Transcribed with permission of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, All rights reserved to the authors and the Institute

Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Decision Points Series, Season 2, Episode 11 

David Makovsky: Hello, and welcome to Decision Points. This season, we told the story of important Israeli and Arab leaders and their contribution to Israel, Arab, and American relations over the last 70 years. My name is David Makovsky, the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of the project on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute.

I’m so pleased that for our final episode of the season, we’re going from the realm of history to breaking news. I’m referring to the recent normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Unlike Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, Israel never fought either Gulf country on the battlefield. However, converging regional thinking, economic incentives, and the beginning of a shift in discourse about Jews being indigenous to the region mean that these agreements have the potential to impact the trajectory of the Middle East. What is the origin of these breakthroughs? Israel and the Gulf States share a similar regional outlook, particularly the focus on the threat posed by Iran. Additionally, Israel and Gulf States, particularly the United Arab Emirates, are very technologically focused, and there are a number of areas for collaboration, particularly as the Gulf States try to prepare their economies for a post-oil era. Additionally, there’s a changing cultural narrative and the beginning of a shift in the views of the place of Jews in the Middle East.

There have been growing under-the-table ties between Israel and the Gulf. In 2015, Israel opened a diplomatic level mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Oman in October 2018 along with Israeli ministers visiting Arab States, particularly for sporting events. Israel participated in a security conference in Warsaw in February 2019 to discuss Iran’s influence alongside a number of Arab States, including the UAE and Bahrain. There have also been a number of business links between Israel and the Gulf. This year has included a number of key steps in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In January 2020, President Trump released his rather controversial peace plan, which was rejected out of hand by the Palestinians. This reaction was not surprising. The Palestinians have been boycotting the Trump administration since the U.S. decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in December 2017. In response to the Trump plan, Prime Minister Netanyahu then looked to pursue annexation of 30% of the West bank allocated to Israel in the Trump plan with the support of the United States, facing widespread backlash from retired Israeli national security officials, Arab States, including Jordan, and Democrats in the U.S. The annexation plan was stalled.

Normalization was presented as a way to resolve the annexation conundrum with benefits for all parties involved, largely spearheaded by one of our guests today, the Emirati ambassador to the United States Yosef Al Otaiba. Normalization was put forward on the condition that Israel sees the annexation seemingly for the next four years. Israeli and Emirati normalization was formally announced on August 13th, 2020. Israeli-Bahraini normalization followed on September 11th, 2020. There was a ceremony between the Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Donald Trump on September 15th, 2020 at the White House to sign what became known as The Abraham Accords.

In addition to bilateral declarations between each Gulf state and Israel, the UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab States to normalize relations with Israel. However, unlike Egypt and Jordan, Israel has never fought either Gulf country on the battlefield. While the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994 have endured despite decades of obstacles, the relationships between peoples remain cold. To hear more about the Egypt and Jordanian peace treaties, listen to episodes five and eight from this season of Decision Points. The Emirati and Bahraini peace offers opportunity for stronger people-to-people relationships. The Palestinians vehemently opposed normalization.

Since the 2002 Arab peace initiative, the dominant principle has been the Arab States would not pursue relations with Israel until there was a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After a three-hour debate, the Arab League refused to condemn the Israel-UAE normalization agreement. Since the White House signing ceremony in September, there has been significant progress to realizing the normalization agreements between these countries, including working groups, focusing on collaboration in a number of areas, such as technology, health. And agriculture. Additionally, both the UAE and Bahrain have announced agreements for weekly flights between their capitals and Israel. Another Arab country, Sudan, recently announced plans to normalize relations with Israel on October 23rd, 2020. Here to discuss the recent normalization agreements, how they came about, and how they reflect changes in the region are ambassadors to both the UAE and Bahrain to the United States, and I’m really excited that they’re both with us. Yosef Al Otaiba has been the Emirati ambassador to the United States since 2008. He was promoted to the rank of Minister in 2017. Previously, Ambassador al-Otaiba served as the Director of International Affairs for the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, his Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. 

His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Khalifa has been the Bahraini ambassador to the U.S. since 2017. He was previously the governor of the southern government of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the largest in size. And we’re just so, so delighted that both of you have decided to come on to Decision Points to discuss this really historic agreement that both of your countries have just signed with Israel here in the United States. So thank you both for joining us today. So we know there’ve been under-the-table relations between Israel and some of the Gulf States for years. Could you both just give us a sense of that trajectory from under-the-table to over-the-table? Maybe we’ll start with you, Ambassador Otaiba of the UAE. 

Ambassador Otaiba: I think for us, it was really easy. The straightforward answer to this question is it was annexation. You know, we have had relationships both on the security side and on the cultural side. I think most people noticed that there was an increasingly overt Israeli presence in things like sports tournaments. It was an upcoming presence in expo special Olympics, which I actually attended. There was an Israeli delegation. All of these things were happening, and all of these things were happening without a significant backlash in the UAE. And so I think we were moving in that trajectory. We got worried that annexation would reverse that trajectory. We got worried that this sort of acceptance of Israelis participating in everyday life and things in the UAE was going to be reversed by annexation. So, we tried to come up with a way to prevent annexation, and the best win-win way to prevent annexation was to trade up for it- was to create something that both sides wanted, both sides benefited from, which was trading assurances on stopping annexation for normalization. So that’s how it happened with us.

David Makovsky: Ambassador Khalifa. What about from the Bahrain perspective? 

Ambassador Khalifa: I think from the Bahrain perspective, if we looked at the relationship that we have built with the United States for the past decades, it’s been multifaceted. We are here today after building this close relationship with one of the closest allies that we have outside of the region. We’ve been in every single U.S.-led military operation in the region. We’ve built strong commercial ties thanks to the free trade agreement between our two countries. We have educated our young generation here in the United States and in Bahrain at the only DOD-operated school in that part of the world. We’ve long been advocates of stability in the region, and we’ve encouraged peace by hosting the fifth fleet by hosting the International Maritime Security Construct. And let’s not forget the Peace to Prosperity Conference in 2019. So ultimately though, it was His Majesty the King’s bold and decisive actions in the past twenty years that have created the solid foundation necessary for such an action to be accepted and held by the majority of Bahraini people. Additionally, there were key relationships that were built over time here in the United States that made that possible as well. 

David Makovsky: Let me get into the role of the United States, and this has been debated over months. I don’t want Ambassador Otaiba of the UAE to blush because he’s modest. I know you are, but you’ve clearly were the architect of the Emirati-Israeli breakthrough. And I would just like you to talk about the role of the United States in this effort.

Ambassador Otaiba: So, we did come up with an idea, right? This was just an idea. And you know, when you present an idea to somebody, they could either accept it, like it, dislike it, reject it, you know, you can get a series of different reactions. The good news is the U.S. administration, and specifically the White House, Jared, Avi, and Miguel were very excited. They found this to be a much better outcome for everyone, for us, for Israel, for the United States, and for the region. And so they very quickly became very enthusiastic and really brokered this deal. So, even though we came up with an idea, I’m not sure it could have gotten delivered or executed the way it did without this team.

I mean, just to put it in perspective, this deal from start to finish was negotiated in under five weeks. That’s a significant breakthrough. And even more impressive than that, Bahrain followed us and joined us within a matter of weeks. And last but not least Sudan, which was just recently announced to be clear. This was all mostly due to White House efforts. You’ve had three countries basically prepare and normalize the relationship with Israel in two months. And you haven’t had any for twenty-six years. So, I think it’s important just to recognize the historical impact of these three deals. And more importantly, that it’s not an aberration. This is now a pattern. This is now a trend. I think we broke the ice, and we broke a taboo, and then others are following suit, because ultimately it’s in their country’s national interest. 

David Makovsky: Could you just explain, Ambassador Otaiba, the assurances? Because you mentioned the idea of annexation off the table.

Ambassador Otaiba: So, we received two assurances from the White House. One is that there will be no annexation anywhere without prior U.S. government approval. Unless there is a green light from the U.S. administration, nothing will happen. We agree that there will be no annexation for a very specific period of time. Now, we don’t want to disclose the period of time because we agreed that in confidence. But, I think for a significant period of time long enough that I am not worried that this comes back up anytime soon, I think we are safe from discussion or debate about annexation. But the truth is, look, from the moment we made this breakthrough, Bahrain has joined, Sudan has joined. There is still talk about other countries joining, in their own time of course. There’s talk about, you know, increased trade, increased investment, increased bilateral opportunities on the economic side, on the security and technology side. It was so much progress that I believe is going to happen between now and the next few years that I really don’t think annexation is going to be a relevant subject if we do this podcast, say a year or two from now. 

Look, there was a poll that was done in Israel a week after the announcement mid-August. One week after the announcement, a poll was done, where 80% of Israelis, 80% said that they prefer normalization over annexation. David, you know Israel far better than all three of us. You know, 80% of Israel doesn’t agree on anything. 

David Makovsky: 80% of Israel doesn’t agree if it’s light outside, let alone on this. I mean, you’re right. That poll is just extraordinary, breathtaking. 

Ambassador Otaiba: I am not worried about annexation, honestly, at least today, because I think people will see the values and the benefits of what normalization truly brings to both sides. Not just to us or to you- to both sides. 

David Makovsky: Exactly. And the second assurance you were about to do, and then I want to go over to Ambassador Khalifa.

Ambassador Otaiba: The assurances on military hardware was done after the agreement. The agreement itself was very simple: normalization for no annexation, nice and simple. Both sides benefit. The F-35 and the other military hardware that we’ve been trying to acquire, we’ve been trying to acquire it for six years. There are some platforms that we’ve been trying to acquire since George W. Bush was in office. They’ve been largely held up because of QME and because of really stability issues. 

David Makovsky: QME means Qualitative Military Edge under U.S. law that Israel has to be sure it’s not fighting American equipment of Arab States that it faces on the battlefield- just for our listeners. 

Ambassador Otaiba: Yes. And what the Abraham Accords does is it opens the aperture, who created a far more conducive environment for these types of military sales to go through, if Israel doesn’t have a problem with them. So, it wasn’t part of the deal, but the deal created a better set of conditions for these things to go through.

David Makovsky: Ambassador Khalifa, could you also give us a sense of the American role in realizing these agreements, and then if there are any American insurances to Bahrain as part of a package on normalization?

Ambassador Khalifa: The U.S.’s role was to us, the primary factor our deal was actually realized by creating a unique set of opportunities and an environment that fostered a positive outlook for the people in the region and the prospects of not only peace and stability, but the potentiality of unlocking huge economic opportunities made it very difficult to say no. Oh, and besides, here is one of your strongest allies playing table setter and inviting you to join in an initiative that will further strengthen stability and security in the region. 

To us, the U.S.’s efforts to broker peace are always acknowledged. They will always be acknowledged, and they’re highly appreciated. Now, when you come to think of it, you have the United Arab Emirates that came out, broke the ice, the first country to do so, but how can we add value, and how can we further add weight to all these efforts from the UAE as by joining in? And, I think the more countries that join, the stronger the whole Accords will be. So, I think Bahrain’s addition created sort of a momentum, where now we’re seeing Sudan and hopefully others that will join in the future. 

David Makovsky: So, can you speak a bit to the timing of these agreements, with all the caveats, knowing that this is about trying to win bipartisan support and not favor one side or the other, but get the best deal for your own country, which is what your job is as ambassadors? So, maybe we’ll start with Ambassador Otaiba of the UAE. 

Ambassador Otaiba: Diplomats are trained to take credit for things, even if they weren’t  directly responsible for them. So, even though I would love to, but the timing here was really driven by the annexation debate. You know, if there was no annexation debate, maybe the UAE makes a decision to normalize with Israel two, three years from now, five years from now, who knows? It’s hard to pin that down, but I can tell you that the reason it happened now, is not because we were calculating, you know, this is a good time to do it before an election. This was driven by, we really want to prevent annexation, because annexation is going to be harmful for us, for our neighbors, and more importantly, it’s going to be very harmful for America who would have to then defend an incredibly unpopular decision like annexation. So we were trying to avoid what I thought would have been a catastrophic decision for our part of the world and our friends here in Washington. So the timing really was driven by that. And if it wasn’t an annexation debate heating up in June and July, maybe this happens five years from now, maybe three years from now, but it’s really hard to tell.

David Makovsky: Ambassador Khalifa?

Ambassador Khalifa: We have to remember the deals, especially ones that are sensitive and complicated due to different intervening factors, and the realization has to occur at the time when they are needed, and the people involved are ready. Historically, we have seen how this has always been a nonpartisan issue here in Washington, but let me just be a little bit more frank and talk about the history behind it.

I think that for a very long time, we didn’t want to hamper on any path to the Palestinian solution so that we allow the Palestinians to formulate a solution with Israelis. Since then, however, the outlook has changed. Our vision now is that peace can be reached by extending the Arab hand to the Israelis in order to incentivize the Palestinians to reach a solution. For decades, we’ve maintained a United Arab front, but there has been a change in mindset and thinking. There were many initiatives in the past that attempted to solve the Palestinian issue. And we should be thankful for all these actions, but until today, these efforts were stagnant because they were not embraced by the stakeholders themselves. And so, we truly believe that this shift in mindset will propagate a more positive outcome in the days and months to come, hopefully.

David Makovsky: As you mentioned, the Palestinian issue and their reaction has been very negative, as we all know. How do we revive this as a bridge? Ambassador Otaiba, if we can begin with you?

Ambassador Otaiba: So, I think the initial Palestinian reaction was disappointing to be honest, because we all know that the Abraham Accords did stop annexation. And if it wasn’t for the Abraham Accords, David, we’d be sitting here having a conversation about the impact of annexation and the potential of the one-state solution. So, it’s disappointing, but a friend of mine sent me a headline from the New York Times after the Camp David Peace Accords, where there was an equal Palestinian reaction to the Egyptian peace deal, where there was actually more explicit threats, and so on. So, I think there’s a consistent pattern or a consistent pattern of reactions to any country that opens up with Israel. But I do think, like you said, this creates the space for diplomacy. This has put time on a clock for a two-state solution. This still preserves and salvages the idea of two States living side-by-side. No, we are not able to directly create a Palestinian state, but we can help bring the two sides together, provided the two sides actually wants to engage. Egypt and Jordan have had a very positive track record of engagement with Israel in order to preserve the two-state solution. I think we will play a very similar role. 

Now, no matter how much effort we, all of us, all the Arab countries combined for, you know, if the two parties choose not to make peace with each other, I don’t think that’s a failure or a reflection on the international community. I think that’s a reflection on the two parties themselves. We can’t want peace more than they want peace. So look, I think we put time on the clock, but it’s up to the two teams in the field to decide whether they really want this or not. 

David Makovsky: And what do you say, Ambassador Khalifa, about how to use this as a bridge versus a bypass road? 

Ambassador Khalifa: The signing of the Abraham Accords does not in any way diminish our support for the Palestinian people. Normalization with Israel and our support for the Palestinian people are two very separate tissues. We have steadfastly demonstrated our support for the Palestinian people and their efforts for statehood. Establishment of relations with the Israelis to us, don’t undermine our commitment to the two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. In fact, we believe that interaction, like you very nicely said, rather than exclusion, will help get us closer to the realization of the goal by again, incentivizing the unity, first of all, of the Palestinians themselves and within their leaderships to engage with serious negotiations with the Israelis. And at this time of heightened tensions, diplomatic interactions with Israel can be a stabilizing influence in the region. In itself, the signed Accords don’t bring about immediate peace, but they do create a less threatening environment that hopefully will pave the way for a more beneficial resolution if everyone chooses that this is the right path. 

David Makovsky: Let me ask you this about this fascinating television series that just appeared- a three-part series on Al Arabiya. Bandar bin Sultan, who was the longtime Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and it was really at the heart of U.S. efforts in the nineties, certainly when this was going on at its peak. The three parts series explains to an Arab audience that the old narrative of Palestinians is a bit more complex than being mere victims, because there were a lot of missed opportunities, and it gives very vivid details. And the question is, i is this about a reshaping Arab public opinion towards Israel? So maybe Ambassador Otaiba, I’ll start with you. 

Ambassador Otaiba: I actually watched all three pieces with fascination. First for Prince Bandar to come out publicly and tell his side of the story so clearly and vocally. That in itself is a message, in addition to what’s actually in the story. I think that there is a level of frustration with some of the things that we’ve been seeing and hearing. And I think Prince Bandar decided he wants to come out and respond to that. I learned a lot watching those three episodes, because those were the things that were taking place that you sometimes read about, but because Bandar was inside the room on all of these cases, it was really interesting to learn how it actually unfolded.

But, you know, back to your initial point, which is, I think some people are still living in a world where they believe that the Palestinian issue is the most important issue in the world, or at least in the Middle East. And, you know, there’s a fascinating survey that comes out every year that polls only Arab youth, just young people in the Arab world between 18 and 24 years old. And they asked them what’s important? What do you care about? What do you not care about? What are your priorities? And consistently the Palestinian issue is falling lower and lower down the scale, at least with Arab youth. I saw data that basically had the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rank seventh in terms of priority among young Arabs? What was the most important thing for young Arabs? Increased cost of living number one, unemployment number two, and corruption number three. The Palestinian issue was number seven. If you take that same question, apply it to young Emiratis, just Emiratis, it goes from number seven to number nine. Young Emiratis, the ninth important thing for them is the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not something we care about or something we’re interested in. We are very interested in finding a permanent solution to this issue. We believe in the two-state solution is the only solution. It’s the only game in town. We believe that the Palestinians have a right to a state, just like the Israelis have a right to a state. The problem is, we also have a lot of other issues. We have COVID, we have economic challenges, we have regional challenges. We have countries in the region that are either dysfunctional or paralyzed. So, you know, like Bandar said, we also have national security priorities as well, and we have to focus on those. So, I think there is either deliberate or accidental lack of appreciation of kind of how people see their own priorities. 

David Makovsky: Ambassador Khalifa. 

Ambassador Khalifa: Again, His Royal Highness Prince Bandar spoke the truth about the history behind the Palestinian opportunities in the last 50 years or so. Now, of course, the greatest missed opportunity was the Arab peace initiative. We’re disappointed that it didn’t materialize. There have been many missed opportunities by the Palestinians, which are very unfortunate. Even with the Peace to Prosperity workshop, Palestinians did not show up. But we are where we are today, and I think one must look ahead the mindset again for achieving a peaceful resolution has changed. And I totally agree with Ambassador Otaiba in that countries are looking inwards. They’re looking at ways and maintaining that quality of life. They’re looking at business opportunities and prosperity for their people, and all of a sudden there’s a different set of priorities that governments have to deal with, as opposed to the old mindsets. And come to think of it, those that witnessed the Second Intifada, let alone the first one, and if you ask college students today, they were probably not even born on the Second Intifada. So we’re talking to a different audience. We are addressing different needs. And I think that there’s a lot on the plate of government leaders today that they have to deal with. 

David Makovsky: I’m just wondering about the people-to-people dimension of this, the humanization of each side. I wish Shimon Peres was alive today to witness it, because this seems to me like this is not just about a peace between governments, but a peace between peoples in a way we’ve never seen. Maybe we’ll start with you, ambassador Khalifa. How do you see the people-to-people part of this playing out in the media in the light? 

Ambassador Khalifa: Well, we view our people-to-people relationship as one of the vital outcomes of the agreement. Bahrainis have shown, great interest in wanting to visit Israel and vice versa. But what is important to us is that both nations are ready to accept one another today. With the indigenous Jewish community that we have in Bahrain with the visits by interfaith civil society groups to Jerusalem back in 2017, I think that people are ready for engaging with one another. 

I’ll go back to the Peace to Prosperity Conference with the morning prayer service that was held at the synagogue. But I met one of the people who actually attended the prayer, and he was ecstatic at how we had a century-old synagogue in active use in the busy streets of our capital. And so, the family that runs the synagogue today sees that it’s not only going to service the Jewish community in Bahrain, but it also has to be open for visitors in the days to come, as we formalize the agreements between our two nations.

David Makovsky: Ambassador Otaiba .

Ambassador Otaiba: The truth is that’s the part I’m most excited about. We’re wrapping up negotiations between the government of UAE and the government of Israel on things like prevention of double taxation, on how many weekly flights we have between our two countries, on how to enter with or without visas. Right. But that stuff is happening, and it’s on autopilot, and it’s going to happen no matter what we do. The part I’m more interested in is that breaking of this ideological taboo, that Muslims and Jews should not be getting along or should not be talking to each other. 

Before the Abraham Accords, we had welcomed the Pope. We had started with planning this Abrahamic family house. And so, the idea of tolerance, and inclusion, and respect, and acceptance, those were already there. Those were already moving in the right direction. I think the Abraham Accords provide a context to that ideal that we believe in that I think is very important, and honestly, probably is getting more attention now because of the Abraham Accords than they did before. So, I think there’s a political dynamic or element that puts our ideological value to a better understanding and to more clarity. But even if there were no Abrahamic courts, even if we had not normalized with Israel, we would still be welcoming Jews into UAE. We would still be building an Abrahamic family house. We would be doing all the same things. It’s just more clear and visible now. I think that to me is the most exciting part. You know that young Emiratis, or young Arabs- my ten-year-old son who I dropped off at school this morning is going to grow up thinking doing business and visiting Israel is totally normal. He’s not going to remember a time where that wasn’t normal. So, I think it’s going to change mindsets even more than it’s already changing. That’s why I’m excited. 

David Makovsky: We know that there’s a whole panoply of issues, but if you say here, watch out for this, this is coming, this is really going to help change the Middle East. Is there anything that you would point to in particular, as a result of the Abraham Accords, that it’s going to have an impact bilaterally on both your countries and on the region? Again, I’ll start with you. Ambassador Khalifa. 

Ambassador Khalifa: I think David, I think that the ultimate goal of this deal is to ensure, first of all, regional stability and form economic and cultural ties between our two peoples. Again, we have unlocked unlimited potentials with this deal. The mindset is shifting. People are ready to engage with one another. And let’s not forget, when we’re united together against extremism, against terrorism, against a lot of the challenges that we face in the region today, we become stronger.

We’re looking forward to doing more. We’re looking forward to engaging with one another. And I think that this will be very different for youngsters that are growing up today that are not very familiar with the history behind the region. And hopefully, they’ll look at peace with the peoples, and they’ll look at the positivity coming out of these agreements, as opposed to what was there prior to them.

David Makovsky: Otaiba, you have the last word. 

Ambassador Otaiba: So, I totally agree with Sheikh Abdullah. I heard someone on a panel a few weeks ago say that they believe Israelis grow up being taught or believing that all Arabs hate them. And I think this has the potential to change that mindset. What I’m really excited about, and there are direct flights, and when Corona’s under control and there’s a little more back-and-forth, real person back-and-forth, is a new understanding that we have nothing against Israel, except some policy differences on some issues. We have nothing against Jewish people, and I hope they don’t have anything against us. If we can break that barrier, if we can break that ideological stereotype that these two people, societies, countries, religions are really at odds with each other, to me, that’s the biggest benefit. That’s something historians will be able to measure in the future or write about- it’s not going to happen overnight. But to me breaking down this, you know, stereotype where people think that we are adversaries or enemies is to me the biggest prize of this whole thing that we just pulled off.

David Makovsky: I want to thank you both, Ambassador Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates, Ambassador Khalifa Bahrain. Thank you both very much for joining us today.

Ambassador Otaiba: Thank you, David.

Ambassador Khalifa: David, thank you for having us.

David Makovsky: It’s so fitting for me that the last episode of the season, which was focusing on leadership and peacemaking, and I tried to go into history through much of the season, but to end with you two is the most hopeful way that conclude the season. After twenty-six years, where there were no peace agreements, suddenly there is a chance now, as both of you said, really a peace between peoples breaking down old stereotypes, old misconceptions, and really being very future-oriented about building a region between people who want better times for their children on both sides. And maybe Israelis don’t know Arabs, and Arabs don’t know Israelis, but thanks to this peace agreement, there’s a chance that they can work together in a way they’ve never had in the past. So I just want to thank your governments for this really hopeful moment in the Middle East that has sadly known a lot of setbacks and tragedy. This has got to be some of the best news of 2020, which albeit has been a very challenging year, but has certainly given people hope that the region can be better. 

What a way to end season two. I want to thank all our listeners from all over the world for listening in. I hope you all enjoyed season two, and I hope you come join us again for season three. Thank you so much. 

Thank you all very much for listening. Please go to your favorite podcast app and subscribe, rate, and review Decision Points. And please tell your friends. I’ve also recently published a book co-authored with Ambassador Dennis Ross on four key Israeli leaders called Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped its Destiny. I want to thank all of those who made this podcast possible: our coordinator Basha Rosenbaum, researcher Scott Boxer, Jeff Rubin, Scott Rogers, and Carolina Krauskopf of the Washington Institute, Richard Myron, and Anouk Millet of Earshot Strategies, and Paul “Woody” Woodhull of District Productive.

Thank you all. 

10 November 2020