Bahbah: The UAE & Bahrain’s Normalization Agreements with Israeli-Palestinians Can Fight or Use those Agreements to their Advantage
By: Bishara Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist
As Washington celebrated yesterday the normalization and establishment of diplomatic agreements between Israel and two Arab countries–the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain – Palestinians were asking themselves:
- Is this the beginning of the end of the Arab support for Palestine?
- Has Israel broken – once and for all – the Palestinian veto power on any new Arab ties with Israel without first securing a Palestinian state as enunciated in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002?
- Is the United States only interested in peace between Israel and Arab states and is it unwilling to push for the creation of a Palestinian state?
The Blunt Talk
I have been known to be quite straightforward in my writings to the point of being blunt. And, this article will be no different.
As a Palestinian, I refuse to be seen as a victim. I don’t want anyone’s pity, sympathy or charity.
The Palestinian people have inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by those who are temporarily more powerful than I am. I am referring here specifically to Israel, headed by the bigoted right-wing thief, Benjamin Netanyahu.
As a Palestinian-American, I am also referring to the Donald Trump Administration which has given the aforementioned thief and liar the political cover to “legally” steal Palestinian lands occupied in 1967.
At this point in Palestinian history, I have to admit that Palestinians should first and foremost blame no one for their predicament except themselves. Palestinians have been poorly led over the years by weak leaderships that have, over time, become corrupt and ineffective.
Today, Palestinians have to be pragmatic, realistic, and opportunistic. They have to be able to exercise their free will away from the self-imposed rulers. In the name of liberating Palestine, these so-called leaders – whether in Ramallah or Gaza – have hijacked and robbed the Palestinian people’s right to freedom of deliberation, dissent, and majority rule.
Our core problem now is not with Israel or the United States. Our core problem now is with ourselves and our so-called leaders. We need to rid ourselves of old mentalities, defunct policymaking processes, people who have been promoted despite their failures over the past four decades; and people who have lined their pockets at the expense of the refugee, the prisoner, the laborer, and the peasant. In other words, Palestinians have to muster the courage to get rid of those who have failed them in leadership, and in governance; and who are sadly corrupt to the core.
Now, back to the main points of discussion:
1. Is this the beginning of the end of Arab support for Palestine?
The Arab people love the Palestinians and are devoted to the Palestine Question. Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling has shown that the Arab people’s support for Palestine is very strong. However, the Arab people are fed up with the Palestinian leadership.
If the leadership, whose terms of office has expired more than a decade ago, continues to monopolize the decision-making process and acts like a spoiled child – either my way or nothing – the Palestinian people will end up getting nothing.
As a UAE official declared yesterday, “We cannot help the Palestinians unless they accept our help.” Instead of fighting Arab countries who choose to have ties with Israel, the Palestinians should leverage those ties to their advantage and, in their negotiations with the U.S. and Israel over the future of a Palestinian state. Just imagine how King Abdullah of Jordan was able to influence Israel’s decision regarding the annexation of the Jordan Valley by Netanyahu.
Then, as a condition for normalizing relations with Israel, the UAE conditioned the freezing of any plans to annex any parts of the West Bank until at the very earliest January of 2024. As we all know, once annexation is extended by Israel, it will be much harder to undo unlike the dismantling a settlement.
The Arab and Muslim nations have not abandoned Palestine. They are disappointed in the current Palestinian “leadership.” But, once coordination between Palestine and those countries resumes, the challenge to Israel and the U.S. could prove to be insurmountable.
2. Has Israel broken – once and for all – the Palestinian veto power on any new Arab ties with Israel without first securing a Palestinian state as enunciated in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002?
Palestine has never had veto power. Rather, it had a commitment from Arab states not to establish ties with Israel until Israel agreed to a Palestinian state on lands it occupied in 1967.
Eighteen years later, that policy has failed. A new approach had to be utilized and tested. The UAE began that process and was able to stop the watch on Netanyahu’s July 1st annexation of 30 percent of the West Bank. Is that bad?
There are other Arab countries that some have conjectured that might be next in recognizing Israel. These are: Sudan, Oman, and Morocco. Let us be realistic. Not all Arab countries’ interests align 100 percent with each other. The UAE and Bahrain have interests and considerations different than those of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Countries behave in their own national interests – Arab or not! Israel has not broken the Palestinian veto power. The Palestinians never had that veto power. Arab countries’ interests dictated their actions. But, instead of looking at those Arabs as enemies of Palestine, Palestinians should look at them as their agents and advocates. Palestinians should be realistic and use those relationships to their advantage.
And, by the way, why are the PLO and the PA leaderships hypocrites? Haven’t they recognized Israel during the Oslo Accords that were signed on the same White House Lawn in September 1993?
3. Is the United States only interested in peace between Israel and Arab States and is it unwilling to for the creation of a Palestinian state?
The United States knows fully well that it might take another 20-, 40-, or 100-years before most Arab and Muslim states recognize Israel especially if there is no true and genuine peace between Israel-Palestine. As Israel’s best friend and ally, the U.S. is faced with two choices:
- The United States could go along with Israel and concoct a “swiss-cheese” Palestinian state void of the real powers of a sovereign Palestinian state. Such a so-called state will ultimately be part of Israel and will end up leading to a bi-national state in historic Palestine. A bi-national state will not be a Jewish state. Currently, the number of Palestinians living in historic Palestine between the river and the sea exceeds the number of Jews. As such, if Israel imposes its rule by force, it will be the only apartheid state in the world.
- The United States could push for a true two-state solution with a sovereign independent Palestinian state living in peace side-by-side with Israel with East Jerusalem as its capital. I am sure there are intelligent people out there who can come up with arrangements and formulas that can make this arrangement work.
The signing of a normalization agreement between the UAE and Bahrain, on one hand, and Israel, on the other hand, does not diminish the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to a state of their own. If looked at pragmatically, the UAE and Bahrain – much like Egypt and Jordan – could help the Palestinians with more vigor to achieve their goal of an independent state now that they have access and influence over Israel and its main protégé, the United States.
Prof. Bishara Bahbah was the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem based “Al-Fajr” newspaper between 1983-84. He was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.
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