A set of historic peace agreements signed between Israel and four Arab nations during the Trump administration could be a "turning point" in a Middle East conflict that dates back decades if not centuries, according to a former U.S. ambassador to the Jewish state.
David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Trump administration, says the so-called Abraham Accords – signed late last year and early this year – already have led to improved relations in the region.
Friedman is featured in a new TBN documentary, Abraham Accords, that spotlights the peace agreements between Israel and four nations: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. It debuts Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. Eastern and includes interviews with Mike Pompeo, Jared Kushner, Nikki Haley and Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.
The Abraham Accords were the first peace agreement involving Israel and an Arab country since 1994.
"I do think it's a turning point, and I think it could ultimately end the Arab-Israeli conflict," Friedman told Christian Headlines.
The Arab world, he said, "was looking for ways to get closer to Israel." Friedman referenced the country's "technological resources."
"In many technological areas, [Israel is] really second only to Silicon Valley. It has huge technological resources," Friedman said. "... It has the ability to export its technology in a very peaceful way, in a very productive way. A lot of countries in the world want to work with Israel. Why wouldn't you?"
President Trump, Friedman said, approached the issue differently than past presidents. John Kerry, secretary of state under President Obama, famously said that "there will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace." The implication was that until the Israelis and Palestinians made peace, the rest of the Arab world would not do so with Israel – at least for the long term.
"There was the sense that the Palestinians had had a lock on all progress that no other country could have a relationship with Israel until the Palestinians said it was okay," Friedman said. "We were convinced that that was a path to nowhere. We also were convinced that the Palestinians were unlikely to accept anything reasonable."
Friedman said Trump's basic premise was: "We'll try to get a reasonable discussion going between Israel and the Palestinians. But if we can't, we're going to side with Israel. ... And we're going to side with Arab nations in good faith, who are willing to talk to us about normalizing with Israel – even [if] Palestinians [try] to exercise a veto over those talks."
Discussion about the new peace agreement began in 2017, Friedman said. The first one was signed between Israel and two countries – U.A.E. and Bahrain – in September 2020. Agreements between Israel and Morocco and Sudan followed. Collectively, they are known as the Abraham Accords.
The Trump administration's "willingness to kind of get outside the traditional State Department comfort zone and consider new ways of going about peacemaking" worked, Friedman said.
"We found ways for them to do it in a way that gave them political cover, that gave them a sense that the United States was with them and would stand with them – and also in a way where they think they felt they weren't going to be betraying the Palestinian cause," Friedman said. "So I think all those things came together because there was a will in the Arab world to make it happen."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ilia Yefimovich/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.