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Friday, January 22, 2021

Donald Trump, man of peace

With pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC announcing support this week for a proposed $23 billion weapons sale of American F-35 fighter jets, advanced armed Reaper drone systems, and air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions to the United Arab Emirates, the ground now is as smooth as can be for the Trump administration to proceed in a transaction that will lend further stability — in a counterbalance to Iran — to a sometimes volatile region.

For Middle East-watchers, this further reinforces the intent of the recent Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and the UAE. Unlike previous Israeli-Arab agreements, this relationship is off to an unprecedented start. One would think President Trump should win an award of some kind, maybe from the nice people in Sweden.

After all, former President Obama, in just his first year of office, received, in an announcement that shocked even himself, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and his creation of “a new climate in international politics.”

Since, at the time, the president had barely warmed the seat in the Oval Office, this was all premature. But even if it had been bestowed at the end of his second term, it would have been undeserved. The state of geopolitics Mr. Obama left his successor was one where America played a second-fiddle role to China, Iran bullied the Middle East and the West, and the U.S. southern border with Mexico remained unguarded.

Mr. Trump, for all his foibles, gaffes and bucking of the play-niceties, has effectuated something no predecessor of his has been able to accomplish: the creation of peace between Israel and an Arab country.

The UAE, a federation of seven emirates (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi), is a federal elective constitutional monarchy. It is known for its vast oil wealth, and more importantly, the use to which this wealth has been put. Whether it’s investment in soccer clubs, cutting-edge technology, and the creation of high-end shopping and travel destinations, the UAE has remained constant in its friendship with the United States and the West.

All this, of course, is old hat. What is new, however, is the relationship between this Sunni country and Israel, once covert and hush-hush, is now out in the open. What started as a strategic partnership between the two countries against their mutual enemy, Iran, has normalized to such an extent that now Dubai has become a luxury retail destination for Israelis. Direct flights between both countries have started, joint investments are kicking-off, and the world is looking good for everyone but Hezbollah and Hamas.

The budding friendship between these two countries, while not solely the work of the Trump administration, is overwhelmingly due to its good offices. Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fostered the circumstances under which this peace could take place. It will likely turn out, from a foreign policy perspective, to be the greatest legacy of this administration. (That and keeping us out of further foreign military entanglements.)

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Europe or the American foreign policy establishment to praise or honor Mr. Trump for this signal achievement. It won’t happen. But it should, and in a just world, it would. Perhaps, in the end, having left the world safer for Americans is prize enough.

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