by Paul Kengor | September 11, 2023

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the National Catholic Register.

For the last 22 years, Sept. 11 has become a somber day to memorialize the thousands of victims killed that day in 2001 by the homicidal bombers of Osama Bin Laden. The total dead numbered nearly 3,000.

More recently, the anniversary of Sept. 11 brought still more bad news, as the Taliban that the U.S. ousted after Sept. 11, 2001, somehow managed to return to power courtesy of the Biden administration’s disastrously managed pullout of U.S. troops in August 2021.

It was shocking to mark the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 with news that the Taliban had retaken Afghanistan. Many American troops felt that their two decades fighting to keep the peace there — witnessing the deaths of many fellow soldiers during that difficult period — were wasted.

I wrote about it at the time for the Register, lamenting that the flag of the Taliban now flies again over Kabul. “That’s a very depressing reality that need not be,” I wrote. “We’re back to ground zero, as Afghanistan will once again become a safe haven for Islamist terrorists to plot and plan. It’s a sad turnabout, and an even sadder testimony to the sacrifice of those who perished on 9/11.”

What happened was so awful that I actually wrote about it twice for the Register in the closing months of 2021.

For this 22nd anniversary, I decided to try to be more positive. And there’s good reason to be. I would like to call to mind something much more encouraging that happened on a recent 9/11 anniversary, which began a splendid process of peace that continues to bear fruit, even as it has not gotten the attention it deserves.

I am thinking of the Abraham Accords negotiated by the Trump administration in September 2020.

The accords were appropriately named for the great Jewish patriarch Abraham, who is often referred to as the founding father of the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Better put (theologically), Abraham is the common forefather of Jews, Christians and the Arab people (most of whom are now Muslims), particularly through his two sons Isaac (born to his Jewish wife Sarah) and Ishmael (born to Hagar, his Egyptian maidservant). Abraham is considered by some to be a founding father of all of humanity, hailing from the city of Ur, near the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and what is believed to be the literal site of the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2:8-14).

The Abraham Accords were a series of agreements to normalize relations between the nation of Israel and several major Arab nations that theretofore had never before recognized Israel’s right to exist. Yes, think about that: They had never before recognized Israel’s right to exist. Quite the contrary, some had gone to war with Israel.

The countries were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. The accords were mediated by the United States — with President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner playing the primary role as chief negotiator. The first nation to join Israel was the United Arab Emirates, with Bahrain following next in a historic announcement on Sept. 11, 2020. Morocco and Sudan soon followed.

As I write, several additional Arab nations may be signing on to the accords. The Biden administration has held discussions with Oman, Indonesia, Somalia and more, including, quite amazingly, even Saudi Arabia, the home of Mecca. These, too, are thoroughly Muslim nations that once did not have friendly relations with Israel.

For a sense of how extraordinary this achievement has been, prior to the Abraham Accords, the only Arab nations that had recognized Israel’s right to exist were Egypt via the Camp David Accords of the late 1970s (negotiated by President Jimmy Carter) and Jordan via a superbly written peace agreement signed with Israel in 1994 (mediated by the Clinton administration).

As evidence of the outright hostility between the Arab nations and Israel prior to that, in May 1948, when Israel began as a modern nation, it faced an all-out invasion from all fronts by the Arab countries. In October 1956 came the Suez Crisis. In June 1967 came the Six-Day War. In October 1973 came the Yom Kippur War. There was also nonstop conflict with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. There was no peace for Israel.

As a sign of just how ominous the situation had gotten for Jews, in September 1967, Israel faced a united front of Arab nations that issued the so-called “Three No’s of Khartoum,” which vowed: No negotiations with Israel; no recognition of Israel; no peace with Israel.

Prior to September 2020, the only Arab nations that had broken ranks from this united hostile front had been Egypt and Jordan, signing peace agreements with Israel. And yet, in a matter of mere weeks in September 2020, the Abraham Accords doubled that number.

Sudan was especially striking. Khartoum, after all, is the capital of Sudan. For the Sudanese Islamic government to sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 was a dramatic reversal of the “Three No’s” in 1967. In fact, Sudan officially signed the Abraham Accords’ declaration in the city of Khartoum. The symbolism was remarkable.

This is wonderful recent history. Why is it not celebrated or commemorated as it should be? I think the answer is clearly political.

The Abraham Accords was signed by the various Arab country representatives and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — with Trump as witness.

Moreover, the accords were first announced in September 2020, just weeks before the November 2020 presidential election. Partisan journalists and news outlets were not about to hail the Abraham Accords as a great Trump accomplishment on the eve of the election. Not a chance. Had this been a grand diplomatic victory by a Democrat president, the news would have dominated the headlines into the election. They would have been polishing up the Nobel Peace Prize. For the record, I am not a fan of Donald Trump, but I think there’s no disputing that he didn’t receive due recognition for the accords for political reasons. I can’t imagine that even those opposing Trump would disagree.

The Abraham Accords may well be the No. 1 achievement for peace and stability in the post-9/11 Middle East. They are especially positive when measured against the disastrous Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan that brought the return of the Taliban on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Best of all, what the Trump administration bequeathed continues to bear fruit, as the children of Abraham move forward with more covenants of peace hopefully still to come.