columnMiddle East

The Israeli left vs. Palestinian and Arab-world pragmatists

Hearts that bleed for the enemies of Western democracy who subjugate their own people and terrorize everybody else are attached to heads in need of psychiatric examination.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas addresses an Arab League emergency meeting in Cairo, Feb. 1, 2020. Source: Screenshot.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas addresses an Arab League emergency meeting in Cairo, Feb. 1, 2020. Source: Screenshot.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

In an attempt to downplay the role played by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the attitudinal Arab-world shift—due mainly, but not exclusively, to a shared mission to halt Iran’s race to obtain nuclear weapons—the Israeli left had a gleeful “we told you so” moment at the beginning of the month, when the Arab League unanimously rejected the “deal of the century.”

At an emergency meeting held in Cairo on Feb. 1 at the behest of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the pan-Arab bloc declared that Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan “does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people,” and vowed not to cooperate with the United States to implement it. Among the nay-saying countries at the summit were the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain, each of which had sent representatives to Trump’s joint press conference with Netanyahu at the White House on Jan. 28.

To clarify the above about-face, an anonymous Arab diplomat told the left-wing Israeli daily, Haaretz, that Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Manama had been misled by Washington with a document stating that the plan included the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital as the basis for peace negotiations.

In other words, they were duped into accepting an invitation by the White House. Yeah, right.

Thrilled to have the support of the Arab League, which for the past few years has ignored the Palestinians in favor of issues that its members actually consider pressing, Abbas announced—for the umpteenth time—that he was severing all ties with the U.S. and Israel, including those related to security.

In other words, Abbas and his so-called champions were doing what they always do: grandstanding for internal consumption, while continuing to serve their own interests without skipping a beat. Indeed, Abbas has not ceased security cooperation with Israel because it keeps him and his Fatah cronies from being slaughtered by Hamas. Nor do the Arab states that need U.S. support, while engaging in no-longer-covert relations with Israel, intend on adopting any real measures to jeopardize their protective American umbrella.

This might seem incomprehensible to people living in the warmth of the West, but Israelis take it for granted—even left-wing journalists and academics who tend to pick and choose those stated Palestinian and Arab positions that they believe best encourage a Netanyahu defeat at the ballot box.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser—former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Intelligence Directorate’s research division and former director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry—elucidated Arab reactions to Trump’s proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace deal this week in a way that even the clueless could grasp.

At an event on Feb. 9 at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where he serves as senior project manager specializing in the security dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kuperwasser explained that “the Arab world and the wider Middle East are engaged in a big ideological battle between pragmatists and radicals.”

He said that that the pragmatists consider Trump’s plan “necessary, possible and justified … necessary for Israel and the Palestinians … possible because it is fair and [its border] lines were drawn by somebody who knows the terrain extremely well, and … justified because it is high time the Palestinians stop preventing the rest of the Arab world from moving forward.”

It is, according to Kuperwasser, a “new paradigm” that sets it apart from previous peace plans. And even though the pragmatists cannot say this “out loud in a forum like the Arab League … the participation of some of them in the [unveiling] ceremony, the national leadership reactions and the diplomatic messages are clear.” The fact, for example, that the “Sudan move was not criticized by the pragmatists.”

He went on: “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Arab Republic of Egypt are in a more sensitive situation. But it seems that as long as Israel is coordinating its moves regarding the plan with the United States, they will not harm their delicate relations with Israel. They have a lot to gain from the plan economically and security-wise, and they have nothing to lose. We all understand that for Jordan, the Jordan Valley component in the plan is exactly what it needs, though Jordan cannot utter it.

“The radicals, on the other hand, are of course against the plan, since they are against anything that strengthens the pragmatists and Israel. This explains Iran’s, Turkey’s and Islamic State’s harsh reactions. They don’t care about the Palestinians and their well-being. They only care about their own imperial aspirations and about spreading their version of Islam, which are going to be hampered if Israel is secure, makes peace with the Palestinians and establishes normal relations with the pragmatic states.”

This is not to say that Kuperwasser or other Israeli pragmatists view the “Peace to Prosperity” plan as problem-free for the Jewish state. On the contrary, as Kuperwasser pointed out, it will take a long time for the anti-Semitic narrative that is “inculcated into [Palestinian] culture and psychological infrastructure” to be eradicated, even if the leadership were to change its stripes and accept the plan’s criteria for statehood in full.

Whether or not the right is justified in pressuring Netanyahu to implement the Israeli side of the plan before the March 2 Knesset elections, despite the Trump administration’s having requested that he hold off on doing so, there is logic to the worry that if the opportunity to extend Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley is not grabbed now, it will dissipate and be squandered.

It is the left’s anger over a deal to bolster Palestinian and Arab pragmatists at the expense of dangerous radicals that makes no sense, other than blind hatred for Netanyahu and Trump.

Yes, hearts that bleed for the enemies of Western democracy who subjugate their own people and terrorize everybody else are attached to heads in need of psychiatric examination.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”             

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