The paragon of American journalism (I refer of course to “the newspaper of record,” The New York Times) has favored us with an op-ed authored by one Diana Buttu, who, we are told, is a Palestinian lawyer and a former advisor to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The piece carries the rather pessimistic headline: “The U.A.E.-Israel Flight Is Nothing to Celebrate,” and the even more gloomy subheading: “It’s a slap in the face of Palestinians, who can no longer count on Arab states for political support.” Put Ms. Buttu down as unhappy.
To my mind, there are two things that are particularly interesting about the Buttu op-ed. The first is this assertion: “Unlike the agreements Israel signed with Egypt and Jordan — to return land to those countries — the U.A.E. deal comes at no cost to Israel, which left many baffled as to why the U.A.E. would make such a move.” Ms. Buttu obviously is among the baffled. Well, I think I can help to remove her bafflement.
The government of the U.A.E. decided to establish diplomatic relations with Israel because it concluded that, taking all relevant considerations into account, the U.A.E. would have a better future if it had diplomatic relations with Israel than if it did not. That seems self-evidently correct, but what Ms. Buttu seems to be unable to grasp is the part about “taking all relevant considerations into account.”
In Ms. Buttu’s worldview, it seems that the one and only consideration Arab countries ought to consider is: how will the step we are contemplating affect the Palestinians? But, why would any rational government—particularly one that must survive in a very volatile, dangerous part of the world—limit itself to exactly one consideration and ignore all others?
The U.A.E., which is a majority-Sunni country separated from a majority-Shiite Iran only by the narrow width of the Persian Gulf, clearly takes those facts of religion and geography into consideration. Perhaps Ms. Buttu is unaware that there have been bloody conflicts between Sunni and Shiite countries through centuries, but the government of the U.A.E. is not unaware. The U.A.E. also knows that Israel and Iran are adversaries and that Israel is a major regional military power. Perhaps Ms. Buttu is familiar with the phrase, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? All those considerations should leave Ms. Buttu a little less baffled by the U.A.E.’s decision.
The second striking thing about Ms. Buttu’s op-ed—and, incidentally, about the editorial review that the NYT applied to her piece—is that she could write some 900 words primarily about Israeli/Palestinian relations without once using the word “Hamas”. This striking omission is also an important part of the reason Ms. Buttu was and is “baffled” by the U.A.E.’s decision.
The government of the U.A.E., like many fair-minded, careful observers of the Palestinian enterprise in self-government, is no doubt fully aware that Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization dedicated to the extinction of a majority-Jewish state in the Middle East, seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the Palestinian National Authority after a bloody confrontation. Mahmoud Abbas, whose 4-year term as president of the P.N.A. supposedly ended in 2009, has absolutely no control over Gaza; indeed, he has never set foot in Gaza since 2007.
Hamas and the other Islamist terrorist groups that are headquartered in and operate out of Gaza would simply chuckle at “President” Abbas if he were to display a “peace agreement” signed by him and Israel’s prime minister. Or, rather than chuckling, they would furiously accuse him of being a traitor to the Palestinian cause. The U.A.E. clearly understands all these facts. There is no point in waiting forever for a “peace agreement”. No rational country, including Israel, would ever sign a “peace agreement” with a Palestinian “president” who has no control over the terrorists who would have to lay down their arms if true peace were to be achieved.
Hamas forcibly ejected Abbas and his P.N.A. from Gaza. Will Abbas or any future leader of the P.N.A. have either the will or the capacity to eject Hamas and the other terrorist groups from Gaza? Abbas and his superannuated cronies seem to be very good at skimming off the top of generous international donations to the Palestinians, and Abbas is particularly adept when it comes to painfully boring addresses to the U.N. General Assembly and endlessly repeated threats to dismantle the P.N.A., but he lacks any other talents.
“The Palestinians” are, in reality, two separate political entities, not one. There are the Palestinians who live in Gaza and are governed by Hamas, and the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and are governed largely by the P.N.A. Until Hamas is eliminated from the picture, the idea that the P.N.A. can be a “partner for peace” is an illusion. You can’t be a partner for peace if you wouldn’t be able to deliver peace even if you wanted to, and the P.N.A. will never be able to deliver peace as long as Hamas controls Gaza.
Ms. Butto makes some vague references to a “one-state solution.” Yes, certainly: Israelis and Palestinians (including Hamas and the other Islamist terrorist groups currently garrisoned in Gaza) all together in one state. What could possibly go wrong?