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Freefalling into Bennett’s, and Israel’s, lap

September 21, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in Jerusalem on September 19, 2021 [OHAD ZWIGENBERG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

The Bennett-Sisi summit would not have received the attention it did in the Israeli media, on the eve of the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday last week, had it not been for the Egyptians. According to the Israeli press corps, the Egyptian officials worked hard to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and publicised his visit widely in the state-controlled media.

Although Bennett left no doubt before or during his meeting with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that a “Palestinian state” is not part of his plan, this did not stop the fanfare and applause for the man, as if he were a knight in shining armour come to deliver peace. This was clearly to cover up the fact that welcoming him, embracing him and being silent about his “noes” — which are no different to those expressed by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir at the Madrid Conference in 1991 — was not for the purpose of trying to change his position, as much as to get him to put in a good word for Egypt with the US administration. Something similar to what he said about the Jordanian regime during his recent visit to Washington, perhaps.

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett visits Egypt in first official trip for a decade

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in the first official trip to Egypt in a decade – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Today, it has become clear that some Arabs have fallen into the arms of the most extreme of the many extremist politicians in Israel. Bennett is reaping the fruits of the efforts of his predecessors in Israel, given the circumstances of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. It seems that he is even reaping benefits that not even Shimon Peres, former prime minister and president of Israel, was able to do, even though Arabs saw him as an Israeli peace dove for decades. In reality, Peres was anything but a dove.

Bennett can reap the fruits of his predecessors’ policies because he continues to follow the Israeli doctrine of the new Middle East, about which Peres spoke in 1991 when he coveted Gulf funds to develop Israel and the region. The condition then, as now, is that the mastermind and controller is Israel, and the labourers are the Arabs.

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A year has passed since the normalisation agreements called the Abraham Accords were signed, which acted as a cover for the UAE-Bahrain-Israel alliance and the subsequent return of Sudan and Morocco’s public relations with Israel. Israel’s dealings with its “neighbours” and “Arab allies” is ironic; it wants money and investments from the Gulf States under the slogan of peace for peace, but it wants peace for security from the poor Arabs. This means it wants the poor Arabs, including the PA, Jordan and Egypt, to guarantee Israel’s security and stability, in exchange for its endorsement of their regimes in the White House and keeping them on the list of “moderate” countries.

When the occupying power, under the leadership of its most nationalist and religiously extreme politician, Naftali Bennett, becomes the key to the White House for these countries, then it has no reason to take their summits and appeals seriously. Such regimes are freefalling into Bennett’s, and Israel’s, lap.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arab48 on 18 September 2021

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