Foreign Policy

Donald Trump: Middle East Peace Broker

Bahrain becomes the fourth Arab nation to agree to normalize relations with Israel.

Thomas Gallatin · Sep. 14, 2020

President Donald Trump’s habit of using hyperbolic rhetoric has often been cause for many within the Washington establishment and mainstream media to write him off as a self-seeking narcissist whose bluster lacks any real substance. He’s dangerous, they say, because his primary motivation is stroking his own ego. And yet, on Friday, the world witnessed another Trump-initiated step toward the long-desired dream of peace in the Middle East. Bahrain announced that it is joining the United Arab Emirates in recognizing and normalizing relations with Israel, becoming the second Arab nation in as many months to do so, and the fourth overall, after Egypt and Jordan did so decades ago.

“This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East,” said a joint statement from Bahrain, Israel, and the U.S. “Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region.”

Significantly, the deal came on the 19th anniversary of 9/11, a fact that President Trump highlighted: “There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than this agreement.”

This latest development is yet another feather in Trump’s foreign policy hat, though Trump’s eyes are on a bigger prize. As our Nate Jackson cogently observed last month, “Most Arab nations still refuse to recognize Israel at all, though don’t be surprised if this lays the groundwork for a similar deal with Saudi Arabia.”

To be clear, Saudi Arabia, the most influential power in the region opposite Iran, is not there yet. However, the fact that Riyadh has granted permission in its air space for commercial flights between Israel and the UAE indicates at least tacit approval of the deal. As Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner asserted, “We’re seeing the beginning of a new Middle East and the president has really secured alliances and partners in trying to pursue that.”

Clearly, Trump is more than empty boasting, as his actions prove. Importantly, Trump has been able to bring about these significant steps toward peace without initiating more conflict. The fact that he has been willing to challenge the status quo, to be willing to work outside the perceived diplomatic norms, may be precisely why he is seeing success.

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