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Opinion | The Abraham Accords Might Bring an End to Israel’s Occupation After All

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Monarchies have a different concept of time. Their tyrants have patience, of the kind that a country which goes to the polls approximately once every two and a half years on average – and recently has changed prime ministers like pairs of socks – does not have. And this patience can be seen in every step in the growing normalization between Arab countries and Israel. Here is a gesture, there a gesture, and here and there is the slow building of local influence.

Public debate in Israel about normalization is usually divided like this: On the right, some people think normalization proves that the Palestinians have finally been removed from the regional equation. Some of them are happy with the gestures themselves – shopping in Dubai, shorter flights to Thailand, direct flights to Morocco (no doubt our soft underbelly is tourism; the Americans know this when they offer a visa waiver) – and they don’t overthink the question of what these gestures will cost Israel. They also will go along with the claim that there is no diplomatic cost, that this is a sign of the Arabs’ exasperation with the Palestinians and their growing need for Israel’s military and technological capabilities in the face of the Iranian threat.

In contrast, on the left, some people think the Abraham Accords endanger the prospect of ending the occupation and resolving the conflict. To their minds, the Arab countries that are normalizing ties with Israel are destroying the last means of pressure that could compel Israel to compromise. With this, they adopt the right-wing position that the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians. And there’s also a tepid liberal position, by which the agreements are positive in and of themselves, but they cannot replace the necessary dialogue with Ramallah.

And in the midst of all this is another possibility, one that isn’t given sufficient expression: The Arab world has understood that normalizing ties with Israel can actually increase the extent of their local influence – on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and certainly on the issue of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The first to state this loudly and clearly were the Emiratis. From their point of view, the Abraham Accords stopped the annexation and saved the two-state solution, and along the way also opened Al Aqsa to believers from the Gulf. And behind the scenes, senior Emiratis and Bahrainis said at the time, they had concluded that normalizing relations with Israel has advantages not only in the realm of military and economic interests, but also in terms of political influence.

Even if we assume that this is lip service, the fact is that the moment diplomatic ties are public, pressure is exerted from every direction and forces everyone to be more compromising. For example, the diplomatic involvement of the Emiratis in calming things down at Al Aqsa. Another example from recent days: Morocco is the country that mediated between Israel and the Palestinians on the opening of the Allenby Bridge.

Now, thanks to the Saudis, flights from Israel to India will take as long as a flight to London, a step Israeli airlines are calling “revolutionary.” But the Saudis also made their political position clear: They will not normalize relations until the two-state solution is implemented. And so, when the fruits of peace are as tangible as the beach in Phuket, a version of the Arab Peace Initiative returned undisturbed to the table. The Iranian threat in this scenario serves as the ultimate “boogeyman,” which, for the sake of fighting politically, might be worth a compromise on building settlement outposts.

And not only does the broader Arab world understand this. In Israel, lawmaker Mansour Abbas is promoting this ambitious strategy. He doesn’t come to change the Israeli right wing, but to gather political influence through anyone who is ready and willing. “The role of the Palestinian citizens of Israel,” he told me once, “is to awaken hope that we can live together.”

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Article source: Haaretz | Noa Landau | Jul 18, 2022

2024-02-22 05:36:48.000000

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