Opinion | Israel, the U.A.E. and a New Middle East

Opinion | Israel, the U.A.E. and a New Middle East


That call will largely be made by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. M.B.S. is the most politically repressive, militarily aggressive and, yet, socially and religiously progressive leader that Saudi Arabia has ever had. His C.I.A.-reported decision to have Saudi democracy advocate Jamal Khashoggi, who was a longtime U.S. resident, killed and dismembered was utterly demented — an incomprehensible response to a peaceful critic who posed no threat to the kingdom.

The Biden team is still sorting out how it will relate to M.B.S., but it is right to insist that America will continue to deal with Saudi Arabia in general as an ally. Getting the Saudis to join the Abraham Accords is the best way to ensure their success. Because, if done right, their participation could create new energy for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution, which, in turn, could make it easier for Jordan and Egypt to fully normalize relations with Israel as well.

Then you really do have a new Middle East.

Biden needs to move fast, though. Among the Israeli groups aggressively reaching out to the Gulf Arabs to come visit are right-wing Jewish settlers. They want to prove that Israel can expand settlements, control the Palestinians and have great relations with Arab states — all at once. It is called “Abraham Accords washing,” using the new ties with Arabs to mask Israel’s West Bank occupation.

The U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia need to understand that they have more leverage now to influence Israeli-Palestinian relations than they realize. Israel does not want to lose them. Imagine if Saudi Arabia agreed to join the Abraham Accords, but only on the condition that it could open the Saudi Embassy to Israel in Israeli West Jerusalem while, at the same time, opening an embassy to the Palestinians in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

Just that one move would help preserve the possibility of a two-state deal, would revitalize the 2002 Saudi peace initiative and would further isolate Iran’s axis of failure. And Israel would find it very hard to reject.

I respect the worry some have that Saudi Arabia’s making peace with Israel could be a vehicle for rehabilitating M.B.S. They might be right. But I don’t believe that is a reason to oppose it. In the Middle East, big change often happens when the big players do the right things for the wrong reasons.

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