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Trump needs to involve the Arabs in the Israeli-Palestinian peace

This article appeared for the first time on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The non-stop flight of President Donald Trump from Riyadh to Tel Aviv is described as the first nonstop flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

That the Saudis allowed this direct flight, generally forbidden, reflects the fact that the relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia, like that of Israel with several Gulf states, has been quietly but perceptibly baffling in recent years.

This thaw reflects the growing convergence between Israel and the Sunni Arab states, all of whom share the view that Iran is the largest threat to their security and regional stability.

Coinciding with this convergence was the message conveyed by President Trump, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Israel, of a geostrategic change in US policy.

It was only a year ago that the then President Obama, s By adopting a modus vivendi with Tehran, he said that the allies of the Gulf of the United States need to "share the Middle East" with the Iranians. That vision of the Middle East was decidedly repudiated this week, with Trump clearly aligning the United States with the majority of the Sunni Arab world, and Israel, against Iran.

However, despite this change and some signs of an improved tone, President Trump does not convey any explicit public message of peace from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on Air Force One. He did not explain, either in Riyadh or in Israel, the specific possibilities of peace between Israel and the Arab world in general.

Instead, President Trump concentrated on Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as committed partners for peace, adding that the Arab world wants the two leaders to reach a bilateral agreement.

Without integrating the leaders of the Arab states who have just met in Riyadh in a new framework for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, it is unlikely that President Trump will achieve the peace he seeks. The Arab states have a crucial role to play, both to encourage the Israelis to sacrifice for peace and to support the Palestinians in concluding a finalist agreement with Israel.

 GettyImages-919819982 Israeli soldiers and tanks guard the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nir Am, near the border with Gaza, on February 18, 2018. Two Palestinians were killed by the Israeli fire, according to medical sources in Gaza, after four soldiers were wounded in an apparent bomb attack on the border with the Palestinian enclave The explosion a day earlier and the ensuing Israeli air strikes marked one of the most serious escalations in the enclave governed by Hamas since the Islamist movement and Israel fought a war in 2014. MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP / Getty

Perhaps most striking was President Trump's decision not to mention the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which Israel and the Arab states agreed to can serve as a basis for a comprehensive approach.

While the IPA, when proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, originally offered peace between Israel and the Arab world after a complete withdrawal of Israel to existing borders before the Six War Days of 1967, the proposal has been modified by the Arab states to make it more palatable to Israel.

For several years, the Arab States have suggested that the plan can serve as a basis for negotiations, and that progress towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be met with parallel progress awaiting peace between Israel and other states Arabs Recognizing these changes, Netanyahu broke a decade of official Israeli silence and spoke positively in the Knesset of the IPA.

In contrast to President Trump's focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace and its relative silence with regard to a regional approach are the comments of Israeli and Arab officials themselves. In Riyadh, it was Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir who praised President Trump for going to Israel as part of an effort to move away from the conflict towards the association.

And it was Netanyahu who pointed out along with President Trump that the only variable he can have changed to make peace more achievable is the regional environment, noting that "common dangers are turning old enemies into partners." And that's where we see something new and potentially something very promising. "

Perhaps in the coming weeks and months, President Trump will try to exploit the regional goodwill he hinted at and which exists to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace. of the new Middle East regional environment, there is little to suggest that innumerable obstacles that prevented a bilateral peace agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, in particular, were pursued in the same tried and tested way.

Unless President Trump takes a new approach – one that integrates Arab states as active participants in support of an agreement, not as spectators of another round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – there is little reason to believe that the The new president of the United States will be more successful in mediating a peace agreement between these two Middle East leaders than the administration.

Robert Danin is a principal investigator for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a senior member of the Belfer Center Middle East Initiative at the Kennedy School of Harvard University.

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