MYTH: UAE betrayed the Palestinians by establishing relations with Israel.


credit: BBC

“I never expected this poison dagger to come from an Arab country,” Saeb Erekat complained after the UAE-Israel agreement was signed. “You are rewarding aggression. … You have destroyed, with this move, any possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis” (“Palestinians Say UAE Deal Hinders Quest for Mideast Peace,” AP, August 14, 2020).

The Abraham Accords also represents the most crushing defeat yet for the BDS movement, which issued a statement that said, “Palestinian civil society stands with the silenced majority in the United Arab Emirates and the Arab world in strongly condemning the agreement reached between the despotic rulers of the United Arab Emirates and Israel, with support from the Trump White House.”  It added, “This is the UAE regime’s gravest betrayal of the struggle for Palestinian liberation and self-determination” (“BDS slams Israeli-UAE deal,” WAFA, August 17, 2020).

These were common sentiments expressed by Palestinians following the announcement of the Abraham Accords.  The cries of betrayal rang hollow throughout most of the leaders in the Arab world, however, who have grown tired of sacrificing their interests for an unnecessary and unrequited commitment to the Palestinians.

Arab leaders once thought that withholding relations would force Israel to capitulate to Palestinian demands.  Alas, that has not worked for the last five decades. Meanwhile Arab leaders have grown fed up with supporting the Palestinians when their own recalcitrance has prevented any progress toward peace. Gulf states have also tired of acting as the Palestinians’ piggy bank, knowing most of the money they contribute is used for incentivizing terrorism and lining the pockets of Palestinian officials rather than improving the welfare of the public.

For so many years these leaders feared their people would violently protest and threaten their rule if they abandoned the Palestinian cause.  The people in those countries, who have a low opinion of the Palestinians as a people to begin with, have become equally frustrated with their unwillingness to compromise after being offered a state by Israel in 2000 and 2008, and by Trump in 2020.  They even refused to negotiate under the auspices of Barack Obama, who along with Jimmy Carter (under whom they rejected autonomy), was the most pro-Palestinian president in history.

Arab leaders, such as the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), have witnessed the lack of response from their people as Palestinians called for protests over Israeli actions and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.  This should put to rest the myth that the “Arab street” will erupt and threaten their regimes over abandoning the Palestinians or any actions taken by the United States or Israel.  Most people in the region have reconciled themselves with Israel’s existence.

It was therefore not surprising that MBZ was so disinterested in Palestinian opinion that he didn’t give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas any advance notice of his plans (Anshel Pfeffer, “Don’t Compare MBZ and Bibi to Sadat and Begin – the UAE-Israel Deal Is Much Bigger Than Peace,” Haaretz, August 17, 2020).

The truth is there has never been a reason for the UAE to let its interests be held hostage by the Palestinians.  Their problem has nothing to do with the UAE or any other country except perhaps Jordan whose population is mostly Palestinian, and King Hussein still made peace with Israel.  Anwar Sadat gave lip service to the Palestinian cause but put Egypt’s interests first when he signed its treaty with Israel.

The UAE shares no borders and has never gone to war with Israel.  Emiratis have no reason for antagonism toward Israelis.  They do, however, have overlapping interests in trade, technology, halting the spread of COVID-19 and, most important, preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon or becoming a regional hegemon.  The same is true for the other Gulf states who now have no excuse not to follow the UAE’s example.  If they do, perhaps the Palestinians will realize they are isolated and cannot expect anyone to save them from themselves.

1 In 1959, for example, Israel complained that two countries (Liberia was one) moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in response to US pressure. In 2002, Congress passed a law that said that American citizens who wished to do so could have “Israel” listed as their birthplace on US passports. The State Department, however, refused to do so. The parents of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, an American citizen born in Jerusalem, sued the State Department to force the government to enforce the law. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which held that the president has an exclusive power of recognition, and, therefore, Congress may not require the State Department to indicate in passports that Jerusalem is part of Israel. “Dismayed: U.S. Court Refuses to Enforce U.S. Law Granting Jerusalem-Born U.S. Citizens Right to Have ‘Israel’ Listed on Official Documents,” Zionist Organization of America (July 15, 2009); instruction from the Department of State to all diplomatic posts, February 20, 1959, in FRUS, 1958–60, vol. 13, 147; memorandum of conversation, March 9, 1959, in FRUS, 1958–60, vol. 13, 151–52; “Supreme Court Strikes Down ‘Born in Jerusalem’ Passport Law,” Associated Press (June 8, 2015).

2Arieh Avneri, The Claim of Dispossession, (NJ: Transaction Books, 1984), p. 272; Kedar, Benjamin. The Changing Land Between the Jordan and the Sea. (Israel: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Press, 1999), p. 206; Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, (NY: Harper & Row, 1987), p. 529.

Published at Jewish Virtual Library : Myths and Facts

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