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The importance of the PA’s response to normalisation

Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi (C), visiting Al-Aqsa mosques compound in Arab east Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock mosque seen in the backgroundWest Bank [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images]

Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi justified the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his country by saying that the Sultanate is proposing ideas to help the Palestinian and Israeli sides reconcile, but that it is not playing the role of mediator.

This confirms that the official Arab discourse has not yet reached the stage of unilateral politics with the occupying power, at least in the public discourse, by adopting the national interests of the state, in isolation from Palestine and its cause. This is because the Arab masses still condemn normalisation with Israel, especially because it has not yet met the minimum Arab demands outlined in the Arab Initiative, announced at the Arab Summit in Beirut 2002. We say this, although Alawi said that the Palestinian cause is the basis of all the problems that have occurred over the last half of the last century and that the time has come to seriously think about getting rid of the problems that prevent the region’s countries from development their deserve. These statements have become monotonous and have been repeated a lot lately, suggesting that the Palestinian cause is a burden on the other Arabs that they have had to make great sacrifices as a result, and that now is the time that they rest.

Are Arab nations normalising their relation with Israel...- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Are Arab nations normalising their relation with Israel…- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

This is happening at a time when the Palestinian issue is at its most dangerous stage compared to the past. The seriousness of the situation is becoming more grave given the current American-Israeli relationship and the unequivocal support expressed by US President Donald Trump and his representatives, such as Ambassador David Friedman.

Friedman has reiterated the right of Israel to build settlements in the West Bank, which he considers to be Israeli land. Meanwhile, US peace process envoy, Jason Greenblatt, has issued a direct threat to the Palestinians in Gaza, warning them against their continued fight against the occupation and its settlers, and stipulating that any improvement in the Gaza Strip would only occur after complete calm.

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The Palestinians rejected Oman’s invitation to resume negotiations on the basis of the presence of a right-wing government. The Palestinians have expressed their willingness to engage in immediate bilateral negotiations with Israel, but without American mediation and on the condition that a good foundation is laid for this. The importance of the Palestinian response to this increased after Yusuf Bin Alawi expressed his country’s support for Trump’s peace plan, the “deal of the century”, after saying that they feel very optimistic towards this suggestion to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said Oman considered the solution to be beneficial for both the Israelis and Palestinians.

This is an unprecedented Arab position in terms of its publicity and explicitness, even though there were practical and verbal Arab positions, as well as leaks of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government being involved in the deal. Such leaks include the one reported in the New York Times regarding the audio leaks revealing Al-Sisi’s implicit agreement with Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, move its embassy there, and promote Ramallah as an alternate capital. Did Oman look at the deal of the century clauses (although they have not yet been officially announced? If Oman has seen the confirmed clauses, we must receive confirmation that they are not unfair and violate basic Palestinian and Arab rights, as stated by Israeli media sources. Haaretz stressed that the recent leaks regarding the “deal of the century” revealed talk of an incomplete Palestinian state and require Israel to withdraw from a fourth or fifth of the villages in occupied east and west Jerusalem, including Shuafat, Jabal Al-Mukaber, Issawyiya and Abu Dis, and to consider Abu Dis the capital of the Palestinian state. Meanwhile, the occupied Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque will remain under occupation.

Situation of Arabs regarding Jerusalem - Cartoon [Al Araby Al Jadeed]

Situation of Arabs regarding Jerusalem – Cartoon [AlAraby AlJadeed/Twitter]

The newspaper also added that Israel has not demanded anything other than the withdrawal from the four or five neighbourhoods without affecting any of the settlements inside and outside the Separation Wall. This means also keeping the settlements spread across the West Bank. The Palestinians specifically, as well as any of those involved or monitoring the situation, are well aware of what Netanyahu and the right-wing radical and extremist Israeli parities are gaining from this Arab hosting and public warm welcomes, especially in the upcoming elections. This would reassure Israeli voters regarding the soundness of the right-wing approach, which turns its back on any real political solutions and to a Palestinian state, only accepting self-governance for the Palestinians.

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This is what Netanyahu recently stated, stipulating that the security in the West Bank and on the border with Jordan remain in the hands of the occupation and its army. Meanwhile, the army is moving towards Judaising and settling in Jerusalem, topping it off with the Nation-State bill, which does not recognise any other people on the land of Palestine, which it considers to be Israeli land, other than the Jewish people. Accordingly, only the Jewish nation has the right to self-determination in the country. This poses a danger not only to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also those in the territories occupied in 1948, targeting their identity and their existence in the future. This is especially true if Netanyahu demonstrates the success of his right-wing policy through these advanced and open Arab relations.

On the other hand, Oman and others are aware of the danger of bypassing Palestine, and this is evident in Oman’s comments regarding receiving the Israeli prime minister and its attempts to link the visit to the peace process and the security of the Palestinians. This is also evident in the fact that the Arab states preceded this advanced normalisation measure at this particular time with this particular Israeli leader, with a visit from the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

As for the official Palestinian position, it refuses to resume negotiations with Israel and declares its absolute rejection of the “deal of the century”, which does not help this mad dash towards public normalisation at the highest levels. Therefore, these Arab parties are trying to push the Palestinians to resume negotiations, even if only to provide these countries with a comfortable cover to deepen relations with Israel that go beyond Palestine and the Palestinians. Will the PA respond to this and provide the cover that Oman and those who may follow it desire?

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 6 November 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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