“Some of the rhetoric thrown out [at] today’s “peace deal” ceremony at the White House between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain has been hard to take seriously”, opined The Times Mid-East correspondent Richard Spencer in the opening sentence of his analysis of the Abraham Accords.
Though the piece (“Saudi backing of Israeli ‘peace deal’ is key to success”, Sept. 16) was referring to what he believes is overblown claims of the deal’s signatories, Spencer himself, clearly a skeptic of the normalisation agreement, advances a narrative that isn’t supported by the facts.
After a few paragraphs devoted to Arab criticism of the deal, Spencer turns to Israel:
Within Israel there is also scepticism. In opposition circles the deals are seen as a piece of orchestrated theatre intended to help out populist leaders facing trouble at home.
Mr Trump, they say, needed a foreign policy “win” to take to a presidential election. Mr Netanyahu is facing corruption charges and has lost control of the coronavirus epidemic, which, by some measures, has struck harder in Israel than anywhere else.
Whilst Spencer of course is entitled to highlight Israelis who criticised the plan, it’s inaccuate to suggest that there’s general “skepticism”, and its indeed quite telling that he doesn’t cite any specific Israeli “critics” or opposition leaders.
Evidence of widespread Israeli support is quite clear:
A poll by Israel’s Channel 12 found that 77% of Israelis believe that the government did the right thing by singing the normalisation deal, even though Jerusalem purportedly agreed to drop the West Bank annexation plan. Further, according to the Israeli Voice Index for August 2020, the overwhelming majority of Israelis believe that the deal with benefit the country economically, politically and diplomatically.
Moreover, Spencer’s claim that the deal is unpopular in “opposition circles’ is extremely misleading. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, one Netanyahu’s fiercest critics, has praised the deal, as did Labor head Amir Peretz. Even Nitzan Horowitz, Chairman of the far-left Meretz Party, welcomed the normalisation agreements.
The most prominent critics of the deal came from right-wing settler advocates who objected to the reported requirement that Israel abandon ‘annexation’. However, even Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s main rival on the right, whilst accusing the prime minister of “miss[ing] a once-in-a-century opportunity” to apply sovereignty to large parts of the West Bank, nonetheless made clear that he welcomed the agreement.
As you can see, Spencer’s claims simply don’t withstand critical scrutiny.