Ever since the normalization deals were reached between Israel on the one hand, and Bahrain & the United Arab Emirates on the other, countless pundits have claimed that this isn’t “real peace.” Even those in favor of the deals repeatedly state that the Jewish state has had covert ties with the UAE and Bahrain for years, is far away from both countries, and has never been at war with them. What’s more, they add that there can’t be real Middle East peace without engaging the Palestinians. Yet this is the exact opposite of the truth.
Nearly every conflict or war in modern Middle Eastern history has in some way involved the Palestinians. The Arab Uprising against the British occupation forces in Mandatory Palestine–as well as their pogrom campaign against the Jewish yishuv–was started by them. The Arab violence directed against Jewish communities all across the region was “in support of Palestine.” The Arab region siding with the Nazi Regime was to “cleanse Palestine of Zionists.” Israel’s War of Independence and the Six-Day War were all fought in the name of defending “Palestinian rights.” To a lesser extent, so were the 1973 and 2006 Middle East wars. The First Lebanon War of 1982 was in response to a years-long Palestinian terror campaign against Israel. The Palestinians had arrived in Lebanon–and played a devastating role in that country’s civil war–after failing to launch a violent coup against the Jordanian monarchy in 1970. The 1991 Gulf War was also fought largely with the excuse of “liberating Palestine.” The 2 Palestinian intifadas, the 2007 Gaza coup, the three Gaza wars, and the constant campaigns of terror emanating from the Palestinian territories have all been fought in the name of “ending the occupation.”In the Arab Spring and the subsequent civil wars that have erupted, various actors–Iran, Turkey, the Houthis, Qatar, Hezbollah, the Assad regime, Shiite militias–have claimed that they are acting in the name of securing Palestinian interests. This is not even to mention the various terror attacks that have occurred throughout the world in protest of “the occupation.” If anything, the Middle East has not seen peace due to the Palestinians.
For 18 years, the Arab World stubbornly refused to accept peace with Israel until it granted the Palestinians a state on disputed land. This was true (with the exception of behind-the-scenes cooperation, or peace deals with Egypt and Jordan) despite the Iranian, Turkish, and jihadist devouring of Arab countries. Swathes of Libya and Syria have been reconquered by Ankara. Iran has turned Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza, and much of Syria into its own “near-abroad.” ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Shiite paramilitaries all enjoy the backing of Qatar, Turkey, Iran, or, previously, Gulf countries, and have devastated much of the region. Turkey is seeking, alongside Qatar, to increase its influence in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas. All of this has happened as Israel grew wealthier, more stable and more powerful. Still, until this summer, the Arab World refused to break rank with the Palestinians. Now that all has changed.
It would be wonderful if the Palestinians decided that their newfound isolation was enough of an impetus to restart negotiations with Israel, and resume relations with America. But why should we hold our collective breath? Thus far, the Palestinians have refused every peace deal that was put forth, often without submitting a counteroffer. These negotiations all came to an end with a war or an intifada. Israeli victories against these campaigns resulted in nothing but more Palestinian intransigence, more dead and injured, and a poorer economy in Ramallah and Gaza City. It brings nothing but more destruction and death to Israel, while tarnishing the country’s image. The Palestinian leadership thus far has been able to accomplish neither unity nor democracy. It is pointless and false to think peace is possible only with Palestinian consent, and to wait around forever. It is in Israel’s best interests–along with the Western World and the Middle East at large–to forge peace and leave them behind until they are ready to make concessions and talk seriously. With the threats of climate change, COVID-19, terrorism, and poverty, there is simply too much at stake to risk by waiting around forever. By ignoring and sidelining those who have inspired most conflicts in the region and are most upset by normalization, peace can blossom throughout the Middle East.