Dr. Bishara Bahbah has a featured post that might have been dictated from outer space, but certainly was not written by anyone who has even a casual familiarity with realities on planet Earth.
He begins with the unequivocal, unqualified assertion that “Saudi Arabia views the resolution of the Palestine question as central to any normalization agreement with Israel.” He then goes on, with equal certainty, to list the terms of what he classifies as a “realistic”—as opposed to “ideal”—agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. This so-called realistic agreement, says Dr. Bahbah, would be a prerequisite of any agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel—no Israeli/Palestinian agreement means no Saudi Arabia/Israel normalization agreement.
I’ll begin with the claim that settling the Israeli/Palestinian dispute is “central” to Saudi Arabia’s diplomacy with Israel. I’m not sure Dr. Bahbah has noticed, but the reality is that several Arab countries that used to be in an actual state of war with Israel—Egypt and Jordan, to be specific—have entered into peace treaties with Israel, without requiring as a prerequisite a deal between Israelis and Palestinians. And Egypt and Jordan were among the countries that embraced the “three noes”—no peace with, no negotiations with, and no recognition of, Israel.
So, over time, key Arab nations have changed their minds about whether they will enter into agreements with Israel, and those changes transpired without any final resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian question. Saudi Arabia seems to be in the process of changing its mind. Even without a formal agreement, news reports regularly disclose growing cooperation on many fronts between Saudi Arabia and Israel, in large part because both countries have qualms about and antipathy towards the government of Iran.
Moreover, the Abraham accords between Israel and the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Morocco (and a “frozen” agreement with Sudan) are additional concrete markers of advancing diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab countries. And all those accords were agreed to without any final resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian question.
The late Yasser Arafat addressed the General Assembly of the U.N. in 1988, and he said: “No one here would dispute the fact that the Palestine problem is the paramount problem of our contemporary world.” I believe that, in 1988, it was foolish to think of the Israeli/Palestinian issue as the world’s “paramount problem.” But, in any event, I know for a fact that in 2023 no one but a very blinkered Palestinian would say that that issue is the “paramount problem of our contemporary world.”
The world has moved on, and peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, together with the Abraham Accords, demonstrate just how far along things have moved. Palestinian intransigence has generated Palestinian irrelevance.
Now to Dr. Bahbah’s list of the terms that his “realistic” agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would include. There are fourteen items on his list. I was struck by item number 2:
A comprehensive security agreement between Israeli and Palestinian forces with the likely assistance of the United States, the EU, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
What are, and who controls, the “Palestinian forces” that are to enter into a comprehensive security agreement with Israeli forces?
We are familiar with the I.D.F. and we know who commands that force. But, do the “Palestinian forces” include Hamas and other terrorist groups garrisoned in Gaza? Do the “Palestinian forces” include terrorist groups that are now becoming more active in the West Bank?
And does Dr. Bahbah seriously believe that, if Mahmoud Abbas—who is now in the eighteenth (18th) year of his four (4) year term as president of the Palestinian National Authority—were to order Hamas and the other terrorist groups to lay down their arms, the terrorists would obey Abbas’s order? Only in fantasyland would that happen. Are soldiers from the U.S., the E.U., Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia going to storm Gaza and forcibly disarm, and if necessary kill, thousands of gunmen entrenched there? Never in a million years.
So, the “realistic agreement” between Israelis and Palestinians that supposedly is a prerequisite to any agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia hinges upon an event that is, from every practical perspective, an impossibility. Hamas and its affiliated terrorist groups would never comply with an order from Mahmoud Abbas to lay down their arms. The U.S., the E.U., Jordan, etc., will never sacrifice substantial numbers of their soldiers in a bloody battle to pacify Gaza.
The plain truth (never mentioned or even implicitly acknowledged by Dr, Bahbah) is that the Palestinians do not have a government. Rather, they have two governments: one in the disputed territories of the West Bank, and one in Gaza. The Palestinians who pose the greatest threat to Israelis are terrorists located in Gaza, and Abbas has zero control over them. No agreement Abbas or the P.N.A. signs with Israel will bring peace, because Abbas has no control whatsoever over the gunmen in Gaza who are bent on war. That is the real world, not fantasyland.
In a few weeks, it will be the middle of September and His Excellency, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Observer State of Palestine, will for the umpty-umpth time be addressing the General Assembly of the U.N. Last year, His Excellency informed the Assembly and the whole world that present-day Palestinians are direct descendants of the Canaanites of biblical times. This year, he’ll probably be disclosing a new discovery: Adam and Eve were the first Palestinians (after they clothed their nakedness, each of them fastened a “key” pin to their loincloth). And nothing will change.