2nd Gulf Arab State Agrees to Peace With Israel, Doubles Palestinian Discontent
A month after the UAE accord, Bahrain follows its lead
The Palestinian leadership and public expressed fury and a sense of abandonment after US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter Friday that Bahrain had agreed to normalize ties with Israel, a mere 29 days after the United Arab Emirates took a similar step.
The Palestinian Authority characterized the actions of both Gulf states as “betrayals.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also issued a statement on Friday: “On the 19th anniversary of 9/11, we usher in a new era of peace. It’s humbling when the course of history changes seemingly overnight. In less than one month, under President Trump’s leadership, we have another historic agreement, this time between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
Pompeo continued, “The two peace agreements open new possibilities for peace and prosperity. From my recent travels to the region, there is clear momentum for a new Middle East. I thank King Hamad and Prime Minister Netanyahu for having the courage to change the fate of nations.”
On the 19th anniversary of 9/11, we usher in a new era of peace. It’s humbling when the course of history changes seemingly overnight.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told The Media Line that the Bahrain-Israel peace agreement had more than one facet, but it was mainly a betrayal of Jerusalem and the people of Palestine.
“Under this agreement, they are tacitly agreeing to Israel’s annexation of occupied Jerusalem and its holy places. This, of course, in addition to weakening the Arab Peace Initiative,” he said.
The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative calls for normalization with Israel only when it leaves all territories captured in 1967 and the Palestinians have established a state, with its capital in Jerusalem.
Erekat added, “Binyamin Netanyahu was right when he said that he was achieving ‘peace for peace [as opposed to “land for peace” – DA].’ Israel is not giving up anything in return, because the UAE or Bahrain did not even put a stop to annexation. Israel has received a message of support for its policies that make the prospects for peace even more elusive.”
Under this agreement, they are tacitly agreeing to Israel’s annexation of occupied Jerusalem and its holy places. This, of course, in addition to weakening the Arab Peace Initiative
The combination of “ignorance and arrogance” displayed by the American officials involved in the UAE and Bahrain deals is not just a threat to the rights of the Palestinian people but to the rules-based world system, Erekat explained. “They utterly failed here and so now they are trying to save face before the US elections.”
He continued, “They are simply promoting anarchy and the normalization of annexation, which is a crime under international law. This has a lot to do with the US elections and little to do with achieving peace for our region.”
There was no possible benefit for the Palestinians from the peace agreements, Erekat said. “Therefore, Bahrain should not even claim they did this to help us. The overwhelming response of the Bahraini people rejecting the agreement should serve as a reminder of how fake this normalization deal is.”
Following the announcement of the agreement, a number of citizens of the kingdom launched the #BahrainisAgainstNormalization hashtag on Twitter. It topped the list of the most discussed trending topics on the social networking service.
The hashtag expressed rejection of the peace agreement, including messages such as “Normalization does not represent the people of Bahrain” and “I am a Bahraini who rejects normalization with the Zionists.”
However, Egypt and the UAE welcomed the accord, while Jordan called on Israel to take practical steps to achieve peace.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed strong condemnation and concern regarding Bahrain’s decision, in contradiction to the Arab Peace Initiative and the commitments of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement strongly condemning the peace agreement, describing it as a shameful and humiliating act by Bahrain.
This is our land and we will not surrender. The world is also changing gradually into a multipolar world. We will not surrender our rights or our commitment to a real peace. We are committed to the Arab peace process, where normalization takes place after Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank occupied in 1967
Nabil Shaath, an adviser on international relations to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Media Line that the personal pressure from Trump, applied for electoral purposes, undoubtedly hurt the Palestinians and strengthened Israel at a time where the latter was “violating all peace agreements and international legality.
“He [Netanyahu] rudely says it will not change his plan for annexation in the West Bank and that he is not going to exchange land for peace,” Shaath said, adding that that the only winner was the American president, but that this would not last.
“This is our land and we will not surrender. The world is also changing gradually into a multipolar world. We will not surrender our rights or our commitment to a real peace. We are committed to the Arab peace process, where normalization takes place after Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank occupied in 1967,” Shaath said.
On September 9, the Arab League rejected a draft resolution condemning the normalization agreement reached between Israel and the UAE.
In a statement, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud reiterated his country’s position backing the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, while avoiding any mention of the UAE-Israel accord.
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How long will this approach continue? Until we reach rock bottom
Nasser Khdour, a Palestinian political analyst and activist, shared with The Media Line his observations, criticizing the Palestinian leadership’s approach in dealing with peace agreements reached by Israel and Arab states.
“After the end of the series of statements trashing the UAE, and the start of a new wave against Bahrain, a leadership meeting must be held at the highest levels and from all factions in order to lay down plans to resist normalization, end internal division, achieve national unity, and achieve the goals of the homeland and providing the citizen with a decent life,” Khdour said sarcastically.
In the end, the Palestinians will be left waiting for yet another Israeli-Arab agreement, for yet another “wave of massacres” and for more meetings of the leadership at the highest levels “against those who betrayed Palestine,” Khdour said. “How long will this approach continue? Until we reach rock bottom,” he opined.
It may be a good point in time for everyone concerned to examine new paradigms such as interim solutions linked to the goal of two states for two peoples
Oded Eran, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv who led the negotiations with the Palestinians in 1999-2000, told The Media Line that two or more Arab states joining the list of those maintaining normal relations with Israel before a solution, or even a partial one, was found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, weakened the Palestinian cause.
“It comes after a decade of what we call the Arab Spring and its implications for Arab unity, and the concerns of some Arab states with threats from Iran and Turkey. The Palestinian issue has been demoted on the list,” Eran said.
The Palestinians face a strategic dilemma regarding their political path and leadership, he said. “They have also to realize that boycotting the US is not going to further their cause. It may be a good point in time for everyone concerned to examine new paradigms such as interim solutions linked to the goal of two states for two peoples.”
The US role in the Palestinian process is critical, Eran said. The November 3 presidential election will determine the direction this role will take, “but certain realities in the region cannot be ignored in Washington regardless of who sits in the White House.”
It has been known for about 10 years that most moderate Arab states are interested in peace agreements with Israel and that they too believe that the Palestinians’ conduct is at fault
Lior Akerman, a political analyst and retired Israeli brigadier general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet security service, told The Media Line that the absence of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was mainly the fault of the Palestinian leadership, “which has rejected any solution proposed in recent years, and insists on remaining an entity supported by the world powers, seemingly under occupation.
“It has been known for about 10 years that most moderate Arab states are interested in peace agreements with Israel and that they too believe that the Palestinians’ conduct is at fault,” he added.
The current situation is the result of three parallel processes, Akerman clarified: First, the despair of Arab states with Palestinian stubbornness and lack of leadership, and second, “a desire to create economic ties with Israel and strengthen their security in the face of terrorist organizations such as ISIS or Iran.
“Their [the Arab states’] third goal is to strengthen their power, economically and security-wise,” he said.
The Palestinians need to dramatically change how they conduct themselves in the Middle East arena, something “which is not expected to happen in the era of the PA President Mahmoud Abbas,” Akerman said.
The Palestinians will have to internalize the changes taking place, be flexible and reach agreements that advance the Palestinian interest, but in accordance with regional needs, he said.
The two agreements to be signed [at the White House on Tuesday] are important normalization deals which formalize – more so in the UAE case – a business-military deal in the guise of peace agreements. Peace treaties are made between enemies. Neither a state of war nor a dispute or violence of any kind, exist between either the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain and Israel
Gilead Sher, a fellow at both Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston and at INSS in Tel Aviv, and a former chief of staff and peace negotiator under prime minister Ehud Barak, told The Media Line:
“The two agreements to be signed [at the White House on Tuesday] are important normalization deals which formalize – more so in the UAE case – a business-military deal in the guise of peace agreements. Peace treaties are made between enemies. Neither a state of war nor a dispute or violence of any kind, exist between either the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain and Israel.
“To put it mildly, the caption ‘historic peace’ wraps in overplayed diplomatic terms economic, military and financial deals. It serves domestic political objectives in Washington and Jerusalem, respectively,” Sher said.
“The agreements express a maturation of a quarter of a century during which the Gulf states moved forward, promoting their own national interests at the expense of collective ‘Arab’ interests, including the Palestinian cause,” he said.
“On the prudently optimistic side, Israeli-Arab normalization is a key component of any roadmap to regional peace. Therefore, it might well be that recent developments will not be detrimental to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which in any event has been stalled for many years, though not only due to Palestinian intransigence.
“A process of regional normalization could, paradoxically, help the chances of reaching a long-term settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. But only if all three parties – Israel, the Arab states and the Palestinians – relate to the processes between them as intertwined. The way forward should be conditioned by mutual benefits and tangible achievements to each one of the parties involved, in every phase, in exchange for agreed concessions,” Sher said.
A process of regional normalization could, paradoxically, help the chances of reaching a long-term settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. But only if all three parties – Israel, the Arab states and the Palestinians – relate to the processes between them as intertwined