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Does 'creeping normalisation' save Netanyahu from his problems?

November 27, 2018 at 12:29 am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) on an official diplomatic visit to Oman where he met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said on 25 October 2018 [PM of Israel/Twitter]

Given the increasing possibility of running for early elections, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made sure to achieve public and media achievements y means of revealing relations that had been secret with some Arab and Muslim countries. This is in light of the failures and challenges he is facing, most importantly the major crisis facing his regional project after the distress suffered by his ally in Riyadh. The problems also include Putin’s strategic constraints on the military attacks on Syria and Lebanon and the collapse of his policy and his government after the resignation of Lieberman following the Palestinian resistance’s success in the confrontation in Gaza. Will the gradual normalisation save Netanyahu and enable him to regain control and up his dwindling popularity?

Netanyahu’s fast-paced and increased gloating regarding the increase in demand for Israel in the Arab and Muslim markets is not a coincidence. Neither is the appearance of several Israeli officials in various meetings and visits with several Arab countries, such as Oman and Bahrain and the visit of the president of Chad, Idriss Deby to Israel, even announcing the possibility of more visits. These were not all mentioned by chance but were probably attempts by Netanyahu to save himself from the successive setbacks he is experiencing, most notably his admission that the Gaza problem cannot be resolved. This angered his audience and refuted one of the most important radical right-wing theories, i.e. military force will force the Palestinians into submission and coexistence.

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Netanyahu may also publicly benefit from the criticism of some isolated left-wing members regarding his policies, alliances and cooperation with some countries in the region and known for the repression of their people and opposition to the principles of democracy and human rights, which Israel claims to embrace and even obtain Western support for. Therefore, Haaretz’s revelation on November 25th of Israel supplying the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency with a spy and hacking system for mobile phones, which has been allegedly used in the large-scale repression and cleansing campaign against all of Mohammad Bin Salman’s opponents both inside and outside the ruling family in Saudi Arabia.

On this challenging path to restore his popularity, Netanyahu is aware of the moral significance that the majority of Israelis attach to the Arab and Muslim world’s recognition of them. Even including authoritarian states such as Oman, Bahrain and Chad or developing countries whose production does not exceed the GNP of the Arab city of Sakhnin in occupied Palestine.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and King Mohammed VI of Morocco [File photo]

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and King Mohammed VI of Morocco [File photo]

Public opinion in Israel is no longer interested mainly in the quality of the political system Israel cooperates or is allied with. This based on two bases. The first is a racist orientalist basis wrapped in false political realism that believes that there is no room for enlightened democratic change in the Arab world because the prevailing Muslim culture fundamentally opposes it.

The second basis is a narrow reformist policy that demands that most public opinion in Israel concede that there is no possibility of the Arab and Muslim nations accepting the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, as occupation and arbitrariness are akin to tyranny and the opposite of the people’s liberty.

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Can this creeping normalisation be part of Trump’s plan? This is likely, as the strong presence of Netanyahu alongside the Saudi Crown Prince is a necessary condition that justifies the creeping and gradual normalisation. Providing all forms possible of support to the plan’s parties is a type of internal solidarity amongst each other. This reveals the fact that the repeated visits are all a part of the gradual normalisation with Israel and are sponsored by some of the major Arab countries in the region. Chad, Oman, Bahrain, and others would not have conducted such visits if they hadn’t received regional support and encouragement, and all of this is occurring at the expense of the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has succeeded, albeit relatively, in temporarily pulling himself out of his dilemma regarding Gaza and the north and achieving some of his domestic political goals using the gradual normalisations with some of the region’s countries. However, the fragile security situation, especially regarding Gaza and the West Bank, may return things to square one. This is because the deep and real source of the region’s problems and crises are the two faces of injustice and oppression: occupation and tyranny, which always call for response and resistance, and therefore instability.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 26 November 2018

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