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The Abraham Accords: 'Peace' Agreements Not Really About Peace

Executive Summary

The US-brokered normalization agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain have been advertised as “peace” deals, yet rather than being truly about peace, they function as a form of strategic alliance against Iran, an effort to enhance the political capital of Trump and Netanyahu, and a furthering of the systematic exclusion of Palestinians. If future diplomatic efforts continue on this sort of path, a just resolution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be realized. The following article engages in critical analysis of the “Abraham Accords” and provides an alternative rubric for future relations between Israel and its regional neighbors.

Less About Peace, More About Conflict with Iran

The strategic agreements between these Gulf states and Israel are a reflection of an anti-Iran sentiment more than they are one of diplomatic amelioration. Much of the promotion for the “Abraham Accords” framed them as peace deals. However, the UAE and Bahrain were not at war with Israel and never have been. These Arab countries already enjoyed significant ties with Israel before this agreement. Much of the diplomatic and security relations that existed were centered around joint action against their common enemy: Iran.[1] It is apparent that further cementing a strategic alliance against Iran is a significant motivator for these agreements.

Past statements made by Benjamin Netanyahu show the desire to unite with Arab countries against Iran. When Netanyahu delivered a speech at the UN in September 2014, he states that despite previously seeing Israel as an enemy, leading Arab states are beginning to realize that they and Israel “face many of the same dangers: principally this means a nuclear-armed Iran.”[2] Later, in November 2017, Netanyahu said that despite Iran “devouring one nation after the other […], the other guys are getting together with Israel as never before.” He continued by stating that Israel is “working very hard” to establish an alliance with “the modern Sunni states” to counter Iranian aggression.[3]

The geopolitical interests behind these agreements became even more apparent when Brian Hook, the U.S. envoy for Iran, spoke at a White House event announcing the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE. Hook’s claim that a "peace between the Arabs and the Israelis is Iran's worst nightmare," was prescient to today's reality, where the Iranian regime is facing a coalition threat from its Middle Eastern neighbors.[4]

The Need for a PR Boost

The “Abraham Accords” likely also served to bolster the image of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu who are facing widespread opposition at home. These “peace” agreements have given Trump and Netanyahu a political victory while they manage growing frustration over their inadequate COVID-19 responses, among other concerns. In Trump’s case, the presidential election is coming soon requiring him to make appeals to his base, many of whom are Christian evangelical voters who are typically pro-Israel. There are even cases of the Trump campaign creating advertisements that promote these efforts.[5] A majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis with the President himself testing positive after months of downplaying its severity.[6,7]

Netanyahu, similar to Trump, needs something to drum up domestic support. Israel is going through a national lockdown that is widely unpopular. The reason this lockdown is necessary is suspected to stem from Netanyahu’s decision to reopen Israel too soon following similar measures earlier this year.[8] The Israeli Prime Minister is also facing corruption allegations and has been put on trial over charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Thousands of Israelis have participated in protests over Netanyahu’s alleged corruption and have called for his resignation.[9] Diplomatic success in the Middle East will soften the political perceptions of Israeli citizens.

The Exclusion of Palestinians

A notable aspect of these agreements is their failure to include Palestinians and their vital perspectives. Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept may have commented on this issue best when he wrote on Twitter that “[the] Trump administration hit upon the Nobel Peace Prize-winning idea that you can supposedly solve the Israel-Palestine conflict by pretending Palestinians don't exist.”[10] In the past, Arab states viewed that Arab-Israeli relations were conditional upon whether Israel would change its current course and guarantee Palestinian national rights. Some of the conditions drafted by The Council of the League of Arab States at the Summit Level, at its 14th Ordinary Session in 2002 included “full Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied since 1967” and “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.”[11] None of these conditions, however, were included as part of the “Abraham Accords.”

The only commitment agreed upon regarding the Palestinians was that of a “just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Not only were the commitments made to Palestinians vague, but they were also insufficiently present. The word Palestinian was mentioned twice throughout the entire text.[12] A key facet of the media promotion of the normalization deals was the suspension of Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank in exchange for normalization. However, Israel had already suspended these plans before any negotiations with the Arab countries.[13] Suspension of the annexation also appears to be temporary as Jared Kushner, senior advisor to Trump, implied when he said that the U.S. won’t permit Israel to commence with annexation “for some time.”[14]

Peace cannot be reached between Israel and the Arab world through diplomacy which excludes Palestinians, seeks to further aggression towards Iran, and desires to bolster the public perception of unpopular political leaders. A just end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be achieved only when diplomatic efforts are centered around conditions that require Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians and comply with international law. Until then, there exists an obligation not to applaud these “peace” agreements, but rather to stand opposed to them.

Policy Recommendations

Future diplomatic efforts with Israel should be aimed at securing the rights of Palestinians as a way of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This entails that states ought to make the normalization of their relations with Israel conditional upon certain demands which involve Israel’s compliance with international law. The following demands made by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)—a Palestinian-led movement promoting Palestinian human rights—represent a minimum standard which other states should apply to Israel:

1. The Cabinet of Israel and the Knesset must end Israel's occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall.

International law recognizes the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel. As part of its military occupation, Israel steals land and forces Palestinians into ghettos, surrounded by checkpoints, settlements and watchtowers, and an illegal apartheid Wall. Israel has imposed a medieval siege on Gaza, turning it into the largest open-air prison in the world. Israel also regularly carries out large-scale assaults on Gaza that are widely condemned as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.[15]

2. The Cabinet of Israel and the Knesset must recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.

One-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians who remained inside the armistice lines after 1948. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination enshrined in more than 50 laws that impact every aspect of their lives. The Israeli government continues to forcibly displace Palestinian communities in Israel from their land. Israeli leaders routinely and openly incite racial violence against them.[16]

3. The Cabinet of Israel and the Knesset must respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Since its violent establishment in 1948 through the ethnic cleansing of more than half of the indigenous people of Palestine, Israel has set out to control as much land and uproot as many Palestinians as it can. As a result of this systematic forced displacement, there are now more than 7.25 million Palestinian refugees. They are denied their right to return to their homes simply because they are not Jewish.[17]


[1] Lederman, Josh. “Dinner diplomacy revealed: Netanyahu's genial encounter with UAE, Bahrain envoys.” The Times of Israel, 12 May 2018,

[2] “Full text of Prime Minister Netanyahu's UN speech.” The Jerusalem Post, 29 Sep. 2014,

[3] “Netanyahu: Hariri’s resignation a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran threat to the region.” The Times of Israel, 4 Nov. 2017,

[4] “Remarks by President Trump Announcing the Normalization of Relations Between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.” The White House, 13 Aug. 2020,

[5] Trump, Donald J. “President Trump achieved PEACE in the MIDDLE EAST!” Facebook, 23 Sep. 2020,

[6] Bycoffe, A., Groskopf, C., and Mehta, D. “How Americans View The Coronavirus Crisis And Trump's Response.” FiveThirtyEight, 4 Oct. 2020,

[7] Baker, P. and Haberman, M. “Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus.” The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2020,

[8] “Coronavirus: Israel marks Jewish New Year with second lockdown.” BBC, 18 Sep. 2020,

[9] “Anti-Netanyahu protesters keep up pressure on Israeli leader.” Al Jazeera, 13 Sep. 2020,

[10] Hussain, Murtaza M. “The Trump administration hit upon the Nobel Peace Prize-winning idea that you can supposedly solve the Israel-Palestine conflict by pretending Palestinians don’t exist.” Twitter, 13 Aug. 2020,

[11] “Arab peace initiative: full text.” The Guardian, 28 Mar. 2002,

[12] “Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel.” The White House, 15 Sep. 2020,

[13] “Israeli minister: Annexation was already frozen before UAE deal.” Middle East Monitor, 16 Aug. 2020,

[14] “Kushner: We Won’t Consent to Annexation for ‘Some Time,’ Israel Won’t Annex Without Our Approval.” Haaretz, 17 Aug. 2020,

[15] “What is BDS?” BDS Movement, 9 Feb. 2020,

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.



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