Palestinians are understandably livid on the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for agreeing to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel, however it leaves them with no alternative however to formulate their very own technique for ending the occupation. The Palestinian management has been remarkably passive in recent times, particularly for the reason that announcement of the Trump administration’s so-called peace plan final January. As an alternative of replying with a constructive and compelling counterproposal, the Palestine Liberation Group merely rejected the plan out of hand. President Mahmoud Abbas didn’t have to influence the 22-member Arab League and the 57-member Group of Islamic Cooperation to completely endorse his rejection. Most European governments additionally dismissed the Trump proposal.
This surge of worldwide help could have given the Palestinians a false sense of safety. As an alternative of developing with their very own plan, they’ve been relying totally on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API), which promised Arab recognition of Israel in return for the creation of a Palestinian state. This was an enormous mistake, as a result of the Palestinians didn’t management the API’s implementation, and even its interpretation. When first promulgated, the API was usually understood to make normalization contingent on an settlement. Nonetheless, some Arab nations started considering mutually reciprocal steps, with Israel easing (or promising to ease) the occupation in return for Arab diplomatic overtures. The concept was to create a virtuous cycle that may finally result in ending the occupation and normalization of relations across the identical time.
Now the UAE and Bahrain have successfully inverted the unique idea, front-loading normalization and leaving the larger questions over the occupation to some future date. For now, they’re happy merely with the understanding that there will likely be no additional Israeli annexation within the West Financial institution.
The primary power of the API for the Palestinians was that it could possibly be offered as an Arab consensus. Now that has been damaged, the API supplies them with no leverage.
This implies Palestinian leaders now should give you their very own method to ending the occupation or be left with none in any respect. They usually should face the truth that they are going to be coping with Israel instantly, not as a part of a cohesive Arab bloc.
Palestinian paralysis stems not solely from a scarcity of excellent choices, but additionally political cowardice and crippling disunity throughout the management. This will greatest be rectified by elections. If the vote is restricted to the West Financial institution — as a result of Hamas gained’t let folks in Gaza take part and Israel could exclude East Jerusalem — it’s nonetheless value doing.
A contemporary mandate is crucial to revive the credibility that the management will want with the intention to make the Israelis a daring counter-offer. That should perforce include important concessions on emotive points like refugee return and land swaps.
There should even be a critical effort at nationwide reconciliation among the many Palestinians themselves. This could possibly be pursued by collective our bodies such because the Palestinian Legislative Council, or by a national-unity association with Hamas. Even when it could’t be completed in a single day, it should be credibly tried.
A critical Palestinian counterproposal would’ve been much more efficient in January or February, however it’s by no means too late to reveal diplomatic credibility. If Joe Biden wins the U.S. presidential election, that may be an ideal alternative for Palestinians to difficulty their very own plan, on the grounds there may be now as soon as once more an American chief they will take severely.
Gulf Arab nations, together with the UAE and Bahrain, would welcome a chance to reveal that they haven’t turned their again on the Palestinians. As they develop stronger relations with Israel, they need to be in a a lot better place to assist.
However this may solely occur if Palestinian leaders drop the crutch of the API and act decisively, within the title of the undoubted nationwide emergency their folks now face.