The Abraham Accords Represent a Religious as Well as a Political Breakthrough

Nov. 19 2020

In his speech at the signing of his country’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Benjamin Netanyahu offered a profound biblical insight in citing a verse from Psalms “May God give strength to His people. May God bless His people with peace.” Meir Soloveichik observes:

The biblical reference captured the astonishing transformation in diplomacy that had occurred. The premise of the Oslo Accords of 1993 had been that Israel had to “take risks” for peace, that only an Israel that was willing to make itself weaker could reach an agreement with the Palestinians, and that only peace with the Palestinians would allow for normalization with the Arab world. Israelis soured on these risks when what followed was not peace, but bus bombings and café massacres. Now, in a region terrified of Iran, it is not Israeli weakness but strength that makes it so attractive, and an agreement with the Palestinians has been deemed unnecessary for normalization with other Arab countries.

The achievement is not only political in nature. Right before the accord signings, the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner presented the king of Bahrain with a Torah scroll.

Strikingly, the verse cited by Netanyahu is sung in synagogue every Sabbath as the Torah is returned to the Ark, hinting thereby that what is occurring is religious rapprochement, an embrace by two Islamic countries of the world’s center of Judaism.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, [just three days after the signing ceremony], Jews around the world read from the Torah about the separation of Ishmael, by God, from a heartbroken Abraham, and the angel of the Almighty saving Ishmael in the desert. On one of our holiest days, the Jewish focus is, for a moment, not on Isaac, but on the Almighty’s concern for his elder brother. The Jewish people, no matter how persecuted, always made manifest the bond between them and the rest of humanity, yearning for a moment not when all nations will become Jews but when all will recognize the truth of Abraham’s mission, and amity between enemies would be achieved.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Abraham Accords, Hebrew Bible, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Judaism

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations