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Under Erdoğan’s Auspices, Desperate Abbas Could Fall Into Hamas’ Hands

Under Erdoğan’s Auspices, Desperate Abbas Could Fall Into Hamas’ Hands

Ma’ariv, Israel, October 3

There is no doubt that the Abraham Accords recently signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain at the White House are nothing short of a significant breakthrough in the region. As the UAE ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, described, this is a matter of “breaking the barrier of legitimacy and buying more time for both sides – the Israelis and the Palestinians – by removing the option of annexation from the agenda.” Hence, he explained, the two sides must make wise use of this time and solve their differences. Make no mistake: The Emiratis have not turned their backs on the Palestinians, at least not in their own eyes. They are simply no longer willing to be among the nations of the region that have tied their destiny to the past, and wish to gallop forward at the head of the camp that is looking at the next 50 years. In their view, the current Palestinian leadership in the West Bank belongs to those who are looking backward. Even if things are not stated explicitly, they are clear. But – and this is a big caveat – the UAE, which has taken the brave and groundbreaking step toward full normalization with Israel; whose people tweet day and night in praise of the State of Israel and Judaism; whose population has been educated over the years for the acceptance of the other, for tolerance and for living in a multicultural and international environment, has not forgotten the Palestinian people. All the more so the tiny kingdom of Bahrain, most of whose inhabitants are Shiites who know a much less heterogeneous reality. Both are in intensive contact with the US administration, and especially with Jared Kushner, to advance a long-term geo-strategic move that would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s still unclear if the move will be successful, but what is certain is that the issue is on the agenda, and with a low profile. And that’s good. Once the euphoric reaction to the normalization deal settles down, it’s important to remember that we’re still living in the same wild, violent, and chaotic neighborhood known as the Middle East. Any small ember here can instantly start a large fire. Egypt recently accidentally shot and killed two Gazan fishermen and the instability that ensued shortly thereafter threatened to leak into Israel. The rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Gaza Strip us another source of concern about a potential escalation. In the background, tensions between Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and its protégés vis-à-vis Qatar, Turkey and Iran remain. The hatred there is great, no less than the long-standing hostility that has been cultivated against Israel. From this map of interests, camps have been created. We are in the “good” camp. The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, on the other hand, has been swinging between the camps for a long time. It is closer than ever to associating itself and the Palestinian people living in the West Bank with the “evil” camp. So far, a series of attempts at reconciliation have not been successful. But they could be; “riches are not forever.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is well-aware of these fragile dynamics, is interested in pushing Israel to the corner. If his blatant attempts to intervene in the region bear fruit, then Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will deliver the West Bank directly into the hands of Hamas. The biggest losers from such a move will be the Palestinians themselves, who will once again become victims of their own doing. But they won’t suffer alone: Israel, too, will be hurt by such a move. The Israeli interest is to save the Palestinian people living in the West Bank from Erdoğan, the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran, and Hamas. This axis knows how to leverage the emotion in the Arab street in favor of the Palestinian cause. Israel is engaged in the longest leadership crisis it has ever known, along with a severe health and economic calamity. The US leadership is busy with its upcoming elections. It is easy to get sucked into these changes and forget for a moment the despair of the current Palestinian leadership and the unbearable ease with which it could fall into Erdoğan’s honey trap. Meanwhile, the ground is trembling beneath our feet. We must not allow this to happen. It is precisely now, in the new regional constellation, which gives Israel a strategic backing in the form of strong Western countries, that we have the upper hand. With the coveted normalization deal with the Arab Gulf in our pocket, now is the time for courageous Israeli leadership that will maximize the benefits inherent in the new regional order in favor of significant progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. –Ruth Wasserman Lande (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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