The 2020 Abraham Accords were a time bomb that exploded in last week’s Hamas assault
On Saturday morning, Jihadist group Hamas made the decision to attack Israel on an unprecedented scale, bombarding it with rockets and launching a ground invasion. Carnage, death and destruction ensued, with hundreds dead and thousands injured on both sides, including civilians, as Israel responded with a full-scale declaration of war and relentless bombardment of the Gaza strip.
Conflict between Israel and Palestine is about as common as the sun rising in the East, but this time it is different, not only because of the frightening number of victims on both sides over just a few days, but because such conflicts have not constituted a formal war since 1973, and the legally recognized territory of Israel has not been invaded by an enemy since 1948. The stakes are huge, but one might question, how exactly did it come to this? Why is this happening now? And how does it relate to the broader context of not only the Middle East, but the world?
Two words: Abraham Accords. The United States’ push to create a one-sided, unbalanced and effective appeasement of Israel’s actions, coupled with an attempt to use such to isolate Iran, has led to the calculation by Hamas that the only way to salvage its cause is to unleash a full-scale armed struggle. In doing so, the militants’ goal is not to destroy Israel head on, because we must acknowledge that such an outcome is not possible. Rather, it is to turn the diplomatic and political tide in the region against Israel and the US in the name of a new Jihad.
The Abraham Accords are a peace initiative started in 2020 by the Trump administration that seeks to get Arab countries to unilaterally recognize the State of Israel, without West Jerusalem itself making any concessions regarding the issue of Palestinian statehood. Through the accords, driven by the pro-Israel fanaticism of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the US was successful in getting the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Morocco, and Bahrain to open up diplomatic relations with Israel. The US typically incentivized this by making unilateral concessions to these countries as part of a deal, such as removing Sudan from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list or recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
The Abraham Accords were not a serious peace initiative because all they did was bribe countries to effectively side with Israel and abandon Palestine, instead of seeking peace in one of the most prominent simmering conflicts in the region. Moreover, the accords’ true geopolitical intention was to facilitate the diplomatic isolation of Iran by weakening and splitting the anti-Zionist cause. The grander strategy, by extension, was to facilitate American hegemony over the Middle East, given Israel’s very close relations with the US. Opposition to the US in the region has always gone hand-in-hand with opposition to Israel, be it through Arab nationalism (Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and, historically, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt) or Islamic fundamentalism (Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas).
In line with this, the US hoped that, by diplomatically isolating Iran, imposing tough sanctions on it and attempting to force it to capitulate on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Washington could sustain its order over the Middle East and maintain its favourable security relationships in the region. The Abraham Accords, to this end, encouraged appeasement of Israel, rather than making a mutually acceptable compromise which sought to move towards a two-state solution. In promoting this, the US was happy to allow Israel under Netanyahu to continually move the goalposts towards a “one-state solution” and to effectively ignore Palestinian resistance, which it now describes as “unprovoked.”
However, this strategy has failed on numerous counts. First, the changes in the global geopolitical landscape since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2022, as well as US competition with China, has made Iran stronger, as it has gained political space for itself to avert sanctions and more readily develop its military capabilities without pushback, therefore giving it the opportunity to exert greater support to Hamas and Hezbollah. The US is still using unipolar-era sanction policies that are strategically redundant. Then, secondly, the US seems to have failed to account for how attempting to arbitrarily change the status quo in Israel’s favor would culminate in armed resistance because Palestinians are effectively backed into a corner. These factors combined mean that the soil was fertile for a multipolar-era military conflict to emerge. Hamas calculates that by forcing Israel’s hand towards a full-scale war, it can rip the Abraham Accords to shreds and force the Arab world to tilt back to supporting Palestine, which in turn weakens the influence of the US in the Middle East and therefore forces it to engage more directly, consequently promoting a greater radicalization of Muslims all over the world.
The end result will be a proxy war with the US backing Israel, while Iran, among others, backs Hezbollah and Hamas. While there have been many instances of such proxy wars before, be it in Syria or Yemen, the difference in this one is that it is against Israel itself, therefore, the US does not have the privilege of wielding other Arab states in support of its cause. Thus, the Palestinian cause will also wage a propaganda war that will force an ‘us vs. them’ binary on the region. This ultimately makes a quagmire for the US, whose position will take increasing damage the longer this goes on, especially as its military resources are overstretched with the conflict in Ukraine too.
In conclusion, the Abraham Accords were a strategic mistake by the US that did not bring peace to the Middle East but fundamentally destabilized it and led to the biggest war Israel has been involved in since 1973.