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OpinionAbraham Accords

Make the Palestinian issue central again?

Have the Abraham Accords put an end to the ability of the “Palestine Firsters” to sacrifice Middle East reality on the altar of a supposed Palestinian centrality?

U.S. President Donald Trump walks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Sept. 15, 2020, along the Colonnade of the White House on their way to sign the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour.
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Sept. 15, 2020, along the Colonnade of the White House on their way to sign the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

According to a Nov. 12 op-ed by Nabil Amr, a confidant of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, published by the leading Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat: “Ballots with Biden’s name would have filled the boxes if placed in Ramallah.”

Amr goes on to state that “[the P.A.] bets are that Biden’s victory [will] resume ties with the U.S. administration, pumping money into the Palestinian Authority’s virtually empty coffers, reopening the PLO’s Washington Office and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, tasked with dealing with Palestinian affairs. … The new administration will also go back to talking about the two-state solution and repudiate unilateral actions like annexation. … Trump’s administration took a totally different path.”

However, the “Palestine Firsters” among the future policymakers in Washington, D.C., are infatuated with the Palestinian cause, assuming that the Palestinian issue is central to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the overall Arab agenda. They have ignored the fact that Arabs view Palestinians as the role model for intra-Arab terrorism, subversion and ingratitude, seeing them as a low-level (and negative) priority on their agenda.

The Palestine Firsters should study Al-Arabiya’s two-hour Oct. 5 TV interview of Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, a senior member of the Saudi royal family and a former head of the Saudi intelligence services and national security council.

Contrary to the Palestine Firsters’ state of mind, Saudi cooperation with Israel—commercially, militarily and diplomatically—has expanded to an unprecedented degree, notwithstanding Palestinian condemnations, pressure and threats. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has been a chief engine behind the United Arab Emirates’, Bahrain’s and Sudan’s peace accords with Israel, which have bypassed the Palestinian issue, focusing on “what’s in it for the Arabs” in their cooperation with Israel.

The Palestine Firsters’ raft of peace initiatives was wrecked on the rocks of Middle East reality due to their erroneous assumption that the Palestinian issue was a core cause of Mideast turbulence, the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that the Arabs favored the establishment of a Palestinian state. They sacrificed Middle East reality on the altar of a supposed Palestinian centrality.

On the other hand, overcoming the temptation of such an overly simplistic assessment of the Palestinian issue yielded the successful conclusion of Israel’s peace treaties with Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan).

Thus, the farther are peace initiatives from the trap (veto) of the Palestinian issue, the closer they are to expanding the number of Israel-Arab peace treaties.

Moreover, the more relevant is the peace initiative to the particular Arab interest—where the threats of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and Turkey, and the need to diversify the oil-based economy, dwarf the Palestinian issue—the stronger the incentive for the Arabs to conclude peace treaties with Israel.

The Palestinian track record has led pro-U.S., moderate Arab regimes to conclude that the proposed Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, while Israel’s track record has played a key role in minimizing Middle East turbulence.

On Oct. 2, Ambassador Dennis Ross, a veteran Palestine Firster, was asked by an i24News interviewer: “For years you were working on the assumption that peace between Israel and the Palestinians was the key, the only key, to peace between Israel and Arab countries. A few weeks ago, this assumption was shattered by the signing of peace treaties between Israel and the UAE and Israeli and Bahrain. Have you been wrong all these years?”

Most Palestine Firsters would agree that Israel’s posture of deterrence is a bulwark against Iran’s ayatollahs and Sunni Islamic terrorism, bolstering the stability of the highly vulnerable and relatively-moderate pro-Western Arab regimes, and therefore, incentivizing Arabs to conclude peace treaties with Israel.

However, such an assessment, on the one hand, and the urging of Israel to retreat to a 9-15-mile waistline between the Mediterranean and the mountains of Judea and Samaria—which would obliterate Israel’s posture of deterrence—on the other hand, constitutes a classic oxymoron.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

This article was first published by The Ettinger Report.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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