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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
On initial observation, the deal struck between Abu Dabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Zayed, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Jared Kushner is very much less than meets the eye. Some usually thoughtful Middle East analysts like Robin Wright have proclaimed this a "game-changer" and a beginning of a paradigm shift in the entire regional dynamic.

I may be missing something, but I don't see it. What I do see is two modest winners and one big loser.

Netanyahu has managed to get himself out of a mess. Israel was already decided not to go ahead with the annexation of property on the West Bank. Trump was unreliable, Biden was opposed, and there was no popular support inside Israel. Gantz tied any annexation to full-blown US Administration support, which was not forthcoming ( for political, not moral reasons). Rightwing settlers opposed the deal and were protesting in front of the Prime Minister's official residence all week. They rejected the idea of implying that some parts of the West Bank might be a future Palestinian state. They want it all and see Netanyahu as hedging. After all, he faces jail and has already lost the support of a vast majority of Israelis of all stripes who are sickened by his corruption. Netanyahu did not even have a majority within his own Likud Party in support of any annexation. So he owes MBZ a big kiss for bailing out his chestnuts by allowing him to claim he got something in return for nothing.

Trump of course benefits from what he will claim as a major success for his Middle East deal-making. Of course anyone familiar with the region (which excludes most Americans) knows that the UAE and Israel have had a not-so-secret collaboration for decades. Israeli cyber security firms have been installing spyware for the Gulf Arabs at significant profit for some time. Israel and the Gulf Arabs share hatred for Iran.

The big losers are, not surprisingly, the Palestinians, who get nothing out of the deal and will now come under even nastier pressure from the Gulf Arabs to take the breadcrumbs the Israelis will be offering.

Trump and Kushner from the start of the Administration have been pushing the idea of "outside-in." That is, make a deal with the Arabs and then force the Palestinians to take what is offered. That is now closer to reality-unless some young Palestinian leadership emerges that recognizes that the Gulf Arabs are not their friends, but their overlords, who fear a democratic Palestinian state will make all of their autocratic kingdoms look bad, and deprive them of the Palestinian talent that manages much of their govadventernance and economy.