/ POLITICS & AMERICA
Once upon a time, people actually believed in the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”. It went as follows: No two countries that had McDonald’s restaurants would go to war. Before the turn of the millennium, it was still possible to naively believe that people would consider a Big Mac and fries an acceptable substitute for war, the worst staple of human history.
Not so much in 2021. It’s been seven years since Russia annexed Crimea. The Syrian civil war raged for years and years and now appears to be a frozen conflict. Libya has been at war with itself for quite a long time and only now seems to be so exhausted that it’s been contemplating the restful idea of an interim authority to lead the country into a national election in December. The Palestinian-Israeli situation remains tragic and exceedingly troubling.
The one bright spot is the warming relationship between Israel and the Arab states. Now that the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have made moves to officially normalise relations with Israel, there may be a domino effect and other Arab (and Muslim) countries may want to head in the same direction. This is all to the good and the Trump administration deserves some praise for encouraging the development.
What’s not so good is that the former US administration did all this while cutting out the Palestinians altogether. Rather than encouraging a similar warming of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, Trump’s America behaved as if the Palestinians – their needs, opinions, hopes and dreams – didn’t matter at all.
But moves towards peace – even partial ones – sometimes take on a momentum all their own. One of the consequences of the normalising of relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab states is the push to build travel, tech and trade ties. Cue Emirati investor Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Nahyan’s acquisition of a 50 per cent stake in popular Israeli soccer club Beitar Jerusalem.
The club, which is known for its fans’ anti-Arab fans and chants such as “death to the Arabs”, has never had an Arab player on its roster.
It’s reasonable to expect that the club’s mindset (and reality) will slowly change now that one of its owners is an Arab.
Economics can affect political developments – and sometimes, for the better. Call what’s happening with Beitar Jerusalem the B2B theory – Buying to Build (peace).
It was surely puerile to see the arrival in a country of McDonald’s, the world’s biggest restaurant chain, as some sort of guarantee there would be no appetite for conflict. B2B may prove to be a stronger impetus to peace.