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Abraham Accords Unleashed: The Middle East Will Never Be The Same

The peace accords signed between conservative Arab states and Israel are the start of an inevitable opening for the Middle East, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan means a new post-American, post-oil future.

photo of an Orthodox family checking in to Dubai Airlines at Tel Aviv airport

At Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport

Nir Alon/ZUMA
Marcos Peckel


BOGOTÁ — Days ago, passing through the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv, I could see prominent signs announcing direct flights between Israel and Casablanca in Morocco, and with Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Manama the capital of Bahrain, and Cairo. These were in addition to the dozen daily flights linking Tel Aviv and Istanbul, which have been operating for some years.

And to think on top of that, we now see the opening of Saudi airspace to flights to Israel, which would have been unthinkable just a few years back.

As the United States takes a back seat in the Middle East following its Afghan withdrawal, regional states are repositioning themselves in a new, post-American, post-oil reality compounded by climate change. It is a dynamic setting in which some will progress, and others stagnate.

Israel brings tangible benefits

The Abraham Accords, signed in 2020, opened the door to a new reality of coexistence, collaboration and exchanges between Israel and the Arab world. Its outlook is promising. It is but a matter of time before other countries join the trend to establish open and formal relations with the state of Israel.

The country has much to offer to Arab states in a range of areas including innovation, water management, technology, medicine, military cooperation and diplomatic support. The paradigm of refusing all formal ties with Israel until the Palestinian conflict is resolved is now a thing of the past.

But there is another Middle East that is mired in sectarian fighting and is turning its back on progress and prosperity. Certain nations are becoming victims of Iran's harmful interventions. One is Lebanon, which is being strangled by Hezbollah Iran's proxy militia imposing its will there, using arms and manpower that outmatch those of the Lebanese army. The organization has a lot of explaining to do over the calamitous explosion in the port of Beirut. It is blocking rapprochement with Israel that would bring the Lebanese enormous benefits, beginning with joint exploitation of Mediterranean gas fields.

Unrest in Gaza

photo of a young man using a slingshot

During unrest near Gaza City, a young man uses a slingshot against Israeli troops.

Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via ZUMA

Palestinian and Algerian resistance

Recently parliamentary elections in Iraq also sent a clear message: Iraqis are sick of Iranian meddling. The country that has suffered unspeakable miseries is looking for its destiny. A recent gathering of Iraqi leaders and tribal representatives urged the state to establish ties with Israel, immediately prompting threats and intimidation from Iran-backed militias.

Meanwhile, in northwest Africa: Morocco is reaping a string of social and diplomatic victories, while Algeria — a state that clings to the past — suffers social and political crises. Faithful to the "non-aligned" manual, it severed ties with Morocco over that haggard dispute over Western Sahara. Another country that has chosen stagnation.

For the Palestinians, the Abraham Accords represent a crossroads, especially regarding the leadership that must emerge once the Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas retires. They can doggedly maintain a position denying Israel's right to exist, and subject another generation to hardship, or climb aboard the peace train. If it hasn't already left, that is.

This is the new Middle East, with one half moving forward and the other staying behind.

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Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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