Abraham Accord and The Lost Palestine

On August 31, 2020, a diplomatic group from Israel together with Jared Kushner’s team (Trump’s son in law and White House Adviser) arrived in Abu Dhabi, to follow up on the plan to nominate diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab Emirates (The Abraham Accord). Regardless of Trump or Netanyahu’s intention to get credit points for this normalization in the election, this is actually a test of a new path, because the old road never ends.

The keyword of Arab diplomacy related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict so far is “land for peace“. This means that if Israel returns the Arab land it occupied in the war in June 1967 (the Six Days War), then Arab Countries would be ready to enter into a peace agreement. The Arab diplomacy principle refers to the UN Security Council Resolution 242, after the Six-Days War. The essence of Resolution 242 is to “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”. Only deadlocks continue to occur because it is not clear which area (recent conflict) is referred to, whether all or only partially. If part, any part? This technical complexity never unravel. The parties interpret each of them so that the results are never the same.

In fact, this was also the basis for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. But Egypt after successfully reclaiming some of its lost territory, especially Sinai, and getting recognition from Israel (peace treaty), Egypt stopped fighting, while Jordan had not yet got its share. As a result, Egypt was expelled from the Arab League because it was considered selfish, making peace after its share of “land” was obtained, while other countries who were fighting at the same time had not yet got the area they were targeting. But the point is the same, namely land for peace. Egypt felt that it had got its “land” that it lost in the 1967 war, so Egypt agreed to sign a “peace treaty”. What happened after that? Sadat was killed two years later

The same thing happened to the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994. There was land adjustment at the border of the two countries, where Jordan regained the Naharayim area, including the island of peace, and the Tsofar area, then Israel obtained normalization of diplomacy with Jordan. This treaty was also considered controversial by some Arab countries, so that Jordan was criticized, and led to resistance from hardline organizations.

Then after the failure of the Clinton peace initiative between Israel and Palestine at Camp David, between Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat (because Rabin was murdered), a new technical affirmation emerged in the “Arab Peace Initiative” endorsed by Saudi Arabia and the Arab League in 2002. In essence, Israel can obtain “normalization relations” with 22 members of the Arab League if it recognizes “an independent Palestinian state” in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, then recognizes its capital in East Jerusalem. But Israel has not been able to accept

This Arab initiative actually also refers to the Bush Declaration, which was stated in the same year, 2002. Junior Bush is the first US president to clearly state the sovereignty of an independent Palestinian state, a two-state solution, two countries coexisting, Israel and Palestine.

Then there were several attempts at peace after that, but they all failed. In 2007, the Annapolis Summit ran into a stalemate between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert. In 2009, Netanyahu also tried to please Obama and expressed his intention to hold a Peace talk, then met several times with the Palestinian president, but to no avail. Ultimately, Netanyahu was ousted by the right as Prime Minister, who considered him too soft. And lastly the 2013-2014 Washington Peace Talk, sponsored by Jhon Kerry, also did not result in anything.

Until finally in June 2019, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, launched an economic peace plan for the Middle East in Bahrain. This pact does not mention the recognition of Palestine as clearly as Junior Bush, instead it recognizes the Golan Height (Israel’s border with Syria) within Israel’s sovereignty and implicitly includes the US investment plan in Palestine of $ 50 million as the initial step, which actually means subtle recognition of Palestine. But Palestine refuses.

And as what has happened, Israel is no longer willing to accept these two conditions (land and recognition) because so far Israel considers Palestine, as Hamas, Fatah, PIJ, and several Israeli hardline organizations (financed by Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy) to always veto, make the agreement terminate failed. If no veto, then the bomb will talk, and as predicted, Israel will always respond, then the situation continues to be like that, so the peace talk always ends in failure.

Finally, in Israeli eyes, dealing with terrorists is enough. As a result, gridlock occurs to this day. But the problem is, if Netanyahu continues to impose annexation of parts of the West Bank, then the end will be new tensions, because it will pass through the “red line” that lies in the two cores of Arab diplomacy above. So, if the annexation is postponed, or say “canceled”, because of the new offer from the United Emirates, then that only covers one point, but it is enough to make Palestine (which is controlled by Hamas and Fatah) lose its veto. However, delaying or canceling Israel’s sovereignty in the West Bank without recognizing Palestinian sovereignty, in the eyes of some Arab countries, is tantamount to non-sense, because it is not in accordance with the endless principle of “two states”.

So on this basis, the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United Emirates and Israel is not directly related to the “peace initiative” between Palestine and Israel. It might be a “breakthrough” and a new path, but it does not touch the main issue that has been the dispute between Israel and the Arab world so far. In other words, the new UAE and Israel agreement is one thing, while the Israeli-Palestinian peace is another, but in a sequential framework, it can be directed to be the same thing by America and Israel, without involving Palestine at all, as long as Iran is isolated. and Palestine is no longer under Iranian funding.

But this is very understandable. Because since the first time peace diplomacy began, there has never been a bright spot, aka always failing. In every peace initiative plan, Palestine has veto power in it, so that when interests don’t meet each other, Palestine comes out of the initiative and returns to the streets with bombs and weapons. Or while in peace talks, a bomb exploded in Israel from Hamas or even Hezbollah, then Israel responded, so the talks were canceled.

Therefore Netanyahu, after meeting Jared Kushner at his residence a day before flying to Abi Dhabi, said that if he waited for the green light first from Palestine, it would mean waiting for “forever”, aka it would never happen because if it was a little different from what Palestine wanted, then the Palestinians vetoed, and returned to the path of kinetic warfare. So, the UAE, Israel, Bahrain, and US are trying a new path by not considering the two things (Arab diplomacy and Arab Initiative) above as a direct package, but in a gradual sequence.

Of course, the way is just a trial. Israel lowered its arrogance tension for annexation by postponing it, then open a tap of cooperation with the UAE. I think, Israel uses the word “suspended” of annexation just in case, in case normalization ends badly, then annexation is back “on the table”. But as long as the UAE remains on the track, the annexation will continue to be held, until several Arab countries are willing to lock it in a “black on white” normalization agreement, in any circumstances and at any cost.

Apart from the hidden agenda of all parties, such as America who want to sell weapons to the UAE (off the record the UAE has also bought weapons to Israel since 2010), or US wants to stem China in the Middle East, or the UAE wants to become a powerful leader in the Middle East, or Donald Trump needed a credit point for November, or Netanyahu needs a political breakthrough to restore his destroyed image in the domestic sphere, the point is that the three parties have something in common, namely wanting to initiate a “containment” strategy against Iran. The Iranian factor then made this normalization plan a new breakthrough attempt to break the decades-long deadlock.

So, normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel is considered a step towards obtaining recognition from other Arab countries, without other conditions like in the form of recognition of the sovereignty of Palestine and the areas occupied by Israel, in addition to postponing annexation. However, countries that refuse to argue, no peace for peace, because the ideal is “land for peace”.

For the US and Israel, of course, this is a leap. Yes, they have jumped over the main prerequisite, namely wanting to get “diplomacy normalization”, without fulfilling the demands contained in the concept of Arab Diplomacy. But for the UAE, the (temporary) cancellation of annexation is considered a logic with “land diplomacy”. Likewise with several other Arab countries that are Saudi stronghold (anti-Iran), as they have shown in the past few years. For this faction, peaceful diplomacy with Israel is still far better than having to be conquered or being under the shadow of Iranian rule, which continues to try to find a way to become a great power in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, for Israel, making peace with Palestine is almost impossible as long as Iran is behind Hamas who controls the day-to-day Palestinian politics. If Iran continues to develop new models of nuclear and missiles, then Israel is always in danger because Israel is within its reach, and Hamas, also Hezbollah will accept these missiles to aim at Israel. Against Israel, Iran only has one goal, namely to destroy Israel. Therefore, there will never be a direct peace with Palestine, as long as the Hamas, Fatah and Iranian-funded organizations rule in Palestine.

Iran (including Turkey) has financed almost all organizations categorized by international agencies as terrorists in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, including in Syria and Yemen. And the key to the network of all these Iranian proxy organizations was in the hands of  Qasim Soleimani. For this reason, Qasim had become the main target of the US, apart from the funds provided by the US in the Obama era as compensation for the delay in developing Iran’s nuclear weapons, which were used to finance these proxy organizations, which led Trump to leave the JCPOA in 2018. The purpose of these proxies is to build nearby points to attack or burn Israel. So the Iranian factor is the most powerful driving this new path of diplomacy between the UEA and Israel.

Indeed, to this day, the Abraham Accord is completely unrelated to the Arab Initiative’s 2002 points. So, how do we connect the Abraham Accord to the recognition of Palestinian sovereignty? If this question gives to the UAE and the US, as well as Israel, the answer would be “Muhammad Dahlan.” Palestine will be “on the table,” if Palestine, with all parties, Hamas, Fatah, PIJ, including acceptance of Hezbollah, and others, are willing to accept Muhamad Dahlan as Palestinian Prime Minister. He is a figure who is considered a good one for surfing between Palestine, Israel and America, especially with the UAE where he currently sits as an advisor to MbZ. Unfortunately, it will be hard to achieve.

About the Author
An International Political Economy and Strategic Analyst, A Senior Fellow at Indonesia Economic Action Institution/EconAct
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