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This Mideast Deal Is an 'Earthquake'

Thomas Friedman, a usual Trump critic, is a fan
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2020 9:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Trump's surprise announcement Thursday of a Mideast deal involving Israel and the United Arab Emirates is, to say the least, a "big deal," writes Ben Sales in the Jerusalem Post. In a New York Times op-ed, Thomas Friedman goes so far as to call it a "geopolitical earthquake"—and one he likes. Under the broad strokes of the deal, Israel agreed to halt plans (at least temporarily) to annex part of the West Bank. In return, the UAE will establish diplomatic ties with Israel, becoming only the third Arab country to do so after Egypt and Jordan, per Al Jazeera. Coverage:

  • Friedman: This isn't Anwar Sadat going to Jerusalem or Yasir Arafat shaking Yitzhak Rabin's hand, "but it is close," writes Friedman. "Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region—with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind." He credits Jared Kushner's peace plan for creating the "raw material" from which the deal emerged.

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  • Key moment: An Axios analysis says a key moment came two months ago when a UAE ambassador wrote an op-ed in the Israeli press saying that Israel had to choose between annexation and normalization. The ambassador, Yousef Al-Otaiba, then brought his proposal to Kushner and White House envoy Avi Berkowitz: his country would recognize Israel if annexation was put on hold. Talks began in earnest among reps from the three nations.
  • Standing O: The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump spoke to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE's Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on speaker phone Thursday, and all three leaders hailed the deal as a step toward peace. Afterward, Trump advisers in the room gave him a standing ovation, and the president seemed "genuinely touched," one official tells the Journal. Then Trump turned and applauded his team. “Amazing job, guys,” he said. “I’m very proud of you.”
  • Unhappy: The sentiment isn't unanimous. Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the deal a "sham" because it merely suspends annexation. A senior Palestinian official said much the same, per the AP. “I never expected this poison dagger to come from an Arab country,” said Saeb Erekat. “You are rewarding aggression. ... You have destroyed, with this move, any possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” The AP gives his comment context, writing that the deal with the UAE "undermined an Arab consensus that recognition of Israel only come in return for concessions in peace talks—a rare source of leverage for the Palestinians."
  • A Nobel? In a New York Post op-ed, Sohrab Ahmari suggests that Trump's America First policies have been vindicated. Ahmari lays out a scene of Trump accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for this, adding that it will never happen. "But it would be true if there were any justice in global affairs—or at least, if good sense reigned among the men and women who preemptively awarded a Peace Prize to (Barack) Obama." An op-ed in the Hill by Richard Grenell also makes the case that Trump has proven his critics wrong. He has shown that "not starting new wars, bringing US troops home, and signing peace deals is only possible when an outsider ignores the Washington foreign policy establishment."
(Read more Israel stories.)

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