that was at the same level,” Correa said. “Think about that.”
Correa’s understanding of the Arab world helped him during his stint in the United Arab Emirates, where he built the relationships that helped him during the normalization talks:
Throughout the negotiations, the Emiratis were not talking to the Israelis — everyone went through the Americans, and for the Emiratis, Correa was a key point of contact. . . .
The name came to Correa out of nowhere: the Abraham Accords. “All three of the religions have a different name. It’s translated in their religion, and we immediately make this people-to-people and religious,” rather than just a political agreement, said Correa. . . . Correa had insisted that the name be plural, aware of the fact that future normalization agreements might follow if his central thesis—that the Arab world could befriend Israel without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—proved correct.