It is no secret that both Presidents Barack Obama and Trump have wanted to reduce American engagement in the Middle East. If the UAE and Bahrain initiatives lead to the kind of evolution we envision, they would not only advance the prospects for peace and prosperity in the region but also could begin a strategic shift in which the countries in the region take more responsibility for defining its future. This is to be encouraged, but success will continue to require American participation and support. The next administration, whether under Trump or Joe Biden, will need to stay engaged, primarily with tools of diplomacy and development, if it is to help the region realize the potential we see for it.
It is not surprising that Palestinian leaders and citizens are unhappy with the UAE-Israel agreement. It went against the prevailing assumption that there would be no further Arab recognition of Israel until the Palestinians had a state. While arguably reducing Palestinian leverage, such agreements also provide Arab political support for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel. Palestinian officials would be wise to reengage Israel, return to negotiations, put forward their own — realistic — proposal for peace and concentrate on building honest, effective and responsive institutions that will be critical to the future of an independent state.