I find myself envious of those who worked on the UAE, Bahrain, Israel agreements, known as the Abraham Accords. As an old FSO, I would have given just about anything to get involved in something like that, but only under President Trump, who introduced radical ideas into these sort of agreements: reality and common sense.
Not that I ever will--Oh Heaven Forfend! Never!--but I would like to
yell loudly at tell my old colleagues in the NEA (Near East Asia) bureau, "I told you so!"
Let me explain.
During my nearly 34 years at State, I stayed away from two major topics. State considered them the Holiest of the Holiest, suitable only for an elite possessed of THE Revealed Knowledge; both consumed an extraordinary amount of time and resources, e.g., lots of travel and nice hotels. I speak in hushed reverential tones, of course, of two sacred "Processes": nuclear arms talks with the USSR, and the "search" for Middle East Peace.
As an outsider and "non-expert," not worthy of The Knowledge, I found, and stated on multiple occasions, that the US government's approaches to both topics seemed hopelessly convoluted, opaque, and apparently designed to keep solutions at bay and legions of bureaucrats fully employed for decades. Neither ever struck me as particularly difficult to handle. Both of those long-running "Processes," however, had become captive to the "experts," who developed arcane language and rituals to protect their Enlightened Brotherhood. God help the unwashed outsider who expressed a less-than hagiographic opinion on those!
On those occasions in Foggy Bottom when I stated strong doubts that these "Processes" and their endless negotiations served US interests, I remember the exasperated sighs, the eye-rolls, the sneering lips, and the condescending explanations from the Anointed Ones in NEA, EUR, and PM/ACDA as to why only an idiot, such as yours truly, would doubt the Wise Ones and their doings. Those Wise Ones told me to keep to my own ken, and far away from the "Processes." Fine by me; I had a much better time in Latin America and Asia.
Well, well, how the worm turns . . . the "idiots" proved correct.
The threat from the USSR did not end thanks to some complex, clever agreement hashed out by the Wise Ones with their Soviet counterparts. It ended with the collapse of the USSR engineered by a cowboy movie star who realized that the USSR could not compete with US technology and GDP. Ronald Reagan did not prove popular with the Wise Ones, but he did prove right, to wit, in international affairs, strength proves better than weakness, and don't give up that strength in the pursuit of a flimsy deal. Simple, no? As an aside I would note, the British also ignored that dictum as we saw in PM May's hapless and Byzantine negotiations re Brexit, joining us as another Western power victimized by the "experts." In sum, when you have the upper hand, use it.
If possible, the Middle East Peace Process (always become skeptical of just about anything in international affairs employing the word "process") seemed even more convoluted than the arms control charade. The State Department, I would note, was and remains overwhelmingly anti-Israel, regardless of the White House's occupant.
We got involved in decades-long talks with the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Saudis, the UN, the EU, etc. We spent years mulling over moving our Embassy in Israel to the capital of Israel, but could never bring ourselves to do it: the "experts" predicted regional mayhem if we did--and it would make the Palestinians unhappy(ier). Couldn't have that. No way. Such a move would sabotage the "Peace Process." Above all else the "Process" needed protection. We sent our troops on disastrous expeditions to Lebanon, for no good reason. We refused to become energy independent, leaving ourselves open to blackmail. We constantly hectored the Israelis--who, along with Eastern Europeans, are the world's ultimate realists--about the need to play nice, you know, ignore the threats to annihilate them coming from across their borders and daily at the UN. We shuttled; we talked; we paid enormous sums of money to the Palestinian Authority and to corrupt anti-American UN agencies, e.g. UNRWA. It made no sense. I saw the so-called Palestinian cause as a fraud of the first order (here, for example.) When I would converse with Arab and other Muslim diplomats, in private, they made clear they couldn't care less about the Palestinians and, in fact, had gotten fed up with them. They couldn't say so in public, but made it known through many actions, including their growing concern over Iranian involvement in "Palestine" issues. None of the Muslim countries wanted Palestinian "refugees," and all seemed content to let the West pay for and take them in.
We, nevertheless, kept playing a stupid game wherein the deceitful Palestinian authorities, who had zero interest in peace or good governance, could--and would--veto any proffered settlement. They could accept only the total elimination of Israel, but--Surprise!--the Israelis would not agree to that. Damn Jews . . . what's another holocaust if it brings peace? Eh? Take a hit for the team, sheesh . . .
Well, as with so much else I find appealing about Trump, he skipped the "experts" and their warnings about the "Process." He relied on facts and a clear vision as to what proved in the US interest. He did what I had advocated for so long, ignore the Palestinians, do an end run on them. He moved our Embassy to Jerusalem, and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. He cut off US funding for the corrupt Authority, and the equally corrupt UNRWA, and did not waste a lot of time talking with that Authority. All this combined, of course, with US energy independence, and our acknowledging--at long last--that the Arabs fear Iran much more than they do Israel. He used our strength to weaken and corner Iran--no more pallets of cash--and to push the Saudis to a realization that it was time to move. Let's face it, the UAE and Bahrain deals could not have gone through without getting the Saudis on board--and Trump did that. I am sure we will see in the next few months more Gulf States, and others, join in recognizing Israel and becoming part of the US-led anti-Iran alliance. The Saudis, too, will eventually come out in public.
The Palestinians? Well, they got put in a box. Trump has done what we should have done long ago, to wit, in essence, declare the Palestinian issue one for Israel and Jordan. We do not need to get involved.
Sitting with the Palestinians in that box we find the Iranians and their friends in the Democrat Party. The landscape in the Middle East has changed dramatically against them. There no longer is any validity--if ever there was--to a policy appeasing the Iranians. Another legacy from the Obama misadministration has bitten the dust. John Kerry proved wrong about it all. Kerry, go talk to your buddy Soleimani . . . oh, that's right. I forgot. Turns out nobody needs you in the Middle East. Go find some other way to show hatred for America. You're good at that.
Good news. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.