We cannot ignore that the entry of the new U.S. administration in the White House caused trepidation in the Middle East. The year 2020 brought historic changes that could not have been imagined just a few months ago.
The Abraham Accords offered peace to a region that was desperate for hope and optimism; a region that, after decades of conflict, was no longer what it once was. To many of us, it marked a euphoric time and still does.
If we had announced the Abraham Accords 25 to 30 years ago, you would see millions demonstrating on the streets, across the Arab world. However, this time, we didn’t see that kind of action.
This is a huge change for the region, and our friends in the West must understand that things are not what they were. People here are tired of conflict and poverty; they are ready for peace as they see that it comes with prosperity.
The new administration is using the same messages that they did at a time that no longer exists. The Abraham Accords was an acknowledgment that what we have been doing for 70 years was failing. We cannot regress to this same failed policy approach again.
Let us start step by step. The U.S. administration is looking to “reset” relations with the Palestinians but this first must mean action – the Palestinians must come to the negotiating table and the U.S. has a pivotal role in making this happen.
Negotiations must include a two-state solution without compromise. The Palestinian leadership must do this for the sake of their people, who are the ones really suffering, with massive levels of poverty and unemployment. It is this very poverty and unemployment that Hamas harnesses to radicalize a people who are deeply in need of a better life.
To simply enter into new talks with the Palestinian leadership, which has routinely for decades refused all offers of a two-state solution, is not the answer.
You cannot negotiate with a leadership that does not acknowledge the existence of the very people it is being brought to negotiate with. A strong hand in mediation is needed to bring peace once and for all.
Frankly, the current Palestinian leadership must take the bold steps forward that peace talks of previous administrations failed to achieve. This is not a time for stubborn resistance but for the strength and courage to take things on from this decades-long stalemate.
If we are serious about peace, we have to change the way we look at “others” – in this case, the Israelis. We must stop spreading the narrative of hate against Jews, which unfortunately is happening on many platforms such as schools, mosques, and others, which Hamas is taking the lead in by hijacking 2 million Palestinians to sell its terrorist agenda.
Not only do Hamas charitable and humanitarian organizations fund the families of Hamas suicide bombers but it is through such social welfare projects that Hamas builds dependence, and in turn, sympathy and support for the group among the local population.
Speaking in a religiously rooted rhetoric, Hamas only strengthens support for a far-from-humanitarian agenda, in a language of a hijacked Islam. This is an agenda in which dissenting voices and journalists are crushed.
There must be a demand to strengthen the institutions of civil society; charities, development NGOs, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions, and advocacy groups.
And once and for all, Hamas must stop using Palestinian civilians as tools in its war – ending the use of homes and schools to hide its weapons, putting the lives of its people at risk as it prioritizes war over peace.
It is important to see the bigger picture, set an example for the region, and encourage other nations to build their own relationships with Israel and develop economic and cultural bridges to build trust.
The new administration ignores the fact that these changes are most glaringly obvious via social media. In every house in the Arab world, people are engaging in these platforms, analyzing these messages and responding well to the message of peace, so they have to understand.
I reiterate: The region has changed. We believe that the announcement of the Abraham Accords came at the right time to send the message to political leaders in the region and throughout the world. This was proved by how quickly the UAE’s announcement was followed by normalization between Israel and three other Arab states.
People here in the region need peace and they are ready and willing. They are tired of terror, of extremism.
We also want this for the whole region, which craves peace and prosperity. We want our brothers and sisters across the region to enjoy what we are enjoying.
The Abraham Accords are our vision to write a new page for the Middle East. It is the only option, to move forward.
Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi is chairman of the Defense Affairs, Interior and Foreign Relations Committee of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council, and head of Hedaya, an international organization for counter-extremism