The “winners and losers” genre of column-writing has always been trite, but this entry from Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic has the additional quality of being an outright embarrassment. In it, Goldberg claims that “authoritarians” have won at the expense of Iran and the Palestinians, along with taking shots at the idea that the Abraham Accords are actually peace treaties.
At no time, however, does Goldberg explain how the losers aren’t also authoritarians:
The White House aides who named this agreement “The Abraham Accords”
A genius marketing move, though I would have preferred the “Isaac and Ishmael Summit,” or “The Treaty of Ghent,” for that matter. “The Abraham Accords” is grandiose for any number of reasons, including the fact that what was signed yesterday does not even constitute a peace treaty. Peace treaties are made between warring parties, and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have never been at war with Israel. My personal preference would have been to deploy the big gun himself, Abraham, the father of monotheism, for a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians, which would be the thing that actually ended that Middle East conflict.
The authoritarian leaders, or authoritarian-curious leaders, of four countries
And here’s his entry on the losers:
The Iranian leadership
Israel and the United Arab Emirates (along with other Gulf states) have secretly cooperated with each other against their common enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran, for more than a decade. The normalization of relations strengthens this coalition, the members of which (mainly correctly) see Iran and its various terrorist appendages as threats to their stability and territorial integrity, and even to their existence.
A dark and cruel joke I once heard in Saudi Arabia: What’s the difference between Arab Gulf leaders and Netanyahu’s Likud party? The Gulf states really despise the Palestinians. Once again, Arab leaders are signaling to the Palestinians that they have grown tired of what they see as Palestinian rejectionism and obduracy, and also that they would very much like to be partners with Israel in high-tech development and in the fight against Iran. Two years ago, bin Salman told me in an interview: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.” This statement was seen, correctly, as an invitation to Arab states to deepen their ties to Israel.
It’s curious, although certainly understandable, that Goldberg doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the Iranians and the Palestinians are both authoritarian entities too. The Iranian mullahs use the IRGC to suppress dissent and to tightly control its population, as well as to impose its hegemonic ambitions in the region. The Palestinian Authority hasn’t had a leadership change since Yasser Arafat died and the terror group Hamas took control of Gaza in the last elections the PA held, over a decade ago. With the exception of Israel, the fitful democratic efforts in Iraq, and maybe Lebanon if you ignore Hezbollah’s control on behalf of Tehran, there aren’t any other kinds of government in the region except authoritarians on any side of this equation.
Did the Atlantic lament the victory of “authoritarianism” when the Obama administration sent pallets of cash to the Iranians? I’d be happy to add a link to any such claim, but I suspect that was as absent then as any acknowledgment of Iranian and Palestinian authoritarianism is now.
As to Goldberg’s pedantry over the term “peace treaty,” that’s as silly as his other argument. The Arabs have conducted multiple wars against Israel over the last 72 years in various alliances and configurations; the Arab League has been adamantly opposed to normalization in any sense until now. Recognition of Israel might not have put an end to any hot combat, but it is a declaration that these Arab nations now explicitly acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
By the way, if Goldberg’s offended by authoritarianism, then perhaps he should be cheering the effect of the Abraham Accords on the Palestinians. For the first time in quite a while, it appears that they want a change of leadership from the old guard who led them into six decades of dead ends:
The Abraham Accords have prompted some Palestinians to question their leadership, according to Dana El Kurd, who teaches at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
“People are starting to voice their disgust and anger with Palestinian leadership at letting the situation devolve to this degree and rightfully accusing them of having no strategy,” Kurd said.
Buttu, the lawyer in the West Bank, also thinks it’s time for new elections.
“If you were born anytime after 1989, you’ve not been able to vote in any Palestinian election,” Buttu said, “and I think really now is the time for us to be looking at this leadership and asking the question not only is this the correct leadership but whether this is the right path.”
That could send the Palestinians into an even more radical direction, but at least they would choose that dead end for themselves. And this time the Arab League won’t be around to buffer their leadership from their disastrous choices.
In the end, Goldberg’s lament is a long paean to sour grapes. He’s unhappy the wrong administration took the right path to reconciliation between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and nothing more.