Firefighter or Arsonist: How to Harness the Abraham Accords to Reduce Israeli-Palestinians Tensions

By Adam Basciano

Anyone attending a lecture on the Middle East will likely hear about the rockets, instability, civil wars, and proxy conflicts taking place in the area. It is a tough neighborhood, as the saying goes. While this framing has certainly rung true in recent decades, it also obscures the region’s history and development trajectory. Nevertheless, this past summer’s “Abraham Accords,” an undisclosed series of normalization agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, is expanding trade, spurring innovation, and highlighting interfaith efforts across the region.

However, while these agreements may bring the temperature down regionally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to run hot.

On the day the White House signed the Accords, Hamas rockets fell on southern Israel, only reinforcing the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Israeli and Palestinian leaderships remain politically divided, as socio-political incentives drive the two camps further and further away from a possible agreement. Citizens of Israel and Palestine live in what some categorize as a “post-peace-process era,” with no negotiations anywhere on the horizon. 

External observers must not get lost in the complicated narratives of these two camps. A solutions-oriented perspective must remain focused on the various available “levers” that can pull them closer towards compromise.

It is understandable why some believe the Accords altered the playing field in Israel’s favor by allowing the country to maintain the status quo, downplaying the need for a negotiated agreement. Beyond geopolitical posturing, reports last week uncovered how Emirati funding would help upgrade and modernize Israeli checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day. Analysts, including those close to the Trump team, believe the “outside-in” approach reflects newer regional paradigms around thawing Arab-Israeli hostilities, culminating in a united front that can guide or pressure Palestinians into making concessions.

Opposing perspectives, including the Palestinian leadership, believe Bahraini and Emirati leaders’ willingness to formalize normalization with Israel without yielding concessions beyond Jerusalem’s backtracking from West Bank annexation efforts has thrown the Palestinian cause under the bus. The Palestinian Authority’s response has thus far included withdrawing its chairmanship of the Arab League and deepening its ties with Turkey. 

Either way, it seems there are few stakeholders interested and able to put out the political flames that have been growing since the collapse of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s. While some believe that the two parties must be left to independently figure out a solution, it is neither practical nor useful to yield to such an approach.

The responsible international approach would be to assume the role of a “firefighter,” emphasizing how one can leverage new opportunities arising from the Abraham Accords. What if instead of funding checkpoints, Emiratis support “win-win” initiatives such as the new Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund or enhancing Gaza’s sanitation infrastructure? Low-hanging fruit like this would build the necessary human, technological, and cross-border foundations for the future. Complementing this with a two-state policy perspective could also lean into the Emirati’s newfound influence, helping Israel improve its posture towards the West Bank and Gaza.

In addition, there remains significant room for pioneering innovative ideas within this newly refined regional context, especially as younger generations assume the mantle of leadership. Committing to inclusive processes—both before and during theoretical future negotiations—is not only equitable but a recipe for stronger peacebuilding efforts. By investing in the next generation of leaders and including those typically excluded from the conversation, specifically women and minority communities, Track I and II dialogues can be populated with new, energized stakeholders. International and diaspora figures must also model the discourse they wish to see. If the United States cannot discuss the future of the region with nuance, direction, and compassion abroad, how can America expect its partners in the region to do the same?

Only with a multi-pronged and focused approach can global actors work to ensure the Abraham Accords’ fate extends into the prized arena that is Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. To do so requires us all to put on the hard helmets and do the difficult work of putting out fires wherever they exist and planting seeds for the future.

Adam Basciano is the co-founder and National Director of IPF Atid, Israel Policy Forum’s young professionals network. In this role, he develops programs and campaigns to further American awareness, understanding, and support for a future two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He maintains close ties with millennial leaders throughout Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and North America. @adambasciano 

Photo courtesy of The White House.