The establishment of relations with Israel by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain has had a number of side effects. One was that some figures in the Arab world started to explain why these steps by the two countries were possible despite the fact that there was no promise of the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state.
In several articles Arab authors criticized Palestinian rejectionism. A few examples: UAE Quranic scholar, Waseem Yousef, accused Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian leadership for disrespecting the UAE flag while Israel flies it proudly. Yousef has 1.6 million followers.
On September 8, the Saudi London-based daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, criticized the Palestinian Authority for its rejection of the UAE normalization agreement with Israel. It specifically mentioned the emergency conference recently held in protest against this normalization by Palestinian factions from Beirut, Ramallah and on-line.
Daily newspapers in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt recently published dozens of articles condemning Palestinian Arabs for their ungrateful leadership. Some articles claimed that the Palestinian leadership had exploited the Palestinian cause for seven decades and extorted many funds from Gulf states. Some even accused Palestinian Authority officials of taking the money for themselves and deliberately rejecting every peace initiative in order to perpetuate the situation and remain in power.
The Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) consists of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. GCC Secretary General Nayef al-Hajraf demanded an apology from the Palestinian leaders for their criticism of the UAE's normalization agreement with Israel. He accused Palestinian leaders of "incitements and threats" during a meeting of the heads of different Palestinian factions.
The GCC issued a statement which said "The secretary general condemned the falsehoods questioning the historic stance of Gulf nations in support of the rights of Palestinians, calling on responsible Palestinian leaders who participated in that meeting, headed by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, to apologize for these violations and provocative and false statements, which are against the reality of the relations between the states of the Cooperation Council and the brotherly Palestinian people."
Several Arab commentators feel the need to explain where those Arab countries, which normalize relations with Israel now stand on the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. This is partly necessary as this establishment of relations goes against the Arab peace initiative of 2002. That called for normalization between the Arab world-- in exchange for a full withdrawal by Israel to the pre-1967 lines -- "a just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem" based on United Nations resolution 194 and the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Those supporting the agreements in the UAE and Bahrain cannot admit the full truth on this issue. If they could, such a statement might for instance read as follows: “The interests of our country do not hold the establishment of a Palestinian state as a top priority. We are threatened in a major way by Iran. Israel can be an ally against Iranian aggression. Our agreement has been further facilitated as Israel has delayed its plan for annexation of part of Palestinan territory. In the United States, there is a currently an administration which is willing to provide us with advanced weapons if we go along with its plans for the region. If a Palestinian Arab state emerges, we would be happy. Yet it is far from our priorities.”
An alternative option, sometimes appearing, is to stress that the current fight for a Palestinian state is primarily an issue of the Palestinians themselves.
Israel’s breakthrough with these two Arab states is not only a heavy blow to the Palestinians. It also exposes part of the great failure of the Mid East policies of former U.S president Barack Obama who courted the Arabs in many ways. Shortly after his election as U.S. President, he visited Egypt and deliberately chose not to come to Israel. Yet, in spite of that and despite exerting pressure on Israel, Obama and his foreign secretary John Kerry did not manage to establish even one relationship between Israel and an Arab state. This is a very poor performance compared with that of his much maligned successor Donald Trump.
It is unlikely that Obama will now issue a statement saying: “President Trump should not take all the credit for the establishment of relations between two Arab states and Israel. Some of the merit is indirectly mine. Only due to the 2015 JCPOA agreement I negotiated with the Iranians did the latter feel secure in massively expanding their Middle East terrorism. Several Arab states consider this as a threat to their existence. Thus, I indirectly facilitated the establishment of relations with Israel.”
In the meantime, John Kerry was also mocked by the current U.S Foreign Secretary John Pompeo and several media. In 2016 Kerry said: "I can tell you that, reaffirmed within the last week because I've talked to the leaders of the Arab community, there will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality."
The establishment of relations between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel is also a blow for many Israeli masochists. A recent op-ed in Ha’aretz by former Meretz leader, Yossi Beilin, was titled "It’s time for Arab states to drop another bombshell on Israel."
Beilin repeated some of his many earlier misjudgments writing: “We should bear in mind that we cannot and should not circumvent the need for a peaceful solution with the Palestinians, based on two states, under the umbrella of a confederation or without it. This is the only way for us to assure that a Jewish minority will not dominate an Arab majority in the future. No peace with any other Arab state nor any number of Arab states can assure us of that.” From this it is clear that Beilin is bothered much more by the possibility that Israelis might dominate the Palestinians than by the deeply immersed death culture in Palestinian society.
Israel and the two Gulf states are at the beginning of a process. Statements of Arab authors criticizing Palestinian rejectionism and the need for Palestinians to take care of their own affairs have only just started. Yet, the trend has been set and is likely to expand, in particular if additional Arab states establish relations with Israel.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations. Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Juda Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the recognized leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism. His main book on the subject is: The War of a Million Cuts The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism.