The UAE-Israel deal is a paradigm shift for the Middle East

When Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced formal relations two weeks ago, it was a major symbolic shift in the reigning paradigms about Israel’s place in the region.

From the Khartoum Resolution’s “three noes” – no peace, no recognition and no negotiations – to the 2002 Arab Peace Plan, most Arab states said they didn’t want anything to do with Israel until the Palestinians’ problems are solved to their satisfaction.

This is the source of the “linkage theory,” the argument that if Israeli-Palestinian peace is achieved, all the Middle East’s other conflicts will end, with the subtext being that Israel is somehow at fault for all of the region’s problems. If only Israel would once again give up a huge chunk of land – after successfully making peace in that way with Egypt and unsuccessfully with the Palestinians in Gaza – then there would be peace in the Middle East and we could all sing “Kumbaya.”Much of the foreign policy establishment went along with this theory as though it made sense. Year after year, Palestinian recalcitrance was bolstered by Western money pouring into their institutions with little to no demands on them, the perennial victims, along with warnings that Israel was isolating itself. Israel continues to be a monthly item on the UN Security Council’s agenda, even in relatively calm times, as though the conflict with the Palestinians were the most important problem in the world.

But over the decades, plenty of issues have cropped up in the region that have almost nothing to do with Israel.

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