The recent normalisation of relations between Israel on the one hand and the United Arab Emirates on the other hand has been billed as a major foreign policy triumph of the Trump administration. It is that, to the extent that at least a little of the American foreign policy establishment was forced to conform with the obvious (and you know what I think about Americans and the obvious.) It’s unlikely that the Arab states would have entered into this just because the Americans wanted them to; you don’t survive in the Middle East by doing everything the American government tells you to do. It’s the result of several things, some of which this blog has been saying for years.
Israel Isn’t the Arabs’ Greatest Enemy
It’s true that many in the Arab world have accorded Israel with a shame-honour reaction; they were shamed that Israel was established in their midst, thus they feel that they must recover their honour by eliminating same. In reality, Israel doesn’t occupy much land, no matter how you set her borders.
Today it’s clear that Iran is the Arab world’s once and future greatest enemy. The Sunni-Shi’a divide is deep and vicious. We didn’t help matters by taking out Saddam Hussein; butcher though he was, he was also a buffer between Shi’a Iran and the Sunnis on the other side of the Tigris, Euphrates and the Gulf. Eliminating him only put the issue in the light of day.
Further complicating matters are the Turks, who are trying to recover Ottoman glory. Both Turk and Arab remember that the Ottomans occupied territory on both sides of the Arabian Peninsula; Saudi Arabia was established only with the ejection of the Ottomans from Mecca and Medina. I don’t think that an Iranian-Turkish alliance is really stable (just as I don’t think a Sino-Russian one is) but something thrown together for convenience, in part, by the American “us vs. them” foreign policy mentality.
People have the idea that these new alliances will fade if Trump goes away. I don’t think so; I think that the Arab states in particular are banking that, if Biden wins, American foreign policy will tilt back to the Iranians as it did during Obama’s time. That would leave both Israel and the Arab states in the lurch; forming these alliances in the current favourable condition is a sensible option for both states.
Israel also offers technological advances for the Arabs as well. And, if Biden wins, the Israelis will probably lessen their squeamishness about selling military hardware to the Arabs, using them as a shield against Iran.
The Palestinians Are Political Duds
The conventional wisdom in the West is that the Arabs were hostile to Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians. With these deals that needs a reality check, and that reality is more complex than the idealists which drive our rhetoric can comprehend.
I said earlier that the Arab hostility was a shame-honour reaction to the loss of Palestine to the Israelis. The blame for that disaster fell on the Palestinians; they lost it, thus they are losers. The Palestinians’ status in the Middle East isn’t the greatest, whether they’re in the UN-sponsored refugee camps or doing labour in the Gulf states.
The Palestinians “no terms but unconditional surrender” mentality (which worked better with the Confederacy than with Israel) has meant that they have repeatedly turned down a viable two-state solution time after time. My guess is that the Arabs’ patience is wearing thin with this way of politics even if the Europeans and Americans are blind to it. In getting Israel to stop its settlement annexation plans, the Arabs have done more for the Palestinians than their own leadership (or leaderships, it’s really plural) has done in a long time. My guess is that both Fatah and Hamas will show Scots-Irish level contempt of gratitude for this, but perhaps others in the Palestinian community may have second thoughts.
Christians Need to Put Their Prophetic Clocks Away
In the wake of this event I heard one Christian leader express disappointment at this because it threw off his prophetic paradigm. Very few actually do this; they just reset their clocks, make new pronouncements and go on as if nothing was wrong. We’ve been going through this for more than fifty years and, as for the U.S. foreign policy establishment, it’s time for a reality check.
The Darbyite reset of the place of the Jewish people was a major step forward in Christian thinking; the implementation of the prophetic unroll wasn’t. Our Lord was insistent that we didn’t know the day or the hour of his return, but that there would be indicative signs. The prophetic portions of Scripture lack the precision that we like to see, and our attempts to read that precision into the Word have shown our ignorance of the Middle East; a musical demonstration of that is below:
The whole point of Our Lord’s emphasis on his return was to remind us to do what he put us here to do, so we need to quit staring at our prophetic clocks, lift our eyes and look to the fields, white with harvest.