“Everybody who joined the Abraham Accords will see the benefits for their own people,” declared U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “So I am highly confident that many, many more nations will ultimately choose to do the right thing and recognize Israel as the rightful homeland of the Jewish people.”
As confident as Pompeo is about other nations ultimately recognizing the Jewish people’s return to their ancestral homeland, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have already expressed their condemnation of the accord and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
In an interview in Al Arabiya, Prince Bandar bin Sultan Bandar, who served as Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the U.S., director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency and head of the National Security Council, said “their transgression against the Gulf states’ leadership with this reprehensible discourse is entirely unacceptable. … We are at a stage in which rather than being concerned with how to face the Israeli challenges in order to serve the Palestinian cause, we have to pay attention to our national security and interests.”
However, from another perspective, Bandar said, one should not be alarmed to see these leaders so quick to use terms like “treason,” “betrayal” and ‘back-stabbing.” With such leadership, “it is difficult to trust them and to do something for the Palestinian cause with them around.”
Blistering Attacks by Palestinian Arab Leaders
Saeb Erekat, the former secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), called the accord “a poisoned stab in the back of the Palestinian people and an attempt to try and get around international legitimacy.”
Journalist Noa Landau reported that the scathing attacks by Palestinian Arab leaders mirrored a study surveying Arabic-language social media conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube between August 12 and September 8, 2020, prior to the Abraham Accords being officially signed. The most common hashtags, which reached 100 million social media users, were “normalization is treason” and “Bahrainis against normalization.”
Only 10% had anything positive to say about the accords. The great majority of comments—61 percent—mentioned their security advantages. Another 33% cited the economic benefits, while 6% said they merely formalized the already existing relationship.
The main sources of hostile remarks were from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, along with “a series of civil society organizations that promote the delegitimization of Israel.”
The report noted Israel had a lot of work ahead to do on Arabic social media, especially in the Gulf States and other countries where future agreements might be signed, to counter the hostility toward normalization.
A report from Palestinian Media Watch further illustrates opposition to normalizing relations. Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah chose to post on its official Facebook page a poem recited by Bahraini children conveying their enmity toward the Abraham Accords. The well known poem includes the words: “Palestine is our land, and the Jews are our dogs.”
Before the girl exclaims the Jews are “our dogs,” she covers her mouth to ensure that no one can hear what she is saying. Aside from the explicit anti-Semitic message, she might be implying that Arabs are being restrained by their leaders from stating “the truth” about the Jews and Israel.
According to David Pollock, a fellow at The Washington Institute, majorities in Gaza, Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem increasingly avow that even if a two-state solution were to be implemented, it should not imply the end of conflict with Israel. Significantly, about 60% want to continue the fight to “liberate all of historic Palestine.”
These are not empty threats. Haaretz reported in a speech to the Knesset, former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that “Hamas is developing cruise missiles, cluster bombs and unmanned aerial vehicles with jet engines.” Each day, he said, at least two missiles are manufactured, some of which can reach Hadera, in the Haifa District.
Conflict Remains Intractable
Several fundamental issues prevent peace between Israel and the Arabs in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip according to Arabic scholar Mordecai Kedar. Judaism is considered a “false religion” (Din Al-Batel), while the “religion of truth is Islam” (Din Al-Haq). From this the Islamic position, it is impossible to have a Jewish state. Furthermore, they contend that Jews are not a people. A Jew from Poland is Polish, from an ethnic point of view, and of Mosaic faith, from a religious perspective, and therefore his place is in his homeland Poland.
Another obstacle is the Palestinian National Covenant of 1968, which asserts Zionism is a racist ideology. Yehoshafat Harkabi, former chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, points out the Arabs define Zionism as the primary cause of the conflict and the root of evil. The National Covenant is not a reflection of the more radical elements within the Arab camp, he said, but of the mainstream members of the Palestinian Arab movement. It signifies “an egotistic stand that does not show the slightest consideration for the adversary, nor any trace of recognition that he too may have a grievance, a claim and justice.”
The Palestinian Arab movement “professes ‘absoluteness’ and ‘totality’—there is absolute justice in the Palestinian stand in contrast to the absolute injustice of Israel … right is on the Palestinian side only—only they are worthy of self-determination.”
A Final Note
The conflict must be seen in context as political scientist Daniel Schueftan observes. “The ongoing lawlessness of their [Palestinian Arab] national movement has to do with its consistent evasion of responsibility for the fate of its people. The movement has become addicted to a pattern of behavior that combines failed aggression with serial whining. It’s important to remind those who insisted on pitying the Palestinians because of their wretchedness that this behavior is what has brought most of their misfortunes down upon them. It’s hard to respect them as a national collective.”
Dr. Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.