Progress Versus Stagnation, Reality Versus Fantasy | Opinion

How often in one's lifetime do we get to hear world leaders announce a peace accord to end a decades-long conflict. Rarely. Last week, humanity was privileged to witness His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under the auspices of President Donald J. Trump, make the extraordinary decision to enter into the inspiringly named Abraham Accord. Countries who support peace stepped out in front and supported this accord, including Egypt, Oman and Bahrain. Others have remained silent, for the moment. Considering the stakes, I understand their approach, though I hope they soon come around and recognize this historic achievement. To put it mildly, it is a game-changer.

Then there are governments, and those who masquerade as governments, who simply cannot help themselves from being destructive. The Iranian regime and its puppets, the terrorist groups Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, opposed the accord; they can always be counted on to be on the wrong side of history. What do they all have in common? Their profound hatred of Israel, Jews, the West, democracy, freedom, many of the governments and leaders in their own region, and anything other than militant Islam.

It is time for a new paradigm. The leader who recognized this most is Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. All should be admiring his leadership. Yet, unsurprisingly, there are those who say that he stabbed the Palestinians in the back and that he is a traitor. Spinning up the Arab street, some are even disgustingly resorting to the old tactic of dragging the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif itself, holy to three religions, into the fray, by making claims that this accord stabs at Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Then we have the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, who refuse to acknowledge that they are not actually the leaders of all Palestinians. They are unwilling to admit that the bloodthirsty Hamas subjugates over two million Palestinians in Gaza, causing so much suffering. The Palestinian Authority condemned the accord and cannot get past its politics enough to see that this is a big, positive steppingstone toward a hoped-for, prayed-for, possible peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, they choose symbolism, such as boycotting the Dubai World Expo, to make their point. (Note: Their boycott will have no bearing on its success.) It was only a short while ago that the United Arab Emirates generously sent a planeload of 16 tons of medical supplies to help the Palestinian Authority with its COVID-19 challenges. The Palestinian Authority rejected the much-needed supplies, claiming the rejection was because the UAE did not properly coordinate the delivery. But everyone knows the Palestinian Authority rejected it because the UAE flew the supplies to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport.

Israel and UAE flags together
Israel and UAE flags together JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom, described the accord as "very damaging to the cause of peace." Husam's view is that the accord "takes away one of the key incentives for Israel to end its occupation—normalization with the Arab world." Husam does not realize that the key to solving the conflict is a realistic deal that is negotiated directly by, and works for, both Israelis and Palestinians. He clings to the notion that normalization is essential for Israel and should, therefore, be withheld from them. He is wrong. It is security that is essential for Israel. Normalization is great, helpful and historic—but it is not essential. Normalization is proceeding between the UAE and Israel because both sides want it and will benefit from it. The Palestinian leadership no longer has a veto card over an entire region. Each country in the region has the right to make its own decisions for the benefit of its own country. Though the Arab-Israeli conflict is entwined with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be separated and solved, piecemeal, even while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed understands this. His goal was not to abandon the Palestinians, but to take care of his own country's objectives. He knows that with peace comes benefits for all. The UAE, an incredibly successful, welcoming and tolerant country, will now develop a relationship with another incredibly successful, welcoming and tolerant country—Israel. It is a match made in heaven. Other countries in the region will gain the same benefits as Israel and the UAE if they follow Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed's courageous lead. And then there are those countries and groups who will continue to languish and fail because instead of putting their people first, they continue to put political games, unrealistic expectations, fear, hatred and manipulation ahead of anything else.

It is time to recognize the difference between progress and stagnation. Progress is what the region deserves, and what Prime Minister Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed have accomplished with President Trump. Real leaders know that difficult decisions are their responsibility, and that bold steps can change the future. Stagnation happens when other countries continue to blindly give aid just to keep the status quo, and ignore the real change that people need. Ruin is what happens when we let murderers, like the Islamic Republic of Iran and its front-men Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, foment terrorism and abdicate their responsibility to their own people.

It is time for progress. It is time to speak the truth. It is time for peace and a prosperous future for the next generation not only of Israelis and Emiratis, but for all the good people who live and wish to thrive throughout the Middle East.

Jason D. Greenblatt was the White House's Middle East envoy for nearly three years. Follow him on Twitter: @GreenblattJD.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.