President Biden inherited a Middle East that posed the greatest opportunities for stability, if not peace, in almost six decades. Former President Donald Trump‘s 2018 revocation of the Obama nuclear weapons deal with Iran and imposition of severe economic sanctions on it backfooted the terrorist state. The Arab nations, terrified by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, saw Mr. Trump‘s Abraham Accords as the best chance to align themselves with the U.S. and Israel, the only regional power able to face up to Iran.
As this column has pointed out before, Mr. Biden and his team are intent on undoing everything Mr. Trump did, no matter how good it was. Mr. Biden’s attempt to negotiate a new version of the 2015 Iran deal has returned the Arab states to skepticism about our reliability as an ally. Mr. Biden’s new embrace of the Palestinians is a clear message to the Arabs that he is backing away from the Abraham Accords.
In September, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was committed to “advancing and expanding” those accords. But actions and statements by himself and Mr. Biden, before and since, demonstrate commitment to the opposite policy.
It must take ingenuity to be as precisely wrong as Mr. Blinken often is. For example, he said in March that the Abraham Accords, through which four Arab states establish ties with Israel, are “not a substitute” for progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But the Abraham Accords were precisely that. Since at least 1974, when Yasser Arafat addressed the U.N. General Assembly wearing a pistol belt, the Palestinians have been — loudly and proudly — one of the principal obstacles to any Middle East peace. The Arab nations used them as a political pawn, insisting that the “Palestinian issue” be resolved before they would address Israel’s right to exist while, at the same time, funding Palestinian terrorism.
The Abraham Accords, engineered in 2020 by outgoing President Trump, provided a vehicle through which Israel established normal relations with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan. Those accords angered the Palestinians because they proved the Palestinians irrelevant to peace.
The 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians, set forth the idea of a trade of land for peace. Israel would surrender lands it had seized in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 to create a Palestinian state; in turn, the Palestinians would agree to recognize Israel’s right to exist and end their terrorism against it.
Israel has offered peace on those terms at least three times. In 2000, Israel offered a plan that would have established a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as East Jerusalem. Arafat walked out of the negotiations and launched his “Second Intifada” terror campaign.
In 2005, the Israelis dismantled all Jewish settlements in Gaza and pulled back to their pre-1967 borders. In response, the Palestinians launched a rain of missiles from Gaza and elected the Hamas terrorist network to govern Gaza.
In 2008, Israel proposed a detailed map of a Palestinian state made up of almost 100% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and a formally divided Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas promised to study the map and return to the negotiations. He broke that promise.
The Oslo Accords failed for two reasons: The Arab nations, whose proxies the Palestinians are, were not parties to the agreements and thus had duty to follow them; and second, “land for peace” never ends a war; it only delays an end until one side is defeated. (The same holds true with respect to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Any such deal will delay, not deter or defeat Russia’s desire to conquer Ukraine.)
Nevertheless, Mr. Biden has long been committed to the “land for peace” theory. He restated that commitment in his September U.N. speech, saying, “A negotiated two-state solution remains in our view the best way to ensure Israel’s security and prosperity … and give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled.” He has promised to reopen the U.S. Consulate in Palestinian East Jerusalem that was closed by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump cut aid to the Palestinians, but Mr. Biden renewed financial aid in April 2021, saying he would send them about $235 million.
On Nov. 22, less than a day after a bombing by Palestinian terrorists had killed one man and left 20 others injured, Hady Amr — who had served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli and Palestinian affairs -— was promoted to special envoy for Palestinian affairs.
Mr. Amr’s promotion, which was accompanied by further funding for the Palestinian Authority, amounts to an elevation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the failed “land for peace” policy over the Abraham Accords.
Mr. Biden has done nothing to encourage more Arab nations to join the Abraham Accords. Were he to do so, and were he to give up on the idea of renewing the Obama nuclear deal with Iran, he could help incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gain an Abraham Accords agreement with Saudi Arabia and other reluctant Arab nations.
You can take it to the bank that Mr. Biden will take neither of those steps.
• Jed Babbin is a national security and foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Times and contributing editor for The American Spectator.