One of the most desired results of any peace agreement between two countries or entities is the normalization of relations between the parties. Thus, after the Iron Curtain fell in the late 1980s, people, goods, business and trade flooded in both directions with much good will. Similarly, since the end of WWII, relations between the former Allies and Germany and Japan are excellent. Of course it didn’t happen immediately, but the will was there, and the results can be seen today.
The situation with Israel, the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours is different. Looking at the persistently failing “peace process” with the Palestinians, the blog FirstOneThrough explains that the reason for the failure is that the Palestinians regard the peace process as more of a divorce process:
Summary: The gap in resolving the long running Israel-Palestinian Question has to do with the goals of each party: the Israelis believe they have been engaged in a peace process between peoples while the Palestinians are negotiating a divorce settlement between countries.
The author describes the invalidity and hypocrisy of the “settlements” argument: even a Jewish Israeli buying an existing apartment (thereby not adding any buildings to Judea & Samaria) is considered a “complication” to the peace process. Why should a Jew living in what might become Arab territory be a complication when Israel itself survives very well with a 20% Arab population?
This invalid argument is buttressed even by the US, not to mention the EU and UN:
The article described a man who purchased an abandoned building and surrounding property: “Leftist Israeli politicians and advocacy groups have reacted with alarm, suspecting a new settlement in the occupied West Bank [a NYT term] that would further complicate the peace process.”
This statement is similar to the rebuke of the Obama administration to Jews buying and moving into homes they own in Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem. As detailed in the FirstOneThrough article “Obama supports Anti-Semitic Palestinian Agenda of Jew-Free State,” the Obama administration condemned Jews for legally buying homes and becoming neighbors in an Arab neighborhood east of the Green Line, referring to such basic act of living as a provocation.
And therein lies the basic gap in understanding the actions, intentions and goals of the two sides.
The primary stated goals of the negotiations were to get to a peace based on two states:
As part of making peace with Palestinian Arabs, Israel has stated it will enable a new state of Palestine to be created. For their part, the Palestinian Arabs are interested in their new state to be self-governing and to not deal with Israeli Jews. Israel has focused on peace with the people; Palestinians have focused on separation of the people. Two states living side-by-side in peace is not the same as two people living side-by-side in peace.
A peace process is best established with various personal, commercial and governmental relationships and dealings. Such interactions would enable the parties to navigate ongoing thorny issues like water rights and security. It would enable partnerships to develop tourism and the economy.
Palestinian Divorce Proceedings
When Israel captured the area east of the Green Line in 1967 after it was attacked by the Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs, it rescinded the Jordanian ban on Jews living in the area (from 1949-67). Israel allowed Jews to live and establish themselves in the region once again where they bought existing houses next to Arabs, built new houses, and created new companies.
All of which, made the Palestinian Arabs angry.
The Palestinians do not want Jewish neighbors in a new state. Acting President Abbas made very clear his intention when he declared “we will not see the presence of a single Israeli – soldier or civilian – on our lands.”
The Palestinians do not want any Jewish businesses in a new state….
Palestinians think Jews have no rights to buy or live anywhere in the land …
The Palestinians reject the legitimacy of Israel itself …
The Palestinians are not looking for peace with Israel, nor are they seeking peace with Jews. They view the presence of both in the entire holy land as illegitimate. Their goals are to completely separate themselves from Israel and Jews in their own state, and to reestablish a majority Arab presence inside of Israel. Within their new country, the Palestinians do not want a single Israeli person or business. Inside of Israel, they want millions of Arabs that are second and third generation removed from Arabs that once lived in the land, to specifically move to Israel because they feel that such land is also Arab land which Jews took illegally.
That is why Jewish “settlements” east of the Green Line are inaccurately called obstacles to a “peace process.”
The Palestinian anti-normalization process reached absurd heights this week when the Palestinian “president-for-life” Abbas urged Palestinians not to accept Israeli permits to travel to the Al Aqsa Mosque for Ramadan!
I’m sure you can all imagine the uproar if Israel had refused to grant such permits.
This anti-normalization process is actively encouraged by the bigots of the BDS movement as well as Western governments, well-meaning or otherwise. The esteemed Douglas Murray of the Gatestone Institute details The Bigotry of Our Time in the wake of a call (by the usual suspects – anti-Israel activists and their “as-a-Jew” fellow travellers) to boycott an Israel Film Festival in London this week:
- These people, step by step, want to make every expression of Israeli and Jewish cultural life subject to their idea of how a nation under constant threat of terrorist bombardment should behave.
- They denounce Israel as a militaristic society and then attempt to outlaw every non-militaristic cultural and artistic expression from that society.
Despite it being cloaked in the “halo” language of do-gooders, these BDS bigots are anti-normalization as much as the Palestinian leadership. Anything that might enable Israel to exist and interact with the community of nations in a normal fashion is to be disallowed and boycotted.
Honest Reporting brings us a further example of the Palestinians’ rejectionism as a further example of anti-normalziation:
How can the same people who blew up innocent civilians in cafes and buses have the gall to claim Nelson Mandela’s legacy?
As the Christian Science Monitor aptly pointed out, the Palestinians embrace of Mandela’s mantle is very, very limited.
But much of Palestinians’ praise is for how Mandela pushed back against an apartheid regime, rather than on how he embraced the language, literature, and leaders of that regime in a search for national reconciliation.
After the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Mandela famously donned Springbok gear to present a trophy to the Afrikaaner team. South Africans still talk about it as a big moment in national reconciliation.
Reconciliation? Mandela would’ve been run out of Ramallah for using that dirty word.
In the wider Arab world there already exist peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. Nevertheless it is a cold peace that reigns. Normalization is not only frowned upon but actively discouraged, as much by the local populace as by by the governments themselves. This is not to denigrate the peace such as it is. Anything that avoids war and bloodshed and combats terrorism is to be encouraged, but the situation leaves a lot to be desired.
Lately however, with the enormous turmoil and violence in the Arab world, some Arab countries are beginning to wake up. Under the table, relations between Israel and Jordan are thawing as this Ynet report on the hidden fruits of Israel-Jordan peace shows. This goes together with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s call for reform in Islam, and Egyptian journalist Majed Farag’s call for normalization with Israel.
A Saudi journalist has allowed that handshakes between Israelis and Saudis have become accepted practice since Oslo:
The handshake, at a June 4, 2015 Washington conference, between Saudi Gen. (ret.) Anwar ‘Eshqi, who served for years as a senior adviser to the Saudi kingdom, and incoming Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold stirred criticism of Saudi Arabia in the Arab media and on social media. Critics charged that the handshake was a step towards normalization with Israel. [The handshake took place at this meeting -Ed.]
Responding to these accusations, columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat Daoud Al-Shiryan, who is also former editor of Alarabiya.net, wrote that Saudi Arabia’s detractors are hypocrites. He noted that other senior Arab officials, who had also shaken hands with senior Israeli officials, had not received similar treatment, and claimed that those attacking Saudi Arabia were members of the resistance axis and were therefore deliberately “playing up” the incident in order to distract media attention from the resistance axis’ debacles and failures.
Yes, it sounds pathetic that something as minor as a handshake can be the source of so much controversy, but the Arab world, especially the Saudis, are so slow-moving that this step forward should be encouraged.
Moreover, Dahham el Enazi, a Saudi journalist has tweeted that he wishes to be the first Saudi ambassador to Israel:
“I want a Saudi Arabian embassy to be established in Tel Aviv,” Enazi tweeted on his official Twitter account, adding that “I want Saudi General and strategist Anwar Ashki to be the first ambassador to Israel and I will be happy to replace him as the second ambassador.”
Shortly after Enazi posted this week, the hashtag #NotoanEmbassyinIsrael began trending. Many using the hashtag called supposed proponents of a Saudi embassy in Israel “Arab Zionists.”
But Enazi did not back down. He said in a follow-up tweet that he would “welcome Israel’s embassy in Riyadh,” the Saudi capital.
The background to Enazi’s comment was the increased threat that the reporter felt directed at the Saudi Arabia from what he repeatedly termed “the Iranian enemy.” In earlier tweets he said that “our goal is the expulsion of the Iranian enemy from Arab countries and destroying their [nuclear program].”
But it was not Saudi Arabia alone that Enazi expected to establish relations with Israel. “It would be best for all of the countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to completely cut off relations with the Iranian enemy and to establish normal relations between Israel and the Arab countries,” Enazi tweeted.
Relations with Israel were more natural than those with Iran, Enazi opined. “The Israelis are our cousins, and are closer to the Arabs than the Persians,” tweeted Enazi, “and they possess a Divine religion,” though in another tweet he said that Judaism was “corrupted,” while positing that Israelis were “more honorable” than Iranians.
Compared to Israelis, “Iran is an impure race and a lying unjust country operating under the name of religion.” Because of that, “Tel Aviv’s embassy is better than Tehran’s,” he argued.
Enazi has a little bit of a gap in his education however:
Enazi also seemed to display some confusion, attacking Iran’s expansionism in the region as a, “Ziofarsi Project,” a portmanteau of Zionist and Farsi, which means Persian.
And maybe his ulterior motives are still suspect:
Additionally, it seemed that to Enazi, cooperating with Israel against Tehran might be a first step to a final Israeli-Arab showdown over Palestine. He tweeted, “Arab political thinkers understand well that freeing Palestine starts in Tehran. We have to destroy Iran’s power first and stemming its danger, then freeing ourselves for peace with Israel, or war.”
Nevertheless Enazi joins a list of Saudi personalities who have called in recent months for some sort of rapprochement with Israel. Maybe this is the first dawning of a change of mind in the Arab world.
One thing we can be certain of is that without normalization there can never be a proper peace.