WASHINGTON — It was, President Donald J. Trump proclaimed in September, “the dawn of a new Middle East.”
Speaking on the White House, Mr. Trump was saying new diplomatic accords between Israel and two of its Gulf Arab neighbors, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
“After decades of division and conflict,” Mr. Trump mentioned, flanked by leaders from the area in a scene later replayed in his marketing campaign advertisements, the Abraham Accords have been laying “the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region.”
Eight months later, such a peace stays a distant hope, notably for the Middle East’s most famously intractable battle, the one between Israel and the Palestinians. In fiery scenes all too reminiscent of the previous Middle East, that battle has entered its bloodiest part in seven years and is renewing criticism of Mr. Trump’s method whereas elevating questions in regards to the future of the accords as President Biden confronts what function the United States ought to play now within the area.
Mr. Trump’s method was primarily to sidestep the problem of lowering tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in favor of selling nearer ties between Israel and a few of the Sunni Arab states, primarily based largely on their shared considerations about Iran.
The accords he helped negotiate have been broadly seen as demonstrating declining curiosity on the half of some of Israel’s Arab neighbors in backing the Palestinians, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel extra latitude to pursue methods that additional intensified Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
“It was very difficult for anyone who knows the region to believe that the signing of the Abraham Accords was going to be some breakthrough for peace,” mentioned Zaha Hassan, a visiting fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who makes a speciality of Palestinian points.
Vali Nasr, a professor on the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, mentioned that the accords had been “based on the idea that the Palestinian issue is dead,” and had rewarded Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line method of supporting Israeli settlement exercise and different expansive territorial claims.
“This was proof of his theory that you can have land and peace,” Mr. Nasr mentioned.
Former Trump officers say that nevertheless the hyperbolic former president billed the Abraham Accords, which later expanded to incorporate Morocco and Sudan, they have been by no means seen as a method of settling the Israeli-Palestinian battle.
To the opposite, the settlement, which expanded commerce and partly or absolutely normalized diplomatic ties between Israel and the 4 Arab states, as a substitute amounted to a rebuke of the Palestinians by demonstrating that their trigger not outlined relations within the area.
Sunni Arab rulers, exasperated by the Palestinian management and for years quietly aligning with Israel towards Shiite Iran, have been shifting on.
Jason Greenblatt, who served as Mr. Trump’s Middle East envoy till October 2019, argued that the present spasm of violence in and round Israel “underscores why the Abraham Accords are so essential for the region.”
After Palestinian leaders rejected outright a January 2020 Trump peace plan proposing to create a Palestinian state, on phrases closely slanted towards Israeli calls for, the accords deliberately “separated” the Israeli-Palestinian battle from Israel’s relations with the Arab World, Mr. Greenblatt mentioned.
They “took away the veto right for the Palestinians for the region to move forward,” he added.
Others famous that, earlier than agreeing to the accords, the U.A.E. extracted from Mr. Netanyahu a pledge to carry off on a possible annexation of swaths of the West Bank, a transfer that had the potential to set off a serious Palestinian rebellion. (Trump officers additionally opposed such an annexation and Mr. Netanyahu won’t have adopted via regardless.)
Dennis Ross, a former Middle East peace negotiator who served below three presidents, known as the accords an necessary step for the area, however mentioned the violence in Israel’s cities and Gaza illustrated how “the Palestinian issue can still cast a cloud” over Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors.
“The notion that this was ‘peace in our time’ obviously ignored the one existential conflict in the region. It wasn’t between Israel and the Arab states,” Mr. Ross mentioned.
Most analysts say the accords — which Biden administration officers say they assist and would even wish to increase to incorporate extra nations — can survive the present violence. After all, officers concerned in growing the settlement say, nobody was below the phantasm that such clashes have been a factor of the previous.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
But photos of Israeli police crackdowns on Arabs in Jerusalem and airstrikes toppling Gaza high-rises are clearly inflicting pressure.
In a statement final week, the U.A.E.’s international affairs ministry issued a “strong condemnation” of Israel’s proposed evictions in East Jerusalem and a police assault on Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the place Israeli officers mentioned Palestinians had stockpiled rocks to throw at Israeli police.
Last month, the U.A.E. additionally denounced “acts of violence committed by right-wing extremist groups in the occupied East Jerusalem” and warned that the area could possibly be “slipping into new levels of instability in a way that threatens peace.”
Bahrain and different Gulf states have condemned Israel in comparable tones. An announcement on Friday from the U.A.E.’s minister of international affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, known as on “all parties,” not solely Israel, to train restraint and pursue a cease-fire.
One former Trump official argued that public strain on Israel by nations just like the U.A.E. and Bahrain carry extra weight after the accords, coming as they do from newly official diplomatic companions. None of the governments who’re social gathering to the accords are taking part in a serious function in efforts to safe a cease-fire, nevertheless — a duty assumed prior to now by Egypt and Qatar.
“It’s the non-Abraham-Accords Arabs that really will play a central role in bringing this conflagration to an end,” mentioned Aaron David Miller, a former adviser of Israel-Arab points below six secretaries of state.
Speaking final month to an occasion hosted by Israel’s embassy in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned that the Biden administration “welcomes and supports” the Abraham Accords, including that he anticipated “Israel’s group of friends to grow even wider in the year ahead.”
But with dozens killed and tons of injured since then, most of them Palestinians, analysts say that the prospect of different Arab nations becoming a member of the accords seems to be dim.
“I would say it’s highly, highly unlikely that you’re going to have anybody else join the accords,” Mr. Nasr. “It’s going to lose a lot of its momentum and energy.”
One nation seen as a possible candidate, Saudi Arabia, has issued some of the strongest condemnations of Israel in latest days. An announcement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry known as on the worldwide group to “hold the Israeli occupation responsible for this escalation, and to immediately stop its escalatory actions, which violate all international norms and laws.”
Some analysts and Biden administration officers say the accords have been the end result of 4 years of Trump insurance policies that embraced and empowered Mr. Netanyahu and remoted the Palestinians. Mr. Trump’s method, they mentioned, all however smothered hopes for the negotiated two-state answer pursued by a number of prior American presidents and tilted the facility stability from official Palestinian leaders to the extremists of Hamas in Gaza.
Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official, conceded that Israel had additionally clashed with the Palestinians below Democratic administrations that had adopted a extra evenhanded method to the battle than Mr. Trump’s nakedly pro-Israeli stance.
And he mentioned opportunistic missile assaults on Israel by Hamas after the eruption of Jewish-Arab violence inside Jerusalem was not Mr. Trump’s fault.
But Mr. Goldenberg argued that the present internecine violence inside Israel was “at least partially is driven by the fact that the Trump administration supported extremist elements in Israel every step of the way,” together with Israel’s settlement motion.
In November 2019, as an example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo modified longstanding U.S. coverage by declaring that the U.S. didn’t take into account Israeli settlements within the West Bank a violation of worldwide regulation. (The Biden administration intends to reverse that place as soon as a overview by authorities legal professionals is full.)
“You had David Friedman” — Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Jerusalem — “literally knocking down walls of holy sites with a sledgehammer and saying this is Israeli,” Mr. Goldenberg mentioned.
Mr. Trump additionally moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, formally recognizing the town as Israel’s capital, in a transfer that infuriated Palestinians who’ve lengthy anticipated East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future state they set up.
“Trump opened the door for Israel to accelerate home demolitions, accelerate settlement activity,” Ms. Hassan mentioned. “And when that happens and you see Israel acting upon it, that’s when you see the Palestinian resistance.”
Former Trump officers word that skilled predictions of a Palestinian eruption throughout Mr. Trump’s time period, notably after the embassy relocation, by no means got here to cross, and recommend that Mr. Biden’s friendlier method to the Palestinians — together with the restoration of humanitarian assist canceled by Mr. Trump — has emboldened them to problem Israel.
Even some Trump administration officers mentioned the strategies from Mr. Trump and others that the accords amounted to peace within the Middle East have been exaggerated.
“During my time at the White House, I always urged people not to use that term,” Mr. Greenblatt mentioned.