Is it time to get tough with Israel and Saudi Arabia?

The Abraham Accords Are Not a “Peace Deal”

Last week, the New York Times ran an article about the current hostilities in the Middle East under The Abraham Accords and what they mean for an incoming Biden administration. These accords — diplomatically linking Israel with several Arab states — were negotiated by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father, Charles, is a longtime donor to pro-Israeli causes and is said to be friends with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a central figure in The Abraham Accords.

[ Happy times in the White House with the murderer of Jamal Khashoggi, diplomatic ace Jared Kushner on the couch at right ]

The figure of Abraham is a Semitic link between Jews and Arabs. This is how the relationship is described by Natalie Hilder, a writer supportive of the accords on the pro-Israel website The Algemeiner. (Algemeiner means universal in Yiddish):

“A 4,000-year-old sibling rivalry originated in the tents of Abraham, when a rift over inheritance divided two sons of the same father. Since then, Ishmael and Isaac have lived at enmity — a historic animosity that made the fact that Arabs and Jews have more commonalities than differences seem ironic to many. Besides their genetic ties, Arabs and Jews have similarities in language (sharing many of the same words), culture, and faith.”

The real story is not so simple and is certainly not about the search for peace in the Middle East. For instance, referring to the presidential transition, the Times story in the print edition ran under the following headline:

Change in U.S. Imperils Peace Deals With Israel

I used to edit the world news off the AP wire and write headlines for a daily newspaper in a small city in Pennsylvania. So I know how headline writers can often get the story totally wrong. This is a case in point. The starting point for The Abraham Accords was, of course, Donald Trump’s total trashing of a working “peace deal” with Iran over that nation’s building of nuclear weapons. According to all involved, the peace deal with Iran was working pretty well; maybe there were some glitches here and there, but nothing that couldn’t be worked out diplomatically in good faith.

Then along comes Donald Trump and his Middle East diplomatic corps led by the callow Jared Kushner who blundered in and completely pulled the rug out from under a promising regional peace deal. In its place, the world got The Abraham Accords. To keep this current, just this week, Jared’s father, Charles, who did federal time for financial crimes, was pardoned by Donald Trump, along with four Blackwater mercenaries convicted of murder in Iraq. The world is on tenderhooks: Will Jared and his wife, Ivanka Trump, be next with preemptive pardons?

[ Old family friends Jared Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu at work on The Abraham Accords ]

Whatever a Times headline writer chooses to call The Abraham Accords, it isn’t a “peace deal.” When you think about it, although the term is not in the language, it’s much more of a war deal — a contract whose reason for existing is belligerence. What the accords do is establish military ally relationships among The Abraham Accord nations — against Iran.

Would one call a deal made in the 1960s between, say, Australia and the United States to be allies in Vietnam fighting against the forces of Ho Chi Minh a peace deal? No. It’s a military ally contract to fight against a certain enemy. The Abraham Accords are a deal meant to unite Jewish and Arab nations in their mutual hostility toward Iran; this is a dead giveaway when you realize the critical glue that facilitated the deal is the provision of lethal modern weapons from the United States for use against Iran.

In the spirit of the first casualty of war is truth and the long history of propaganda in war, calling these accords “peace deals” is a distortion of language; it insults the intelligence. The whole purpose of the accords is to saber-rattle, to kill and destroy, to augment an already simmering state of war notable for two high-profile assassinations of Iranian national heroes and an assortment of bombings and cyber attacks. In fact, much of the world is already involved in  fighting a cyber war, right now. Iranians may not have an A-bomb, but they’re far from toothless; they mounted a very impressive conventional weapons attack on a huge Saudi oil depot that really shook the Saudis. And there’s nothing like formalized hostilities to goose a nation’s martial resourcefulness.

[ Benjamin Netanyahu whispering to Mohammed bin Salmon in their secret meeting, with their entourages formally seated behind ]

While Saudi Arabia has not technically joined the accords, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently made a secret, not-so-secret trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon, the Bedouin despot now ruling that oil-rich nation with an iron fist. The Saudis have been bombing the dirt-poor nation of Yemen (with which they share the Arabian peninsula) into famine and oblivion for years due to the Houthi rebels having a tangential relationship with Iran. Of course, everybody knows bin Salmon ordered the grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.

According to Sixty Minutes, US intelligence agents regularly help Saudis in the US slip back home to avoid hit-and-run, rape and other serious charges. Sixty Minutes found “dozens” of such cases. Amazingly, we have no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, which means Saudi criminals are getting away with crimes in the US thanks to the help of US agents. If he were interested to escape from criminal indictments here in the US, an ex-President Donald Trump could set up headquarters in a palace in Saudi Arabia and be totally free to run his business and political operations from there.

Why do we allow the Saudis literally to get away with murder? It used to be the oil, as wits would have it, “our oil that somehow got under their sand.” But since we now like to brag about being oil-independent, that can’t be it. Even the Saudis and the other Arab oil states can see their golden goose is unsustainable and the future is in alternative energy. Thus, the very savvy murdering prince is  desperate to diversify the Saudi’s vast wealth. This suggests, if it’s no longer oil, it’s that the Saudis want world power and to be part of the world’s globalized  plutocracy. So, they’re still untouchable.

Israel, of course, is the ultimate hands-off Middle Eastern ally. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his far-right Likud Party have become part of the global plutocracy. The two-state solution with Palestinians is dead in the water, to the point the West Bank is becoming a militarized colonial attachment to the state of Israel. Given the so-called “demographic bomb” of a one-state situation where democracy will become impossible for Israeli Jews to abide by — lest Israel vote itself into being an ecumenical, non-Jewish state — militarized colonial control is the only alternative. While Netanyahu faces serious criminal charges that are coming to trial soon he continues to hold onto power. Israel seems to be a powerful, tiny nation terrified to let go of the arrogant, reckless driver they’ve become addicted to.

The George Bush, senior, administration set a precedent by getting tough with the Israelis 30 years ago. With James Baker as secretary of state, they threatened to cut aid to Israel, and it led to negotiations with the Palestinians. If Bush Republicans can get tough with Israel, why can’t Democrats?

“It’s pretty remarkable that no Republican or Democratic president since [President Bush I] has been willing to put meaningful pressure on Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, in the Huffington Post article linked in the paragraph, above.

The US Secretary of State who diplomatically negotiated the Obama Iran Peace Deal will be a cabinet-level member of the incoming Biden administration. John Kerry is, like me and other anti-war veterans I work with, a Vietnam veteran who had the courage to oppose that sad, tragic war. Sure, that was a long time ago and lots of corrupting governmental experience has come in the interim. Plus, it’s true his portfolio in a Biden administration is in the area of climate change. But Biden has made a point of putting his old friend John Kerry in the room of White House meetings related to war and national security.

Given the unanticipated consequences that unfolded in our past Middle Eastern debacles, an all-out war between The Abraham Accords nations and Iran could too easily lead to a conflagration that spreads across the globe and affects the climate dramatically. If nothing else, it would suck great amounts of tax-money away from climate change projects. Think of the estimated five to six trillion (that’s with a “t”) dollars that went down the tubes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Actually, much of it went into the coffers of arms manufacturers.

The American people are supposed to be thankful to President Donald Trump for removing America’s sons and daughters from harm’s way in a future war with Iran. Still, such a war would certainly be significantly paid for by US tax-payer dollars and armed with the most sophisticated US weapons and intelligence. But young Johnny and Mary-Lou wouldn’t have to go there to shed blood or die. Tragically and immorally, that makes war easier for Americans to accept by allowing them to perceive they have no stake in the death and destruction.

There is no good reason why our new president can’t shift the post-Trump foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East from a hostile war-focused track back where it was to a track focused on negotiating a stable, live-and-let-live peace. Of course, this may upset Israel and Saudi Arabia, and ending the carte-blanche support of Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s belligerent policies would require skilled diplomacy. And due to the hostilities built up by the Trump administration, re-establishing the Iran peace deal will obviously take some time for Iran. In the meantime, opening a diplomatic line with Iran and keeping Israeli and Saudi Arabian belligerence in check would be a noble posture for the Biden administration to assume.

The Biden administration has a chance to avoid future debacles like the ones we went through in Iraq and elsewhere. Let’s not forget the US sponsored Saddam Hussein attack on Iran that led to the grisly, horrific Iran-Iraq War. Think of this kind of peace-making as elevating the de-escalation tactics advocated by smart police forces up to the international diplomatic level.

It’s hard to find fault with the idea of Jews and Arabs getting over the “4000-year-old sibling rivalry [that] originated in the tents of Abraham.” But to create such a pact with the goal of military intimidation fueled with US funds and US weapons is a disaster waiting to happen. The world does not need another Middle Eastern war, and the incoming Biden administration should use its good diplomatic offices to prevent that.