Good and evil before our eyes
It is a sad fact of life that it is harder to sell peace and tolerance in our world than terror, death and destruction, especially in the global press.
The war in Ukraine has dominated the headlines over the past few weeks. Now, the terrible new wave of terror that has killed innocent victims in Hadera, Be’er Sheva and Bnei Brak has shifted the focus in the Middle East.
In my country, sadly, bad behavior at Hollywood’s Oscars ceremony last weekend has overshadowed even the killings in Israel.
So you would have to really hunt to find any news in America of the meetings that recently took place in the Negev desert. This is a shame because they are significant and historic.
A few days ago, for those who missed it, the foreign ministers of the UAE, the US, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and Bahrain came together for an extraordinary summit at Sde Boker in Israel. If you ever wanted to see the black-and-white contrast between the bridge builders of peace in our world and those who want to destroy, it all took place right there in front of our eyes.
The mere fact that these high-ranking officials had gathered in Israel is breathtaking. And the fact that all of them, in unison, condemned the recent deadly attacks is heartening. On the other side of the global divide between good and evil, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah (an Iranian proxy), congratulated the attackers.
This is the clash our world is facing: A clash between bridge builders and those who use terror and fear to divide us for their own warped goals.
There is something else that is important and it should not be missed. It is now apparent that all of these nations that have established a relationship with Israel share the same enemies in the region, namely terrorist groups, some of which operate in the name of Sunni or Shiite ideologies.
Therefore the summit in the Negev — and before that the trilateral summit in Sharm El-Sheikh attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — is as important as it was unprecedented.
The American-Arab-Israeli alliance should work together to prevent Iran’s nuclearization.
Ronald S. Lauder
Such meetings reinforce the 2020 Abraham Accords peace agreements and lay the foundations for an even wider alliance between most Arab nations, the State of Israel and perhaps even Turkey. The seemingly elusive dream of a “New Middle East” seems no longer to be simply a dream, even though you have to hunt to find it mentioned in most newspapers.
All of this has come about for two reasons. The fear of Iran’s growing influence in the region — and its potential access to nuclear weapons, if the new deal being pushed by the US and Europe is agreed — has prompted both Jews and Sunnis to join forces to confront the radical Shiite threat.
Also, a deep disappointment with America’s semi-isolationist policies is driving moderate Arab leaders to discern that their only truly trustworthy ally is their small, but mighty, neighbor: Israel.
This has led to full diplomatic relations, free trade agreements, direct flights, burgeoning tourism, and ambitious economic initiatives between Israel and its Gulf neighbors, creating a formidable new regional structure that is rising before our very eyes. Accelerated intelligence and security cooperation measures also form part of the foundations of this impressive new network.
Israel, Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt, together with the US, must strive to amplify the bold initiative they have already launched.
The US and Israel must become active partners in a regional defense alliance that will provide the moderate Arab world with a strategic Iron Dome. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and other Arab nations should become active partners in mitigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and preventing a one-state catastrophe. And the American-Arab-Israeli alliance should work together to prevent Iran’s nuclearization and to safeguard the West’s energy security in light of the uncertainty caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This might sound like a Utopian vision but it is not. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and King Hussein of Jordan were all true visionaries: They dared to dream of peace when the Middle East was marked by daily bloodshed. And they left the world better and safer, not poorer and more dangerous, through their actions during their courageous lives.
Now, seeing the foreign ministers of Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco standing together with the US secretary of state in Israel restores the hope that peace is possible. It should not — it must not — be squandered.
• Ronald S. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress.