To Build on the Abraham Accords, Look to Southeast Asia

Oct. 20 2022

Earlier this year, the foreign ministers of Israel, the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Egypt gathered for a summit at a kibbutz in the Negev—an event that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. Representatives of these countries reconvened in June and established the “Negev Forum” as a basis for further regional cooperation. Hoping that this new institution will both benefit its members and expand to include other pro-Western nations in the Middle East, Daniel B. Shapiro holds up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a model to emulate:

The year was 1967. While the Middle East was convulsed by its own conflicts, the nations of Southeast Asia, just emerging from the colonial era, had been riven by disputes. Indonesia and Malaysia had fought a low-grade border war on the island of Borneo, and Malaysia and the Philippines were also at loggerheads over conflicting territorial claims. War still raged in nearby Indochina, threatening the stability of the entire region.

Despite—or perhaps because of—these circumstances, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore came together in 1967 to found ASEAN.

In 1992, the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) was signed, leading to the phased elimination of tariffs and customs duties on trade between the countries. In 2009, an ASEAN human-rights body was established, with the stated aim of allowing the member states to hold each other accountable for upholding certain standards. ASEAN began to engage other nations and regional groups as a bloc, signing free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, China, India, and South Korea, hosting foreign ambassadors to its secretariat, and convening summits with foreign leaders.

Regional integration represents a sea change in thinking about how the nations of the Middle East and North Africa region will relate to one another in the decades to come: identifying common interests, rooted in their common history, and fostering a common identity while preserving what is unique about each of them (and gaining appreciation for each other’s uniqueness). It moves beyond building trust to sustaining inherently trusting relationships, beyond proving the mutual benefits of the partnership to internalizing the logic that there are deeper gains to be harvested from thinking and acting collectively than from viewing all interests through an individual lens. And as the ASEAN experience teaches us, integration need not be held back by the diversity of Middle Eastern countries’ sizes, economies, political systems, cultures, or religions.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Abraham Accords, Middle East, Southeast Asia


President Biden Should Learn the Lessons of Past U.S. Attempts to Solve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Sept. 21 2023

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed a host of international issues, mentioning, inter alia, the “positive and practical impacts” resulting from “Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors.” He then added that the U.S. will “continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples.” Zach Kessel experiences some déjà vu:

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review how past U.S.-brokered talks between Jerusalem and [Palestinian leaders] have gone down, starting with 1991’s Madrid Conference, organized by then-President George H.W. Bush. . . . Though the talks, which continued through the next year, didn’t get anywhere concrete, many U.S. officials and observers across the world were heartened by the fact that Madrid was the first time representatives of both sides had met face to face. And then Palestinian militants carried out the first suicide bombing in the history of the conflict.

Then, in 1993, Bill Clinton tried his hand with the Oslo Accords:

In the period of time directly after the Oslo Accords . . . suicide bombings on buses and in crowded public spaces became par for the course. Clinton invited then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, hoping finally to put the conflict to rest. Arafat, who quite clearly aimed to extract as many concessions as possible from the Israelis without ever intending to agree to any deal—without even putting a counteroffer on the table—scuttled any possibility of peace. Of course, that’s not the most consequential event for the conflict that occurred in 2000. Soon after the Camp David Summit fell apart, the second intifada began.

Since Clinton, each U.S. president has entered office hoping to put together the puzzle that is an outcome acceptable to both sides, and each has failed. . . . Every time a deal has seemed to have legs, something happens—usually terrorist violence—and potential bargains are scrapped. What, then, makes Biden think this time will be any different?

Read more at National Review

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Joe Biden, Palestinian terror, Peace Process