Palestinians burn pictures depicting Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and former Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan, during a protest against the United Arab Emirates’ deal with Israel to normalise relations, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman / NTB

Will the Palestinian leadership apologize to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for accusing them of betraying the Palestinians and Arabs by signing peace agreements with Israel?

Last week, the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by President Mahmoud Abbas, in a surprise move, announced that it has decided to restore all relations with Israel, including security coordination between the PA security forces and the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.

Abbas also owes Palestinians an apology because his decision to sever ties with Israel deprived Palestinian patients — except for another prominent Palestinian leader, Saeb Erekat — from receiving medical treatment in Israel. The decision also deprived thousands of Palestinians from receiving full salaries: Abbas had refused to accept tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

In addition, the PA decided to return its Palestinian ambassadors to Bahrain and the UAE after recalling them for consultations to protest the peace agreements between the two countries and Israel.

The PA leadership had accused the UAE and Bahrain of stabbing the Palestinians in the back and “betraying the Palestinian people, Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque” by agreeing to establish relations with Israel. Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem had demonstrated against the normalization agreements by burning flags of Bahrain and the UAE and pictures of the rulers of the two countries.

Ironically, some Palestinians are now accusing the PA leadership of hypocrisy and “stabbing the Palestinian people in the back” by restoring relations with Israel. Several Palestinians and Arabs took to social media to demand sarcastically that the PA withdraw its ambassador from Ramallah to protest its own decision to “normalize” relations with Israel.

The PA leadership’s decision to restore ties with Israel and return the Palestinian ambassadors to the UAE and Bahrain is viewed by some Palestinians as an apparent attempt to cozy up to a possible new US administration under the presumptive new President-elect Joe Biden. Abbas is also most likely hoping that in return, the US and some Gulf states will resume pouring money into the PA coffers — for a start.

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While a Biden administration may be happy about the Palestinian gestures, Arabs in the Gulf are demanding an apology from PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership. These Arabs are demanding to know why it is all right for the Palestinians to renew their ties with Israel, but not all right for Bahrain and the UAE to sign peace treaties with Israel?

Bahraini political analyst Abdullah Al-Junaid, addressing Abbas, wrote:

“Your Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas, as a citizen of the Arab Gulf states, I welcome the decision to return Palestinian ambassadors to Manama and Abu Dhabi, but you must immediately issue a formal statement of apology to all citizens of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for your statements and insults against us.”

Al-Junaid pointed out that Abbas chaired a meeting of Palestinian factions in September to condemn and hurl insults at the Arabs of the Gulf and their leaders.

“Since the 1960s, the children of the Gulf states used to contribute their daily allowances to support the Palestinians,” Al-Junaid noted. In return, he added, the Palestinian leaders have shown nothing but contempt for the Gulf people:

“You accused us of selling Jerusalem and the Palestinian people, while you return to your security understandings with Israel without issuing an explanatory statement to the Palestinian public, let alone the Arabs. This was followed by the return of the [Palestinian] ambassadors to Abu Dhabi and Manama without any shame or the issuance of a statement of apology on your behalf. I am not concerned with your internal affairs, Mr. President, but any attack against a Gulf citizen is a matter that is no longer acceptable. You must publicly and personally apologize for what you have done to us.”

Al-Junaid and other Gulf Arabs called for boycotting the PA leadership until Abbas issues an apology for having insulted and the Gulf states and incited their citizens to revolt against the rulers of the UAE and Bahrain.

Emirati writer Turki Hasher demanded that the PA leadership apologize before sending the Palestinian ambassadors back to Bahrain and the UAE. The Palestinian leadership, he said, has finally admitted that the withdrawal of the ambassadors was a mistake. “But I do not think that bringing them back will be so simple because there needs to be an official apology for this hasty decision, which reflects confusion and mismanagement,” Hasher wrote.

Kuwaiti political analyst Mohammed Al-Mulla wondered why all those who had condemned the UAE and Bahrain for signing peace treaties with Israel were now silent over the Palestinian leadership’s decision to renew relations with Israel:

“We heard about the threats and intimidation from all the Palestinian factions and Islamist parties on the subject of peace agreements between the Gulf states and Israel. But where are they today with regards to Palestinian-Israeli normalization?”

Emirati social media user BintUAE1900 replied: “They [the Palestinians] were trampling on the pictures of our leaders. But we have not seen them trampling on the pictures of Abbas.”

Some Gulf Arabs responded to the PA leadership’s decision to restore ties with Israel by calling for the expulsion of the Palestinian ambassadors to the Gulf states and boycotting Palestinian products.

Another Kuwaiti writer, Abdel Muhsen Husseini, said that he found it strange that while the Palestinian leadership denounced the normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, it welcomed its own decision to restore Palestinian relations with the Israelis.

Noting that the PA leadership’s decision was tantamount to normalization with Israel, Abdel Muhsen wrote that the Palestinians remain divided due to the ongoing dispute between Abbas’s Fatah faction in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. According to Muhsen:

“The Palestinians have wasted efforts and time without taking a step to complete the Palestinian project to establish a Palestinian state… [Former PLO leader] Yasser Arafat wasted all Palestinian efforts and always raised his hand with the slogan of victory, but he was unable to achieve anything.”

Recently, the Gulf Cooperation Council demanded an apology from Abbas and other Palestinian leaders for their “irresponsible rhetoric, incitement and threats” against the Gulf countries that signed peace treaties with Israel. Abbas and the PA leadership, however, have chosen to ignore the demand.

The Palestinian leadership has soared to yet greater heights of hypocrisy. In Arabic, its decision to send the Palestinian ambassadors back to the UAE and Bahrain is called “wakaha” (effrontery). The Palestinian decision to renew ties with Israel comes at a time when the Palestinian media is continuing to condemn other Arabs for engaging in normalization with Israel. The next time the Palestinian leadership accuses Arabs of stabbing the Palestinians in the back, Abbas and his officials will first need to take a good look in the mirror and see that their earlier deceptions are no longer their present deceptions.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

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