Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins on Friday. The timing is fitting. A new era in Israel and the Mideast began just two days earlier, with Wednesday's White House ceremony formalizing Israel's normalization of relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Joining the foreign ministers of those two Arab nations were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, who hinted that more formalizing ceremonies were soon to come. In fact, perhaps as a precursor, Saudi Arabia is now allowing flights from Israel to use its airspace.
Netanyahu seemed to concur. "This day is a pivot of history," he said. "It heralds a new dawn of peace. This peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states, and ultimately it can end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all." That admirable aspiration, however, will only occur with peace between Israel and Palestine — which must make peace in its own ranks first.
The text of the new pact — known as the Abraham Accords — refers to "a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution of the Arab-Palestine conflict." The move from rhetoric to reality will be difficult but not impossible.
More diplomatic leverage is needed from all sides — particularly from the U.S. on Israel, and the Gulf nations on Palestine. To date, all that has been accomplished is Israel suspending plans to annex West Bank territories, a move which would have further inflamed an already combustible dynamic. Much more is needed before the region can realize "the dawn of a new Middle East," as Trump said was now beginning after "decades of division and conflict."
Trump and his envoys deserve credit for deft diplomacy, even if it came from the failure (like previous presidents experienced) to finally end the enduring enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. In fact, it was another nation — Iran — that became the common cause between the U.S., Israel, Bahrain and the U.A.E., as they try to counter Iran's regionally destabilizing behavior.
Despite the united front between the U.S., Israel and what's likely to be even more Mideast and North African nations, it was encouraging to also hear Trump trade bellicosity for an olive branch when it came to Tehran. "I'm going to make a good deal with Iran," he said on Wednesday.
While that may seem immediately unlikely, so did the Abraham Accords.