NEWS

The Palestinians: What Needs to be Done

October 26, 2020

by: Khaled Abu Toameh~Gatestone Institute

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Leaders from Israel, the US, the UAE and Bahrain at the signing of the Abraham Accords 

Monday, 26 October 2020 | There is now an agreement, the Abraham Accords, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Bahrain—but how do the Palestinians see it? Where do they think it could lead?

The Palestinians were caught by surprise. When it was announced, I was calling Palestinian officials in Ramallah trying to get their reaction to this agreement. They were in disbelief. They were in shock. Many of these officials even asked me if I was sure it was true.

Shortly afterwards, they issued a strongly‑worded statement lashing out at the UAE: “Oh, the Gulf States have betrayed us. This is a stab in the back. This is a violation of all agreements.”

Now, as time passed, many Palestinian officials made serious allegations against the UAE. They even warned other Arab countries not to follow suit or normalize relations with Israel. The Palestinian leaders feel that their Arab brothers have turned their back on the Palestinians, that the Arab world has decided to move forward without them.

There is a very strong belief in Ramallah that many other countries are going to follow the example of the UAE and normalize relations with Israel. This sense of isolation, this sense of betrayal by their own Arab brothers has resulted in protests in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and in Gaza.

Recently, I went to the Old City of Jerusalem, where we saw Palestinians burning flags of the UAE and pictures of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. These protests, which have been spreading throughout the West Bank and Gaza, are the direct result of the incitement by the Palestinian Authority [PA], by Hamas and by other factions, not only against the UAE, but also against Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and other countries whose names have been mentioned in connection with the possibility of establishing relations with Israel.

[Saturday] night, PA President Mahmoud Abbas went even further. He stepped up the protests by holding a meeting in Ramallah, where he invited representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and even one of the worst terrorist groups the Palestinians have: the radical Syrian‑based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command.

It is led by Ahmed Jibril, responsible for the death of many Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon. He has been accused by Palestinians of participating in massacres carried out by the Syrian army against Palestinians in Syria.

For Abbas to invite representatives of a group like that to a meeting in Ramallah is, for many Arab countries, an alarm bell. First of all, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is a branch. Saudi Arabia has been waging war on Hamas for the past three or four years.

Abbas is sending a message to the Arab world that he has decided to align himself with the Iran‑led anti‑peace camp.

The Arab world is watching this. They do not like the condemnations coming from the Palestinians. They do not like all these accusations of treason. They do not like to see pictures of their leaders being burned at Islam’s third holiest site, Al‑Aqsa Mosque.

Of course, there are a few Palestinians who do not share the views of the PA and Hamas. I have met some Palestinians who are extremely worried right now at the message the PA is giving to the other Palestinian leaders.

These few Palestinians are saying, “Hey, who are we to challenge these oil‑rich, wealthy countries in the Gulf? We need them.”

These few Palestinians are extremely worried right now about the fate of Palestinians living in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries. They are afraid these Arab countries will once again expel the Palestinians or take punitive measures against them.

I follow what is being said in the Arab world. Arabs in the Gulf are saying about the Palestinians: “You ungrateful people. We’ve given you billions of dollars in all these years. In the end, you spit in our face and you burn our flag.”

There was one prominent Emirati academic who put on Twitter pictures of UAE flags in the Israeli city of Netanya. Next to them, pictures of the UAE flag being burned by Palestinians in Ramallah and in Gaza.

The comment there of this Emirati man was, “My flag is being honored in Israel while these Palestinians are burning my flag. I am done with these Palestinians.”

That is the message that you hear from not only from people in the UAE but also from people in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

For the first time ever, the Palestinian leadership are now feeling that they have been left out; that the Arab world is really fed up with them and does not want to wait for them anymore.

Of course, this is good news for Israel and good news for all peace‑loving people in the region. The question is, will Iran step in to influence the PA? Will Iran manage to convince the PA to become part of an axis that includes Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and all the Iranian‑backed militias in Iraq? Where is Mahmoud Abbas taking the PA? Most people I speak to say he does not really have a strategy to deal with the Middle East conflict.

His only strategy, they say, is just to remain in power forever. He will do anything. He will reach out to Hamas. He will reach out to the Islamic Jihad. To survive, he will reach out to the Iranians or anyone. It does not bode well for the future of the peace talks or any kind of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have not only been left out by their Arab brothers; they are further isolating themselves by going against countries like Egypt, Jordan and all these Gulf states that once used to give them a lot of money.

In the past few months, Abbas was saying, “Israel has to stop its plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.” He launched a massive diplomatic campaign [and] was successful at rallying the world—especially the Europeans and other countries—against the Israeli plan. Now, here comes an Arab country and tells Abbas, “Look, we managed to get the Israelis to suspend their plan. The plan is now off the table.”

Instead of saying, “Thank you, UAE. You did a good job,” Abbas is sending Palestinians to burn the flag of the UAE and to burn pictures of their leader.

“What do you want, Mahmoud Abbas?” the other Arabs are saying. “Are you trying to punish an Arab country simply because they want normal relations with Israel? What about you, Abbas? In 1993, didn’t you and Yasser Arafat allegedly recognize Israel’s right to exist? Haven’t you been negotiating with Israel all these years? Haven’t you been conducting security coordination with Israel, Mahmoud Abbas?

“Excuse me, Mahmoud Abbas, how many times in the past 13, 14 years, have you said that you support peace, and you are willing to negotiate with Israel, and you support compromise, and you are opposed to violence? Where is the problem, if an Arab country such as the UAE wants to make peace with Israel?

“Why can’t you go to the UAE and say, ‘Listen, thank you very much. You have done a great job, now that you are going to make peace with Israel, I, Mahmoud Abbas, would like to use your good connections with Israel to help me get what I want from Israel.’”

Abbas is now being criticized because he is not being creative. He is not coming up with any plans or any alternative options. All you hear is condemnation.

Those who were inciting against Israel all those years are now inciting against the Arab world. Those who were demonizing Israel are now trying to demonize their own Arab and Muslim brothers. This is serious. The gap between the Palestinians and the Arab world is growing.

This change may bring something good in the end, because the Palestinians need new leadership. They need new thinking. We are talking about the same people, the same leaders who have been around for 40 and 50 years.

Palestinian leaders have failed to bring anything new to the Palestinians. Of course, the biggest losers are always the Palestinian people, whether they are in the West Bank living under PA, or in Gaza living under Hamas.

Look at their conditions. It is very bad under the PA because of corruption, and it is very bad under Hamas in Gaza because of repression.

Palestinians are being held hostage by their own leaders, and they do not see any hope. My concern is that these Palestinian leaders, in order to divert the anger, in order to distract from their own problems, might turn all this anger on the Palestinian street towards Israel.

We have seen in the past where, whenever a Palestinian leader sees that his people are unhappy with his performance, or are unhappy with corruption, or are complaining about the repression, then they tell the people, “Oh, it is all Israel’s fault. It is the occupation. Go and revolt against Israel. Go and launch an intifada [uprising] against Israel.”

Also, we have a lot of mainstream journalists in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and even in Gaza, who are deliberately turning a blind eye to many of the important stories over here, especially about Hamas and the PA.

We are actually among the few media outlets that dare to touch on very sensitive topics that the mainstream media would not like to report or that the mainstream media is ignoring.

Many of the journalists here search for any story that reflects badly on Israel. We have managed, though, to force some of these journalists to cover stories that we publish. They can no longer ignore them.

We have been reporting, for example, about Palestinians protesting in Ramallah about corruption in the past few weeks. We had a number of articles that talked about how the PA is cracking down on its critics.

The New York Times recently, after one of our articles, had to report on how the PA is cracking down on its own people because they are demanding reform and democracy.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Posted on October 26, 2020

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by the Gatestone Institute on October 25, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr