Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 in New York. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

Palestinians Maneuvering To Counter Arab-Muslim Rapprochement With Israel

Officials demanding that ‘normalization’ with Israel be conditioned on the creation of an independent Palestinian state

The Palestinian Authority has called for urgent meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in protest of the ongoing rapprochement between various Middle East and Muslim countries and the Jewish state.

“There are a number of Arab and Islamic resolutions and declarations stating explicitly that there will be no process of normalization with Israel without [solving] the Palestinian issue,” Nabil Sha’ath, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted by Israeli media as saying. He added that Israel, with American backing, is exploiting the intra-Palestinian divide between the PA-dominated West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in order to “draw closer” to the Arab-Islamic world, a development that is “a worrisome process that needs to be stopped.”

Munir al-Jaghoub, head of the Information Department for Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction, echoed these sentiments, stressing to The Media Line that “we have adopted the position of refusing any kind of ‘free’ normalization with Israel in the absence of the creation of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

“This process must be based on the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which conditioned relations with Israel on the Palestinians achieving their full rights. This has to be implemented fully from A to Z, and not the opposite way around.”

The PA’s maneuvering comes on the backdrop of this week’s surprise visit to Israel by the president of Muslim-majority Chad, and amid reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is eyeing the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Sudan, Bahrain and Oman. The Israeli leader on Tuesday announced that he would soon make a reciprocal visit to N’Djamenabe and hinted that other Arab states are on his radar.

This follows Netanyahu’s visit in October to Muscat, whereas Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev was welcomed in the United Arab Emirates. There are also burgeoning ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was the first Gulf leader to publicly call for Israel’s regional integration.

“The foreign policies of Gulf states show that they are dependent on and take orders from the American administration,” Asaad al-Owiwi, a professor at al-Quds Open University in the West Bank, contended to The Media Line. “Arab leaders, especially in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, believe that close ties with the U.S. and Israel will enable them to protect their regimes.

“This is also part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s so called deal-of-the-century, whose contents remain unknown. The PA nevertheless is in a very embarrassing situation, as the normalization activities harm the Palestinian cause by transforming it from a political one into a humanitarian issue.”

Meanwhile, members of the Trump administration’s peace team recently met in Washington amid reports that the much-anticipated American proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essentially complete. There is, however, a debate within the White House over the timing of the plan’s roll-out, with one of the primary factors being political instability in Israel that at any moment could manifest in the dissolution of the government and elections before November 2019.

Despite the boycott imposed by the PA on Washington in the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Ramallah purportedly has contacted U.S. officials in order to demand inclusion of a number of elements in the peace proposal.

“The Palestinians are panicking and they should be,” Israeli political analyst Gad Shimron opined to The Media Line. “There is a deep division between Fatah and Hamas and therefore no united position on any matter.

“The PA is used to being the center of attention in the Middle East, but nowadays the Arab world is too busy with the Sunni-Shiite [war] and what is happening between Riyadh and Tehran. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is on the shelf.

“The Palestinians,” he concluded, “need to stop, evaluate, refresh and restart in order to change their situation.”

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