October 24, 2023 | Washington Examiner

Did Hamas just prove the Abraham Accords right? 

October 24, 2023 | Washington Examiner

Did Hamas just prove the Abraham Accords right? 

Four days after Hamas began its massacre of Israeli civilians, King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed his country’s parliament, telling lawmakers that Jordan’s “compass will always point to Palestine, with Jerusalem in its heart, and we will never falter in defending its interests and just cause.” His wife, Queen Rania, pointed a finger at Israel and claimed that “it isn’t self-defense if you are an occupying force.”

Jordan and Israel have been at peace for almost 30 years, yet Amman didn’t offer a word of consolation to its grieving neighbor, nor condemn Hamas’s wanton murder of Israeli civilians. Israel and Egypt have been at peace for almost half a century, yet Cairo was likewise unwilling to acknowledge Hamas’s atrocities and war crimes.

In contrast, the United Arab Emirates named Hamas and “expressed its condolences to the families of the victims.” Rather than keep Israel at arm’s length while rousing anti-Israel voices at home, Israel’s newest Arab partners appear much readier than Egypt and Jordan to integrate the Jewish state into the fabric of the Middle East.

Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively. Those treaties conditioned regional normalization on prospective Palestinian statehood. But neither solidified a warm diplomatic friendship with the state of Israel.

Indeed, Cairo and Amman have been anything but congenial toward Israel as it recovers from Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed on Oct. 11 that Egypt rejects “any attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause by military means or displacement.” Worse, Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Altantawy praised Hamas’s attack and “condemn[ed] any attempt by the Israel occupation to respond with violence and barbarism.”

The UAE, however, normalized relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords. That set of agreements, which also included Bahrain and, later, Morocco, untethered regional peace from the Palestinian file and was meant to foster warmer ties through people-to-people connections. Today, we’re seeing the dividends of that approach play out in real time.

On Oct. 15, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke over the phone with Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, the Emirati ruler. Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, held a similar call with Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed on Oct. 9. “Bin Zayed expressed his solidarity with the State of Israel, and [I] thanked him for his support,” Lapid said.

Emirati solidarity also spilled into the pages of the Wall Street Journal, where a media personality close to the country’s leadership wrote that “now isn’t the time to go wobbly on peace.” He accused Hamas of “poisoning the climate for normalization.”

And though Bahrain initially released a neutral statement, the foreign minister later shamed Hamas and unequivocally condemned “the kidnapping of civilians from their homes as hostages.”

As for Saudia Arabia, the kingdom was reportedly inching toward a normalization deal before Hamas derailed that effort on Oct. 7. Riyadh is now toeing a fine line. Before Hamas was through massacring civilians, the Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning against “the dangers of the explosion of the situation” due to Israel’s “continued occupation” and “the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights.”

However, when the Saudi foreign minister spoke over the phone with Secretary of State Antony Blinken that day, he reportedly stressed “the Kingdom’s rejection of targeting of civilians in any way.”

Saudi-Israel normalization topped President Joe Biden’s Middle East agenda before Hamas set the region ablaze. Now, the Biden administration is reportedly scrambling to keep that possibility alive. Riyadh will eventually need 67 senators to ratify the mutual defense treaty at the center of that diplomatic effort. Certainly, Congress is watching the Saudi reaction to events in Israel carefully.

Still, Blinken cautioned on Oct. 8 that normalization cannot “be a substitute for resolving the differences between Israelis and Palestinians.” Washington tested that mindset with Egypt and Jordan, and it failed. The fact that Turkey, which openly sponsors Hamas, issued a more neutral statement is proof enough.

No doubt, the Abraham Accords are faring better — even if their record isn’t spotless. Indeed, the UAE and Bahrain quickly blamed Israel for an explosion at a Gaza City hospital on Oct. 17. With mounting evidence that a Palestinian misfire caused the explosion, the question is whether Abu Dhabi and Manama will distance themselves from the story, if not correct their original testimony.

Nevertheless, as Israel weathers this crisis, Abu Dhabi and Manama have so far proven stronger friends than Cairo or Amman. By stoking terror, Hamas thought it could prevent the Abraham Accords from expanding. Instead, it may have proved their worth.

Natalie Ecanow is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan research institute in Washington, D.C., focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Arab Politics Gulf States Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jihadism Palestinian Politics