With the Israel-UAE-Bahrain deals, ‘undeniable Palestinan truths’ no longer hold

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Axioms the Palestinians imposed on the Arab world for decades — notably including the eschewing of all normalization with Israel — are crumbling before their horrified eyes

L-R: UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump talk at the ceremony for the signing of the Abraham Accords, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

By Avi Issacharoff-  The Times of Israel

One of the first things that the historic agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain will do is bring the word tatbie, normalization, into fashion. In parallel it will marginalize the term edm al-tatbie, anti-normalization, the slogan used by generations of Arabs throughout the Middle East even after the signing of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. It was invoked to denote that although a non-aggression treaty could be tolerated, tatbie could not.

As a result, trade unions in every Arab state took upon themselves limitations, prohibitions, and boycotts in everything to do with Israel that their governments had not already limited, prohibited or boycotted. Medical unions, lawyers, engineers, even journalists, all boycotted their Israeli counterparts. Even with Israel’s two full partners, there was peace on the top level – in the army and sometimes among the politicians – and non-peace on the ground among everyone who could or wanted to do business with the Israelis. A byproduct of the edm al-tatbie phenomenon was the BDS movement, which calls for complete boycotting of Israelis, including in academia and culture. All because of the Palestinians.

One of the first things that the historic agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain will do is bring the word tatbie, normalization, into fashion. In parallel it will marginalize the term edm al-tatbie, anti-normalization, the slogan used by generations of Arabs throughout the Middle East even after the signing of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. It was invoked to denote that although a non-aggression treaty could be tolerated, tatbie could not.

As a result, trade unions in every Arab state took upon themselves limitations, prohibitions, and boycotts in everything to do with Israel that their governments had not already limited, prohibited or boycotted. Medical unions, lawyers, engineers, even journalists, all boycotted their Israeli counterparts. Even with Israel’s two full partners, there was peace on the top level – in the army and sometimes among the politicians – and non-peace on the ground among everyone who could or wanted to do business with the Israelis. A byproduct of the edm al-tatbie phenomenon was the BDS movement, which calls for complete boycotting of Israelis, including in academia and culture. All because of the Palestinians.

For decades, the Palestinians successfully imposed certain axioms on the Middle East that had almost the status of “undeniable truths,” and that held that Arab countries must not do business with Israel since the Palestinian issue was the foremost issue of all Arabs everywhere. As long as there was no solution for the Palestinians, no Arab country was “allowed” to do business with the Zionist enemy. Not only was this the foremost issue for any Arab, as far as the Palestinians were concerned this was the be-all and end-all issue for all Arab countries.

Moreover, the Palestinians – the PLO, Hamas, et al – succeeded in implanting another slogan in Arab consciousness: the Middle East refugee problem is the Palestinian refugee problem. These core refugees were followed by all sorts of other “hitchhikers” from Iraq, Syria, and so on.

These Palestinian successes have started to evaporate. Two Arab states have decided to ignore the Palestinians and establish diplomatic relations with Israel, and several more may soon follow. Each has its own reasons, but more or less the same problem – Iran, and the danger it poses to them.

This is not cold peace. The new ties provide for an opening of borders and collaborations in all fields, from business to culture to journalism. The message coming from the top, as well as from the ground, is that these Arab states want tatbie, normalization.

And if this is the sentiment coming from some Arab countries, how can those countries and agencies that continue to call for boycotting Israel justify themselves? The Palestinians’ own brothers are openly calling for full normalization, yet some Americans and Europeans, who have little to do with the Palestinian issue, are continuing to cry “boycott” on campus. This despite the fact that the PA and Hamas, too, maintain relations with Israel, mainly for economic reasons but also for security considerations.

The hitherto “undeniable” axioms are crumbling before the astonished eyes of the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the watching world. The Palestinians are no longer the problem of all Arabs, and they are definitely not the most pressing issue in the Arab world. They have long since been shunted aside by the crisis in Sunni-Shia relations — i.e., the Iranian threat — and Tuesday’s festive ceremony in Washington, DC, was public confirmation of that.

Another slogan that has long since bitten the dust relates to the refugees. The Palestinian “refugee” population is no longer composed of actual refugees, but mainly of the third or even fourth generation descendants of those who lived in pre-state Israel. Some of these millions of refugee descendants are citizens of the countries in which they they live today, undermining the relentless efforts of the PA, the PLO, Fatah, and Hamas to assert of “right of return” for people who have no actual connection to Palestine. The current genuine burning refugee issue in the Middle East is the millions who fled Syria’s brutal civil war.

The UAE and Bahrain are the first tiles in a domino effect that might indeed see Oman, Morocco, Sudan and most significantly Saudi Arabia sign normalization accords with Israel. The cold relations, by contrast, are unlikely to warm in Egypt and Jordan. Don’t expect their journalists unions to embrace normalization, for the simple reason that public opinion in both countries is deeply hostile to Israel, largely as a result of years of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda spread by the Muslim Brotherhood. This movement still holds much sway over public opinion in Jordan and Egypt despite the almost overt war waged against it by the two governments. In contrast, in the UAE and Bahrain, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed for years. Its ability to impact public opinion and incite hatred through the mosques is extremely limited due to government supervision.

Today, though, the Muslim Brotherhood is not the most pressing security issue in the UAE and Bahrain.

Bahrain has a Shiite majority, and its leadership is concerned that Iran will attempt, in any way possible, to undermine its new accord and disrupt any and every cooperative step taken between Israel and Bahrain.

Iran is actively involved within the UAE, and even more so in Bahrain – without government approval of course. An example is the “spontaneous” demonstrations in Bahrain during 2011’s Arab Spring that drove thousands out to the streets and that had Iranian fingerprints all over them. A wealth of Shiite propagandists from Iran made it their business to fan the flames in Bahrain against the monarchy, and managed to organize what seemed like the beginning of a revolution. This ended up being quashed by the Saudi monarchy, as Riyadh sent hundreds of armored vehicles and security personnel to crush the protests. Bahrain had appealed to the US for assistance, yet the Obama administration was so enamored of the Arab Spring that it refused to help, which now looks even more of a sad joke than it seemed at the time.

It can be safely assumed that Tehran will try to rekindle Bahraini public sentiment against the monarchy, and against normalization with Israel.

Alternatively, it may try to carry out a terrorist attack, along the lines of the plan it reportedly came up with to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa.

Welcome to the new tatbie.

 

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