Qatar Continues its Principled Rejection of the Abraham Accords as Anti-Palestinian
By John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Qatari diplomats are the advocate’s par excellence of Palestinians in international arenas, giving these diplomats an image of strong supporters of a pro-human rights foreign policy. Now they have taken the side of the Palestinians in the context of the Abraham Accords, which do very little for Palestinians either economically or in resolving the Israel Palestinian conflict.
Abraham Accords—a pretext for Israeli-Palestinian peace—avoid long-term underlying issues of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank
The Israeli-Gaza conflict of May 2021 was used by some Arab countries to dismiss the earlier, September 2020 signing of the Abraham Accords. These Accords are between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, and Israel and the U.S. Other Arab countries objected that the recent conflict undermined the spirit of the Accords and in effect made them obsolete and irrelevant. Some critics, however, see a silver lining in the Accords, that they will somehow lead to Arab-Israeli normalization.
Defenders suggest that the Accords are not peace treaties and therefore not aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to a Forbes report, the Accords were not “advertised by their Arab signatories as something that would instantly solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor, for that matter, are they mainly about the Palestinians, although their signature had strong implications for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.”
The presumed logic of the Accords is that in the broader landscape of the Middle East, conflict resolution will come because of regional economic development. This may seem like a cart-before-the-horse argument since it leaves out the most critical issue of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Nothing in the Accords has anything to do with a comprehensive land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians. Without that, the Accords seem pollyannish.
Public opinion polls on the Abraham Accords suggest that younger Arabs living outside the region, while still supportive of the Palestinians, see a movement away from war and economic sluggishness as a goal that should precede a peace agreement. Forbes also reported, “These same polls indicated that Arabs might tolerate or even welcome bilateral Arab Israeli normalization provided they result in tangible welfare gains for Palestinians.”
Important to the overall context of the Accords is that in 2020 Prime Minister Netanyahu, spurred by sideline cheerleading from then-President Trump, threatened to annex parts of Palestine. Given the pending Accords signing, the UAE used its leverage to warn Israel of any plans of annexation that would put normalization at great risk. The warning worked.
Qatar doesn’t buy normalization with Israel so long as occupation of Palestinians persists
In the past week, Qatar made clear its objections to normalizing relations with Israel. The Foreign Minister stated, per Doha News, “the controversial Abraham Accords doesn’t align with Doha’s foreign policy.” Further, he noted, “This is our foreign policy, we see that the core of the issue is the occupation. So as long as there is no prospect for ending that occupation and having a fair and just solution, I don’t see Qatar taking such a step for normalization.”
Qatar however has an important link with Israel, namely its role in delivering humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. For this reason, it must maintain relations with Israel. Such assistance has been critical to service delivery to Gaza following the devastation of parts of that community, in which 260 Palestinians including 66 children were killed.
The Foreign Minister of Qatar indicated that helping Palestinians to improve their economic situation is important as part of a solution, but that “The core of the problem is political, as long as the peace process is not addressed, you cannot just count on economic normalization.”
Qatar definitive in ruling out Abraham Accords as key to Middle East peace
Last week Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani put a lid on the place of the Accords in normalizing Arab Israeli relations, much less in resolving the Middle East peace crisis. Stated emphatically, according to the Bulletin Observer, he averred, “We should not focus on economic normalization and forget the (Israeli) occupation of Arab lands.”
The Foreign Minister underscored that the Arab countries which signed the Accords are physically distant from Israel and have had not had much to do with the actual conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Critics also see that the Accords have contributed to isolating and weakening Palestinians, per the Bulletin, “by eroding a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should only be given in return for concessions in the peace process. Palestinians, who have been suffering under Israeli occupation for years, have seen the deal as a stab in the back by Arab countries who vowed to support Palestinian independence and press on Tel Aviv to withdraw from post-1948 lands.”
Meanwhile, the UAE, U.S., and Israel met last week to firm up the so-called accomplishments of the Accords. It’s not clear what those are, but perhaps they will emerge in time. On the one hand, the Biden administration has accepted the former president’s policy formulation on the Abraham Accords, though the level of commitment is not clear. On the other hand, most Arabs in the region polled are opposed to the deals.
“What Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Does – And Doesn’t – Mean for The Abraham Accords,” Forbes 5/16/2021
“Qatar FM rules out normalization with Israel as long as the occupation continues,” Doha News 10/13/2021
“Qatar rules out Abraham Accords as key to Middle East peace,” Bulletin Observer 10/19/2021
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID, Department of State, and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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