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Keep peace momentum alive


On Wednesday, an event occurred that just over three months ago hardly anyone would have imagined was probable: Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani visited Jerusalem. It’s worth emphasizing how momentous this occasion is. Sometimes it can seem like after three months of a constant drip of news about Israeli ties to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and, most recently, Sudan that it has become routine. But that should not be the case.We are watching history unfold before our eyes. Israel was once effectively an island, isolated in the Middle East. Slowly, over the past 43 years, we made peace with only two of our neighbors out of the entire Arab world. The Arab League said no to recognition, no to negotiations, no to peace. They gave the Palestinians veto power over Israel’s ability to establish ties with Arab states.And then, suddenly, in three months, three more countries decided to join that circle of peace and normalization.Israel is slowly, but surely, becoming part of the region.In his statement to the press following a meeting with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Al Zayani connected his visit and that of former Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem 43 years ago, nearly to the day.

Sadat was “planting the seeds of peace that we are further nurturing today,” Al Zayani said. “It is fitting that I am making this visit so near to that anniversary.” Al Zayani expressed the “keenness” that Bahrainis have for relations with Israel and the great potential they hold for the countries and the broader region.These are sentiments rarely expressed in the Middle East, making the comparison between Al Zayani, as well as the leadership of the UAE and Sudan, to Sadat as well as King Hussein of Jordan apt. These are leaders who took bold, courageous steps for the security and the advancement of their people and the world.Ashkenazi responded with his own historic reference to Israel’s constant, unquenched thirst for peace, citing the Declaration of Independence, which says: “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”Now, that vision is closer to coming to fruition than ever before.And now is also the time to take advantage of this trend to continue trying to make peace.US President-elect Joe Biden has been given a gift by departing President Donald Trump: a Middle East in which large segments want to move toward peace.The Middle East is still rife with problems. Iran is still spreading terror across the region and the world, and the war in Yemen is still raging, to give some examples.But there is positive momentum toward normalization with Israel and peace between nations, and a united front between those who seek peace against those, like the tyrants of Tehran, who abhor it.That is a situation that the incoming US administration should seek to nurture and encourage so that more of the walls between Middle Eastern nations will fall and we will see more leaders speaking of peace in Jerusalem.There are signs that the Palestinian Authority is beginning to understand the new reality. On Tuesday the PA said it has decided to renew its relations with Israel, including security coordination.There are practical reasons for the decision, as the PA is struggling to fight the pandemic and is eager to reopen a path that would enable the payment of NIS 3 billion in tax transfers that Israel has been holding.But, like the reports on Wednesday that the PA is also considering changing its policy of paying salaries to the families of convicted terrorists, it’s possible they are trying to show the incoming Biden administration that they are interested in dialogue and progress with Israel.As our founding document said 72 years ago, Israelis’ hands are extended to partnerships with all peace-loving people. Inshallah, be’ezrat Hashem, God willing, the US will continue to play its historic role in helping it happen.

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