In essence, the “Abraham Accords,” as the White House styled them, were a byproduct of Mr. Trump’s lopsided Middle East strategy, which has centered on unconditional support for Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Sunni states, and is primarily aimed at crushing Iran. While the recognition of Israel by two already-friendly regimes is welcome, the more consequential results of the policy, especially if it continues beyond January, are likely to be negative. Those include the reinforcement of harsh authoritarian rulers; the deepening of U.S. entanglement in a sectarian conflict among Sunni and Shiite regimes; and the marginalization of the issue on which Israel’s future most depends: relations with the Palestinians.
The White House ceremony was designed to bolster Mr. Trump’s reelection prospects, which is something the Persian Gulf leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all have an interest in doing. More than any previous president, Mr. Trump has lavished attention and support on the Arab monarchies. He has backed their disastrous war in Yemen, sold them weapons over congressional objections and excused their brutal domestic oppression. To Mr. Netanyahu, he gifted the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem without asking anything in return.
Above all, Mr. Trump has pleased the Israeli right and the Sunni dictators by launching an aggressive campaign against Iran, with the clear, if unstated, goal of toppling its Shiite Islamic regime. The project has been a failure: Though Iran has suffered from stringent U.S. sanctions and the assassination of its most capable general, its government has remained intact. Meanwhile, it has more than quintupled its stockpile of enriched uranium in response to Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the multinational accord limiting its nuclear program.
A new U.S. administration led by Joe Biden could be expected to return to the Obama administration’s policy of seeking to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions and check its aggression in the region while also distancing itself from Sunni Arab dictatorships that, in an era of declining demand for oil, the United States has limited interest in supporting. That points to another likely cause of this week’s diplomatic breakthrough: a desire by Persian Gulf leaders to broaden their support among skeptical Democrats, many of whom are likely to question Mr. Trump’s intention to supply the United Arab Emirates with advanced F-35 warplanes.
Mr. Biden would surely also resume U.S. pressure on Israel to pursue a settlement with the Palestinians. That wouldn’t please Mr. Netanyahu, who induced Mr. Trump to embrace his own policy of marginalizing the issue. Israel, however, won’t be secured by accords with the likes of Bahrain; only a two-state settlement with the Palestinians can ensure it remains a Jewish democratic state. In that sense, the dawn of Mideast peace that Mr. Trump sought to proclaim will become possible only if he is defeated in November.