Arab foreign ministers and delegation members attend the annual Arab League meeting in Cairo, Egypt September 10, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/NTB scanpix
The Palestinians have recalled their ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in protest of the signing of the peace deals between the two Gulf states and Israel. The Palestinians are now threatening to withdraw their envoys from any Arab country that follows suits and establishes relations with Israel.
In addition, several Palestinian factions have urged the Palestinian leadership to withdraw from the Arab League to protest the refusal of the Arab countries to condemn normalization with Israel. Earlier this month, the Arab League foreign ministers refused to endorse a Palestinian draft resolution condemning the UAE for its decision to make peace with Israel.
«The resolutions of the Arab League are mortgaged to the Zionist American administration,» the factions said in a statement. «Normalization [with Israel] is a huge betrayal of the Palestinian issue and a stab to the sacrifices and pain of the Palestinians and Arabs.»
The threats to pull out from the Arab League and withdraw Palestinian ambassadors from Arab countries that establish relations with Israel have sparked mockery and a flurry of critical comments in the Arab world, particularly the Gulf states. The main theme of the criticism: The Palestinian do not learn from their mistakes.
The Arab criticism, directed mostly against the leaders of the Palestinians, is yet another indication of the growing antagonism between the Palestinians and the Arab world. At this pace, Palestinians might wake up one morning to discover that they no longer have any friends in the Arab countries at all.
Many Arabs are outraged by the Palestinian threats, as well as the daily attacks on the UAE and Bahrain. These include accusations that the two Gulf states have «betrayed Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue» by agreeing to establish relations with Israel. The Arabs are also reminding the Palestinians of the many opportunities they missed when they rejected a number of peace initiatives and plans.
Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah expressed outrage over the Palestinians’ labelling of the signing ceremony of the Israel-UAE-Bahrain deals at the White House as a «black day.»
Khairallah pointed out that the Palestinians refer to their expulsion from Jordan in the early 1970s as «Black September.» At the time, he said, a Palestinian breakaway faction by that name tried to establish a state-within-a-state in Jordan and murder Jordan’s King Hussein. The king, after his defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, had allowed the PLO to establish military bases in his kingdom, presumably to attack Israel. When the Palestinians, however, tried to overthrow the Jordanian government, he expelled them to Lebanon. There, they participated in the Lebanese civil war that began in 1975 and continued launching terror attacks against Israel. In 1982, after Israel led an invasion into Lebanon, the Palestinians were again expelled — to Tunisia.
«Fifty years after ‘Black September,’ or call it whatever you like, nothing has changed,» Khairallah wrote.
«The Palestinian leaders are refusing to learn from past experiences. The Palestinian armed organizations have repeated Jordan’s experience in Lebanon. They played a role in destroying Lebanon [during the civil war]. Would the Palestinian issue have benefited had the Palestinian organizations managed in 1970 to overthrow King Hussein?»
Khairallah noted that that former PLO leader Yasser Arafat made a «huge mistake» in 1990 when he took a stance in support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which had peacefully been hosting nearly half a million Palestinian workers. After Kuwait was liberated by the US-led coalition in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, regarded as disloyal, were deported from Kuwait and other Gulf states.
«Yasser Arafat did not learn from the experiences of Jordan and Lebanon,» he added.
«It was expected that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] would have learned from the mistakes of Yasser Arafat and from the mistakes of the experiences of Jordan and Lebanon, but he took the worst of Yasser Arafat. Half a century after what Palestinians call ‘Black September,’ nothing has changed. The Palestinians still have the ability to make the same mistakes.» (Al-Arab, September 20, 2020)
Saudi political analyst Sami al-Morshid pointed out that the Palestinian leadership has in the past rejected several peace initiatives and treaties. Each time the Palestinians do this, al-Morshid said, «they lose.»
«Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders, repeat the same mistakes. They rejected the Egyptian and Jordan peace initiatives [with Israel], and they rejected US President Bill Clinton’s peace initiative [at the 2000 Camp David summit]. These days, they reject President Donald Trump’s peace initiative and, finally, they reject the peace initiatives of the UAE and Bahrain.»
Iraqi writer Farouk Youssef said that the Palestinians’ problem is that their leaders do not want a Palestinian state. «The Palestinians failed to establish their state,» Youssef remarked.
‘They failed because they did not want to establish a state. Here I mean the political leaders, some of whom still insist on repeating revolutionary phrases. The establishment of a Palestinian state will be a burden on the Palestinian leaders and will prevent them from practicing corruption. The Palestinians need to realize that the others were tired. The Authority is no longer suitable to represent the Palestinian people.» (Al-Arabiya, September 19, 2020)
Egyptian journalist Imad Adeeb wrote that if he were the Palestinian leadership, he would have distanced himself from Qatar, Turkey and Iran. Adeeb also advised the Palestinian leaders to avoid using the language of insults and slander against Arabs:
«If I were one of the Palestinian leaders, I would have abandoned the policy intransigence and the use of the language of insult, slander, and incitement… If I were the Palestinian leadership, I would have taken advantage of the UAE peace initiative. If I were from the Palestinian leadership, I would not have played the game of Qatar, Turkey and Iran against the moderate Arab states.» (Al-Watan, September 8, 2020)
Saudi writer Yusef al-Qabalan also accused Palestinian leaders of repeatedly rejecting peace initiatives over the past few decades. Noting that the Palestinians had failed to take advantage of the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted in 2002 by the Arab leaders, al-Qabalan wrote:
«The realistic choice for the Palestinian leaders was to activate that Arab initiative in all political ways at the international level. What happened? The Palestinian leaders met the peace initiatives with rhetoric of betrayal and slogans that do not achieve anything on the ground. The Palestinian leaders turned to the traffickers of their issue, such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar and lost their strongest card, which is national unity. Palestinian leaders failed to invest in opportunities. They failed to take strategic decisions and chose [instead] to forge an alliance with Iran.» (Al-Riyadh, September 18, 2020)
UAE Islamic cleric Wassem Yousef, addressing the Palestinians and other Arabs who reject peace with Israel, wrote on Twitter:
«Israel did not destroy Syria; Israel did not burn Libya; Israel did not displace the people of Egypt; Israel did not destroy Libya, and Israel did not tear up Lebanon. Before you Arabs blame Israel, take a look at yourselves in the mirror. The problem is in you.»
Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, are ignoring the messages and advice from their Arab brothers. The Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip do not like to be reminded of their mistakes. Moreover, they are unwilling to accept any advice, even when it comes from Arab states that used to pour billions of dollars on them. The biggest losers, of course, are again the Palestinians — who are quickly losing the sympathy of a growing number of Arabs.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.