As leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates sign a normalization agreement under the watchful eye of Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday, I, like many, will salute the growing acceptance of Israel by Arab potentates. Took them only seven decades.
I wonder, though, how long it will take the Arab street to forget 70 years (probably closer to 100 years) of Jew-hating impressed upon them by these very same class of rulers? Will they now see positive propaganda about Israel, how it has transformed the desert into a garden of produce? How it is a leader in technology, water management, science, medicine, the arts? Will maps now show Israel as a recognized state? Will schools change their curricula to erase anti-Semitic tropes?
Am I being too cynical? Too realistic when optimism should be my effusive state?
Perhaps my less than euphoric emotion stems from my concern that the wondrous news about the Israeli-Arab rapprochement has masked the fact that when the ink dries on all these new diplomatic relationships, Israel will still be challenged by the Palestinian question.
While Arab governments might have backburnered the Palestinians, it would be irresponsible to think the Palestinians have suddenly resolved to bury their animosity toward Israel. Their leadership—in the PLO, Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah and numerous offshoots—continues to reject Israel. Moreover, they continue to educate their children that Israel and Jews are evil.
More to the point of my dissonance to the jubilation over the normalization agreements, Israel has yet to come to terms with how it sees the future of the Palestinian people.
I doubt they can be granted full Israeli citizenship. No way Israelis can enfranchise them for fear their votes would undermine the Jewish state’s raison d’être.
If Israel extends second class citizenship to the Palestinians it would reinforce the argument that it is becoming an apartheid state.
To secure the UAE’s public acceptance, Israel had to shelve annexation of land in the West Bank captured 53 years ago during the Six Day War. Annexation has been postponed, not rejected, by Bibi Netanyahu, and surely not by those to the right of the prime minister. It will inevitably come up again.
The cause of the Palestinians no longer inflames Arab leaders. I suspect the average Mohammed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cares more about having a well paying job to be able to put food on his table, to educate his children, to live in sanitary conditions, to have a credible healthcare network. To live in dignity without threat of war.
Of course, the seven decades long intransigence of Palestinian leaders to accept Israel, coupled with a willingness to accept terrorism as a central tool, has left Israel with no viable negotiating partner and an as yet unseen path to normalcy.
Israelis may be forgiven if they think, “If my enemy treats me as subhuman, am I free to treat my enemy as subhuman? Having survived historic persecution, may I treat my enemy as I please if they vow to destroy me?”
Forgiven, but not acceptable. Twenty-first century Western civilization cannot accept apartheid. Can Palestinians reorient their thinking to 21st century realities?
The national interests of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and other like-minded Arab countries coalesced into diplomatic breakthroughs. However, until Palestinians pass from the realm of pawns of Arab and Islamic governments into potent realistic pursuers of their own destiny, there is little reason to be exceedingly jubilant at Tuesday’s signing ceremony.