TEL AVIV—Assuming last-minute disputes about mask-wearing and social distancing can be ironed out in time, the South Lawn of the White House will once more be the site of a historic Middle East peace deal signing. Two deals, in fact, as both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalize ties with Israel.
Rejecting the presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East has been a totemic political and moral commitment in the Arab world for 75 years now. Travel to or from Israel was prohibited, as was all trade and cultural exchange and sporting competition. For years even the mention of the name “Israel” was abjured in favor of alternative formulations like “the Zionist entity.” The two Arab states that did, after a series of military defeats, sign peace treaties with Israel maintained formal relations while steering clear of anything that looked like the dreaded “normalization.”
This is a big deal then, not just for the three states involved or even the Trump administration, desperate to cough up an election season success rather than droplets of contagion, but for a rapidly shifting regional order in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. And it’s also an opportunity to revisit the received wisdom of the gloriously self-confident class of experts on Arab-Israeli peace—not just to mock them for being so wrong so often and so consistently in the years leading up to this breakthrough, but also for being so churlishly wrong and petty in their reactions since the agreements were announced.