The normalization of relations between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is, on the face of it, a good and beneficial development. The Trump administration deserves credit for brokering it. It has long been an anomaly in Middle Eastern affairs that Arab nations felt compelled to publicly treat Israel as a pariah in their midst, while many of them — including the U.A.E. and Bahrain — pursued all sorts of economic and security links with Israel.
Yet the notion, put forward by one conservative Norwegian lawmaker, that President Trump or the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for what they are calling the “Abraham Accords” is far-fetched, and not just because of their political records or reputations.
Past Nobel laureates who have been honored for advancing peace in the Middle East — Yasir Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Anwar el-Sadat, Menachem Begin — have not been saints. But their actions required courageously overcoming deep hatreds and ending painful hostilities, for which two of the laureates, Mr. Sadat, then the Egyptian president, and Mr. Rabin, then prime minister of Israel, paid with their lives. By contrast, Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have never been in conflict, and the normalization of their ties carried few risks for any of them, while heaping considerable political benefits on Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.
The agreements, moreover, made only a perfunctory nod to what “Middle East peace” has long referred to: peace between Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians, in fact, were not warned in advance that the Emirates was hatching a deal with Israel and the United States, although the catalyst for it was Mr. Netanyahu’s threat to annex much of the West Bank. The threat of annexation had the potential of inflaming Arab citizens. To forestall it, the U.A.E. reportedly turned to the Trump administration with the idea of normalizing relations in exchange for Israel suspending its annexation plans. Bahrain, a tiny kingdom closely tied to Saudi Arabia, followed suit. Oman and Sudan could be next.