USA POLITICS: Trump’s Pre-Election Diplomatic Offensive Glosses Over Awkward Realities – Opinion

The ‘Abraham Accords’ merely make public once-furtive friendships between Israel and Gulf monarchies, while bigger problems remain 

Julian Borger | The Guardian UK

The White House was festooned with the flags of four nations. There were trumpet blasts, multiple signatures on various pieces of paper, and much weighty talk about blood and history – everything you might expect from a peace deal.

AND NOT JUST ANY PEACE DEAL. The agreements signed in Washington on Tuesday were titled the Abraham Accords, implying an epochal reconciliation between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, three faiths with shared Middle East ancestry.                

Benjamin Netanyahu had brought the rhetoric to match, with lines for the occasion seemingly borrowed from a biblical blockbuster.

“This day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace,” the Israeli prime minister declared. 

The host and master of ceremonies, Donald Trump, also delivered his quotes with a cinematic ring, albeit from a quite different movie.

“This is peace in the Middle East without blood all over the sand,” the president said. “It’s been blood all over the sand for decades and decades and decades. That’s all they do, is they fight and kill people, and nobody gets anything.” 

JUST WHOSE BLOOD MIGHT BE INVOLVED WAS GLOSSED OVER. THE OTHER SIGNATORIES OF THE “ACCORDS”, THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) AND BAHRAIN, HAD NEVER BEEN AT WAR WITH ISRAEL.

They are Gulf monarchies from the high-end enclaves of the Arab world, who have exchanged intelligence and technology with Israel as well as a mutual fear of Iran, for several years already.

The “peace agreements” involved three Middle Eastern governments putting an official seal on once furtive friendships, in a brash ceremony honed to benefit Trump, part of a broader diplomatic flurry that is part of his re-election campaign.

ISRAEL’S REAL ENEMIES, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, had no less enmity as a result of the accords. By way of a reminder, as the documents were being signed, the sirens were going off along the Israeli coast, and six people were injured by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

THE CONFLICTING ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN CLAIMS ON TERRITORY AND SECURITY – the impasse which had prevented diplomatic breakthroughs in the past two decades – WAS OVERCOME IN TUESDAY’S WHITE HOUSE DEALS SIMPLY BY BEING IGNORED. 

THE UAE HAD CLAIMED TO HAVE SECURED A PLEDGE FROM ISRAEL NOT TO ANNEX THE WEST BANK, at least for the time being. THERE WAS NO MENTION OF THAT IN ITS ABRAHAMIC AGREEMENT, which focused on potential fields of economic cooperation. 

BAHRAIN’S VERSION WAS EVEN THINNER. The kingdom had agreed to join the spectacle a few days earlier, and its agreement to Israel amounted to a single page of vague aspirations, one of which was “CONTINUING EFFORTS FOR A JUST, COMPREHENSIVE, ENDURING RESOLUTION OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT.” 

 “THE LOSER HERE IS DEFINITELY THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE AND THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION. It’s a surrender of the Palestinians,” Randa Slim, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said, adding that THE ACCORDS STRIPPED THEM OF EVEN THE APPEARANCE OF ARAB SOLIDARITY. 

“I don’t see how they can enter into negotiations and exact any serious concessions, now that they have been denied the one strong negotiating card they had at their disposal.”

The Abraham Accords ceremony was a patina of a docudrama loosely based on some real-life issues. A taboo, however tenuous, had been broken. Israeli journalists and diplomats mingled freely with their Gulf Arab counterparts, and there will no doubt be an upside from economic cooperation.

The same cannot be said for the other “peace deal” inked recently at the White House. That involved actual former adversaries, Serbian and Kosovan leaders, but next to no substance.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, and Kosovo’s prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, walked away on 4 September with separate documents, which restated agreements already made between the two sides, such as infrastructure projects that were already under way. 

THE NEW ELEMENT WAS A TIE-IN WITH THE MIDDLE EAST. BOTH PARTIES AGREED TO MOVE THEIR EMBASSIES TO JERUSALEM, WHICH APPEARED TO COME AS A SURPRISE TO VUČIĆ.

On hearing Trump announcing it at the elaborate Oval Office ceremony – also cast as a breakthrough between two ancient rivals – the Serbian leader thumbed through the documents in front of him and cast a bewildered look at an aide standing off camera. A few days later, his office let it be known that Serbia would not be keeping its end of the Jerusalem bargain if Israel recognised Kosovo, which had also been part of the deal. 

Trump’s pre-election diplomatic offensive has not been all theatre, however. Talks started in Doha at the weekend between the Afghan government and the Taliban, a fraught discussion between real adversaries about very real issues, brokered by the US.

But the timing has been dictated by Trump’s campaign calendar. His insistence on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, no matter what the consequences, gave the Taliban what it had been seeking all along and presented the government of president Ashraf Ghani little choice but to negotiate, with a weakened hand. The talks can still collapse, or Kabul could be forced to negotiate away basic freedoms, including women’s rights.

“In some respects, the Afghanistan talks are the most substantial of them all, in war and peace terms,” Daniel Serwer, senior fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said.

“But you have to be realistic about what it is. We’re losing that war and the US negotiators found a way to use withdrawal of troops as leverage on the government of Afghanistan. So, if I were an ally of the United States, I might not be looking at that in a completely positive light.”

The consequences, for good or ill, will play themselves out after the election. Meanwhile, the Doha dialogue is being deployed by the White House as yet another example of how Trump slices through problems that were beyond his predecessors.

THE RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN IS MAKING MUCH OF HIS NOMINATION FOR THE NOBEL PRIZE, SKATING OVER THE FACT THAT ALL THAT TOOK WAS THE SUPPORT OF A SINGLE MAVERICK RIGHT-WINGER IN THE NORWEGIAN PARLIAMENT. 

EVEN THOUGH THE RESULTING CAMPAIGN ADVERTISEMENT MISSPELLED THE AWARD AS THE NOBLE, the fanfare seems bound to help Trump’s bid to stay in the Oval Office. It is foreign policy, reputed to be of little weight in a US election contest. BUT IT IS ALSO SHOW BUSINESS, AT WHICH TRUMP EXCELS. 

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  • Clyde Duncan  On September 17, 2020 at 12:34 am

    OPINION:
    TRUMP IS HOPING FOR A MIDEAST ‘PEACE BOUNCE’. HE WON’T GET IT

    When they go to the polls, most Americans won’t be thinking about a diminished Arab-Israeli conflict. They’ll be thinking about 200,000 dead, economic crisis and racial injustice

    DANIEL B. SHAPIRO | HAARETZ

    THE TIMING, SEVEN WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION DAY, WAS PERFECT. And portions of at least two communities with electoral significance — the Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities — are excited by the news.

    THEY ARE THINKING ABOUT THE ONGOING ECONOMIC CRISIS. The plight of the long-term unemployed, whose benefits and savings have run out, and the threat of evictions and foreclosures — the worst is still ahead.

    They are thinking about climate change, as California burns on the Pacific and a parade of hurricanes across the Atlantic.

    In this environment, even historic Arab-Israeli agreements will not stay on most Americans’ minds long.

    ====

    ANALYSIS: ISRAEL SIGNS IMPORTANT PEACE DEAL THAT ENDED NO WAR

    Netanyahu’s references to the ‘wounds of war’ at the ceremony sound out of place since blood was not spilled with Gulf States

    NOA LANDAU N| HAARETZ

    WASHINGTON – If an alien had landed on the White House South Lawn during the signing of the peace agreements in the Middle East, he would have certainly thought this was the end of a long and bloody war.

    The rhetoric in the speeches, the strange Hollywood-like music, the trumpets, the general pathos, all screamed historic peace agreement. But where and with whom was this war? Certainly not with the Gulf states.

    In this surrealistic scene, the representatives of four countries gathered – the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – to sign agreements and declarations of peace, which, as important and ground-breaking as they may be, and in many ways they certainly are, they did not end any actual bloody war.

    ONLY HISTORY WILL TELL WHO IS RIGHT. BUT ONE THING IS FOR SURE:

    When Netanyahu promises that the Abraham Accords can lead to “the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all,” he does not mean the real conflict raging in his backyard.

    WITH ALL DUE RESPECT TO THEIR HISTORIC IMPORTANCE, THESE ARE “DECLARATIONS OF PEACE” WITH FRIENDS.

    THE REAL CHALLENGE IS STILL FAR AHEAD OF US.

  • wic  On September 17, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Did O’bama do any better? He encouraged the Arab Spring and look where Yemen is now. He led the charge against Libya against the advice of Germany, Indian and Brazil and it resulted in the country being in shambles, the US embassy being overrun & the ambassador being killed among other things. No but Trump one succeeded with some kind of peace initiative in the Middle East and one was signed allowing air travel between the UAE and Israel a few days ago.

    As for the “declaration of peace among friends” comments, had the author lost 5 million of his relatives in his lifetime, he would perhaps understand why Israel will be reluctant to trust it’s hostile neighbors.

    It’s time people stop harassing Trump and consider how they will deal with North Korea, China and Iran should that weakling Biden become President, for he is no different than Carter who had the qualifications of a nuclear submarine captain but allowed Iran to take over the US embassy and hold staff as hostages.

    That’s THE REAL CHALLENGE AHEAD even if Trump were re-elected and the free world needs to smarten up.

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 17, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    Opinion
    I’m Voting Against the Ugliest American – and for America the Beautiful

    ‘Four more years’ is eight too many. On November 3, I’m voting for the rebirth of hope, of idealism, of altruism, of America the Beautiful

    Bradley Burston | Haaretz

    Early on in elementary school, I was taught – and in retrospect, correctly – never to call anyone ugly. So, I’m only going to say this once: RIGHT THIS MOMENT, THE UGLIEST AMERICAN ALIVE IS ASKING FOR FOUR MORE YEARS.

    IRONICALLY ENOUGH, CONSIDERING THE MAN IN QUESTION, LOOKS HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. THIS IS ABOUT THE UGLINESS AT THE VERY CORE OF HIM, THE UGLINESS WHICH, IN FACT, CONSTITUTES THE ESSENCE AND ENGINE OF HIS SOUL.

    THE UGLINESS WHICH MAKES HIS CRUELTY SO EFFORTLESS, SO DESTRUCTIVE, SO CONTAGIOUS. The ugliness which makes him the colossal brat that he is, the coddled bully, the tireless super-spreader of hateful, corrosive, at times lethally dangerous fictions.

    It is this ugliness, raw and uncut, which oddly enough makes him the magnet that sticks to all of us, adore him or abhor him.

    AT ROOT, IT IS THIS UGLINESS WHICH MAKES HIM WHAT HE IS: The supremacist of all supremacists. Not a conservative, not a Republican, in no way a public servant, a president only of the disunited red states of America.

    THE SUPREMACIST WHOSE AMERICAN DREAM IS WHAT HE HALLUCINATES IT TO BE:

    Men are superior to women, white presidents to presidents of color, gun-owners to the unarmed, Christians to non-Christians, evangelicals to everyone else. And on top of all that, successful DRAFT DODGERS are superior to heroes fallen in war, wounded in combat, shot down and taken captive and tortured.

    ENOUGH. On November 3, I won’t just be voting against all of this. Against all of him. On November 3, I will be voting for America the beautiful.

    No Statues of Trump, Ever. May His Name Be Blotted Out
    In 2020 America, Hitler Is Winning
    Bibi, Save Yourself and Defect to Trump’s U.S.A.

    I will be voting for a true and glorious mosaic, not the makeup mirror of a vain old man.

    I WILL BE VOTING FOR HEALTH CARE AS A RIGHT. Not for a man whose response to the worst pandemic of the age is to trumpet the malicious lie that all but a handful of 190,000 coronavirus victims actually died of something else.

    I will be voting for an administration which recognizes and works to relieve the concrete fears and travails of Black Americans, whose lives and those of their children and grandchildren are under lethal threat from police, the open ulcer of a centuries-old plague of racial injustice and profound inequality.

    On November 3, I will be voting for America the beautiful.

    Years ago, when I was in the army, I came across a copy of the 1958 novel “The Ugly American.” In its time, the book had roused a small revolution, defining the ugliness of senior U.S. governmental figures not in terms of physical appearance, but for their callousness, their lack of empathy, their loudmouth self-righteousness, their rudeness, their racism, their parochial arrogance and tunnel vision.

    The sort of senior official who, on duty in Asia, nodded only “to everyone who was European, Caucasian, western-educated and decently dressed.” Says an astute local observer, “I know the bastard now. He drives a big red convertible that he slews around corners and over sidewalks.”

    In 1959, then-Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy was so taken by the novel’s warnings that he took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to promote the message of the book, a copy of which he bought and had delivered to every member of the U.S. Senate.

    Later, citing the message and his vision of how to “defend peace and freedom” by addressing economic gaps, Kennedy made the creation of a volunteer Peace Corps serving in disadvantaged areas overseas one of the first policy moves of his new presidency.

    On November 3, I’m voting for the rebirth of hope.

    I’m voting for the possibility of idealism. Of altruism. Of love of country which is not based on hatreds and fears. Of love of country which does not depend on denial of history. Love of country which is not expressed in fondling a flag.

    I’m voting for science.

    I’m voting for the honor and the memory of decent men and women who served America and made extraordinary sacrifices for the safety and well-being of its people.

    I know the bastard now. The one who slews around corners and over sidewalks.

    “Four more years” is eight too many.

    On November 3, I’m voting for America the beautiful.

    America! America!

    God shed his grace on thee

    Till selfish gain no longer stain

    The banner of the free

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 17, 2020 at 8:53 pm

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 18, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    Daniel B. “Dan” Shapiro is a diplomat and former Ambassador of the United States of America to the State of Israel.

    He was nominated by President Barack Obama on March 29, 2011, and confirmed by the Senate on May 29. Shapiro was sworn in as ambassador by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 8, 2011.

    DANIEL B. SHAPIRO WAS BORN TO A JEWISH FAMILY IN CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS, one of four children of novelist Elizabeth Klein Shapiro and University of Illinois English professor emeritus Michael Shapiro.

    Shapiro went to Westview Elementary and Edison Middle school in Champaign, and graduated from the University Laboratory High School in 1986.

    SHAPIRO FIRST ENTERED WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, SPENDING HIS SOPHOMORE YEAR IN ISRAEL, and then transferred to Brandeis University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1991 in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

    Two years later he earned a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Politics from Harvard University.

    SHAPIRO SPEAKS BOTH HEBREW AND ARABIC.

    Shapiro is married to Julie Fisher. The couple has three daughters. They are members of the Conservative Jewish Adas Israel Congregation in Washington.

    Shapiro wrote above:

    WITH ALL DUE RESPECT TO THEIR HISTORIC IMPORTANCE, THESE ARE “DECLARATIONS OF PEACE” WITH FRIENDS.

    Shapiro knows what he writes about in the instant case.

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 18, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    From Haaretz.com’s Opinion Editor, Esther Solomon:

    “TREATY OF PEACE, DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AND FULL NORMALIZATION”:

    Neither the Trump administration, Netanyahu nor the Emiratis wanted to leave any doubt that the U.S.-brokered agreement, launched under the Biblical “Abraham Accords” brand was, indeed, A PEACE DEAL.

    BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED.

    The first signed agreement between Israel and an Arab state in a quarter of a century had a controversial reception, and many asked if there was any legitimacy from history or logic to frame this as a peace deal at all:

    BEARING IN MIND, NEITHER THE UAE NOR BAHRAIN HAD EVEN BEEN FOUNDED BY THE TIME ISRAEL AND THE ARAB WORLD HAD FOUGHT THEIR MOST ICONIC WARS.

    Others suggested it could be CO-BRANDED THE ANTI-IRAN AXIS, or that it resembled an ARMS DEAL as much as a peace deal.

    Despite the evident good humor and celebration of the White House crowd, there was an elephant on the South Lawn:

    THE ABSENCE BOTH IN BODY AND SPIRIT OF THE PALESTINIANS.

    ======

    OPINION: Trump and Netanyahu’s Big Fat Fake Peace Deal

    As a reward for destroying the lives of generations of Palestinians, Israel made ‘peace’ with two Arab states, UAE and Bahrain, WHOSE COMBINED CITIZENRIES ARE LESS THAN THE GAZA STRIP

    Diana Buttu | Haaretz

    As I watched Tuesday’s White House ceremony, I couldn’t help but think: “This all could have been so different!”

    Instead of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump trying to convince the world that “peace” has been achieved, MASKING WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY A BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ISRAEL, THE UAE AND BAHRAIN, we could have been witnessing a real peace agreement, with ALL of the countries of the Arab world.

    IF ONLY ISRAEL AND THE UNITED STATES BOTH DECIDED THAT PALESTINIANS SHOULD FINALLY HAVE THEIR FREEDOM.

    INSTEAD, HOWEVER, WE ARE WITNESSING AN IMPUNITY AGREEMENT, WHEREIN ISRAEL IS REWARDED FOR DENYING US OUR FREEDOM, FOR STEALING OUR LAND, FOR DEMOLISHING OUR HOMES AND FOR DESTROYING THE LIVES OF GENERATIONS OF PALESTINIANS.

    AS A LAWYER TO THE PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATING TEAM, I SPENT YEARS LISTENING TO ISRAELI REPRESENTATIVES DO AS NETANYAHU AND TRUMP DID TUESDAY:

    ignoring Palestinians, arrogantly telling us that we should simply accept whatever crumbs are thrown our way – and be grateful for those crumbs – denying or justifying the Nakba of 1948, and attempting to relegate us into a “minority” and not recognizing us as the indigenous people of this land.

    This is, unfortunately, the face of Zionism: AN ARROGANT COLONIAL MOVEMENT THAT CAN ONLY THRIVE THROUGH OUR DEMISE.

    What Netanyahu and Israel seem to conveniently forget is that decades of attempting to crush us will only serve to boomerang on Israel.

    For it is us — the natives of this land — who are the only ones who can ultimately guarantee peace. Not those in faraway capitals.

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