MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, August 20th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Commentator Cal Thomas now on the recent big news out of the Middle East.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Everyone should applaud any action that reduces tensions in the Middle East and contributes to Israel’s security. The agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to establish diplomatic relations does just that. It is a tremendous policy achievement, even though UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was less enthusiastic in his description of the deal.
It’s been decades since we’ve seen such a positive development in the Middle East. Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan in 1994 was the last one, and before that it was the spectacular deal between Israel and Egypt, brokered by President Jimmy Carter. Credit goes to Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump, along with Jared Kushner, and U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, for their roles.
Former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger thinks fear of Iran is the UAE’s primary motivating factor. In his newsletter he writes—quote—”The UAE considers strategic cooperation with Israel, in general, and the peace accord, in particular, a critical added-value to its line of defense (second only to the U.S.) against lethal threats such as Iran’s conventional and terror offensive, persistent Muslim Brotherhood terrorism, ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorism, Turkey’s operational and logistic support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s military base in the pro-Iran Qatar. The UAE, as well as all other pro-U.S. Arab regimes, recognize Israel as the most effective and reliable ‘life insurance agent’ in the region.” End quote.
Other Middle East countries, especially Saudi Arabia, also fear Iran and the growing possibility that Tehran will soon possess nuclear weapons. The ever-cautious Saudis appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude before deciding whether to follow the UAE, something that could then shift the pressure to Israel to solve the intractable Palestinian problem.
Of course, there remains the question of religion. Can such agreements hold up as long as many Arab schools continue to indoctrinate children with hatred for Israel and Jews and advocate for eliminating the Jewish state?
There is also the question of what to do about terrorist organizations. Will they, possibly in coordination with Iran, launch attacks inside the UAE and against Israel to undermine the accord?
The key word in this diplomatic deal is “suspend.” That’s what Israel committed to do with its plans to annex the West Bank, which Israel refers to as Judea and Samaria. If the deal leads to other nations in the region following suit—since Iran threatens them all—this will be good for everybody, and the Trump administration will have achieved something no one thought possible. If not, Israel will likely pursue annexation.
I am willing to suspend my skepticism about the possibility of genuine peace in the region to see where this agreement leads, but the religious component is key. Until that is resolved I remain neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but cautiously skeptical.
I’m Cal Thomas.