The current Israeli government asserts constantly that it is not seeking any political agreement with the Palestinians. This is not for fear of the collapse of the current coalition, which lacks harmony and is being targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s because no one in Israel is on this page in the first place. The members of the government, which some may describe as more moderate than Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, do not envisage a Palestinian state on the territories occupied in June 1967.
It is a fact that Bennett’s government will not take any step towards the Palestinians, no matter how trivial or superficial, other than buying some calm in the occupied West Bank in exchange for “economic improvements” that will ensure that the Palestinian Authority remains afloat. This is not a government of political breakthroughs, but a caretaker government resorted to because of the overwhelming desire to get rid of Bennet’s predecessor Netanyahu, which fits with the wishes of the current US administration.
Are Israel’s Arab allies not aware of this? If they object to describing their relationship with Israel as an alliance, then I will stick to the minimum description of normalisation, prompted by the regional transformations. Some Arab countries find themselves vulnerable because of their apprehension about US security and the fluctuations of Washington’s foreign policy depending on the political colour of the administration. It is also prompted by the Arab effort to strengthen regional and international influence through the Israeli portal, which is a window to the world.
The truth is that these Arabs have no delusions that their closeness to Israel will prompt it to change its policies towards the Palestinians. That was the grand delusion after the signing of the Oslo Accords, and then during the Aqsa Intifada, culminating in the so-called Arab Peace Initiative in 2002. Such perceptions were renewed after the Palestinian political split and the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, then with the Obama administration. Since the renewal of these perceptions is a form of cognitive imbalance among those holding them, I will not deny some of the careful contemplation with Trump’s victory. However, there was something that was always present in the motives for normalisation or the introduction of initiatives during those years, including the first ten years of life post-Oslo.It is simply not true that the motives for getting closer to Israel were purely for the sake of the Palestinian cause and a soft contribution to a solution for the conflict. Some were trying to improve geopolitical positions, by investing in the momentum and enthusiasm at its peak after the signing of the Oslo Accords. Such a cover is always ready, and they can cover themselves further by providing financial support to the Palestinians, political and media rhetoric, and routine political stances, at the same time that Arab capitals are being opened to the Israelis. The Arab Peace Initiative was proposed to assuage US anger after the events of 11 September 2001. Annapolis was an extension of the initiative’s motives, but on the shoulders of the Palestinian political division to deal a blow to the Palestinian resistance movement raising the banner of Islam, Hamas.
The motives of each particular country were related to its position in the region, its sensitivities towards its neighbours, its relations with the US, and the possibility of sheltering in contradictions by adding the Israeli relationship factor. Over time, the relationship with Israel became more normal. Undoubtedly, the policies of the PA, which are beneficial to the Israelis by stripping open confrontation from the conflict, provided more reasons for psychological normalisation and the covert strengthening of ties, to the extent of a full alliance that some now have, either overt or otherwise.
If this is the case regarding the normalisation that coincided with the urge for peace, then it must have been stripped of any motive related to Palestinian interests or helping to improve Israel’s position on the Palestinian cause. For some, the matter ended with a complete alliance and diplomatic relations. Hence, it makes no sense to remind them of the reality of the Israeli positions, which have become increasingly inflexible, and have taken root in such a way that it is not possible to grant the Palestinians anything significant, as long as the existing balance of power remains unchanged. Israel’s Arab allies know perfectly well that no Israeli government will ever be willing to make crucial “concessions” to the Palestinians, and that the unchanging Palestinian tragedy allows for an even greater price to be paid for the sake of Israel and the US.
The same can be said about the Palestinian leadership regarding the moribund peace process, about which there are no delusions of it achieving anything significant. It will end with the PA remaining frozen in a role that depends entirely on external support and economic provisions, which benefits the elite and nobody else. As such, the political speeches are mere formalities to fill a political void and interfere with political opponents who by now have no delusions of their own.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 9 November 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.