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An Arab Wave Of Normalization

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, November 6

In response to the widely-criticized trip of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to Oman a few weeks ago, Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah rushed to defend his government under the pretext that the trip was “used to discuss the Palestinian issue” and bring it back to the international agenda. While I don’t believe a single word the minister said, his message is still important nonetheless. It serves as an important reminder that the Arab public still resents the notion of normalization with Israel, and will refuse to accept any attempt to portray a state visit of an Israeli politician, let alone the Israeli prime minister, to an Arab state, as a trivial matter. This is all the more important today, when support for the Palestinian issue has reached an all-time low. Arab countries around the region have come to treat the Palestinian problem as a headache rather than as a cause to which they are indebted. The relationship formed between the Netanyahu-Trump administrations have pushed the Palestinian leadership into the corner and moved the Palestinian cause away from the center stage to the sidelines of the global agenda. Even Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been quoted saying that he supports Trump’s peace plan and decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. In the wake of these shifting loyalties, the Palestinian leadership has maintained a steadfast and clear position against normalization with Israel. It turned down the Omani invitation to launch talks with the Israelis so long as the Americans are involved in any way. Sadly, more and more Arab governments are pressuring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to engage in talks with Israel not for the purpose of advancing Palestinian interests, but in order to deepen their own relations with Netanyahu’s government without being accused of betraying the Palestinian cause. Only a firm stance against this Arab attempt to embrace Israel will suffice in protecting the Palestinian cause against those who seek to erase it. We must not accept such state visits, or any other form of normalization with Israel. –Abd al-Nasser Essa

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