It has been two weeks since the historic announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to normalize ties between the two nations, thereby setting the stage for redrawing the strategic contours of the entire Middle East.
Not surprisingly, squeals of protest and outrage quickly emanated from the tyrants in Tehran and the rogue regime in Ramallah, with all the usual tired and hate-filled rhetoric against coming to terms with the Zionist entity.
That alone should be reason enough for Israelis to celebrate, if only because it exemplifies the potential fruits of the possible diplomatic realignment between the Jewish state and other Arab countries that may be in the offing.
Like many Israelis, I, too, was thrilled by the prospect of Israel and a Gulf Arab state openly forging bilateral relations, with all the concomitant benefits that will accrue.
That said, however, there are two key issues that we must not allow to be swept aside amid all the enthusiasm generated by this development.
THE FIRST has to do with our future in this land. Personally, I cannot accept the fact that the pact with the Emirates came at the price of suspending the extension of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, the cradle of our civilization.
To trade away the chance to extend sovereignty over parts of the Land of Israel for a piece of paper signed by an unelected, unrepresentative and oppressive regime appears to me to be sheer folly. So while I may rejoice in the peace, I lament and oppose the unnecessary concession that Israel made to achieve it.
But even if the sovereignty issue has been "suspended" for now, we must do everything in our power to ensure that this suspension will not morph into an open-ended cancellation. Judea and Samaria are ours by right, and the Jews who live there deserve to be treated no differently from any other Israeli citizens.
Speaking of treating others differently, it is worth asking a pointed question or two about the nature of the regime in the United Arab Emirates and whether its long-term prospects warrant the elation that the peace deal has generated.
After all, excitement is not a policy. Beneath the shimmering skyline of Dubai, with its glistening skyscrapers and modern high-rise buildings, lies a far darker and more sobering reality. Simply put, the UAE is a dictatorship, a federation of seven emirates controlled by hereditary chieftains who tolerate virtually no political or public dissent. These rulers have a monopoly on power, one in which political parties are banned and the media are prohibited from criticizing the government.
Worse yet, approximately 90% of the Emirates' population is denied citizenship, and, according to Freedom House's 2020 report on the UAE, these noncitizens "lack political rights and electoral opportunities."
In other words, like pre-1990s South Africa, a tiny, entrenched minority in the UAE rules over a large, disenfranchised majority.
How long such a system can sustain itself is an open question, and we should not kid ourselves and think that it isn't relevant to the long-term sustainability of Israel-UAE relations.
One need only look back four decades to the strong ties that existed between the shah of Iran and Israel and contrast them with our current situation vis-à-vis Tehran to understand why.
Indeed, there is more than a bit of irony at work here in how some Israelis have reacted to the agreement with the Emirates.
Consider those left-wing Israelis who assert that as a matter of principle they will not set foot in Judea and Samaria, because of what they perceive to be Israel's failure to guarantee the basic civil and political rights of Palestinians. Yet many of these very same defenders of Palestinian rights can hardly wait to fly to Abu Dhabi or Dubai and dip pita in hummus while being served by some of the 90% of UAE residents who are treated as worse than second-class citizens.
TO BE SURE, Israel has much to gain diplomatically, strategically and economically from normal, bilateral relations with the UAE. And preserving our own national interest and survival in a hostile neighborhood must come first in the conduct of our foreign and defense policy.
But we must not allow the ebullience about peace with the UAE to obscure some of the cold, hard truths and questions that remain overlooked.
When will we at last assert our biblical, historical and national rights to Judea and Samaria and once and for all delineate the state's eastern border?
And how confident can we be that today's rulers of the UAE, who have no electoral or democratic legitimacy, truly represent the will of the people living under their thumb? Or even that they will remain in power?
I hope that despite the domestic political turmoil, economic uncertainty and the coronavirus crisis, someone, somewhere in the Israeli government is giving some thought to these important issues. Because whether one likes it or not, they can be pushed aside for only so long.