One step closer to Palestinian statehood? - analysis
Palestinians burn pictures depicting Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain's deal with Israel to normalise relations, in Gaza City September 15, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
The Palestinians might not have walked down the White House stairwell to sign any documents at the Abraham Accords ceremony, but they cast a long shadow from Ramallah, which was felt the entire day in Washington.
For months in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the Right that a Palestinian state was not in the offing.
Nor did he speak of it at the ceremony either. Absent from his rhetoric of a former soldier seeking to lay down the guns of war, was any mention of his extended hand to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas or in fact any plea for Palestinian peace.
Instead, Netanyahu spoke of ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, as if to swallow the suddenly silent Palestinian issue, within the larger regional unrest.
US President Donald Trump spoke of Palestinians coming to the negotiating table, but didn’t mention a Palestinian state.
But they didn’t need to. They spoke of their vision of regional peace, and their partners in that endeavor, with whom they smiled, shook hands and signed documents, reminded them that it came at a price – Palestinian statehood.
Under the bright Washington sun, the Emirati and Bahraini ministers left no room for doubt about the end game.
“A just comprehensive and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be the foundation and the bedrock of such peace,” said Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
“This accord will enable us to continue to stand by the Palestinian people and realize their hopes for an independent state within a stable and prosperous region,” United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed said.
True, some of the language was different. Gone was the automatic references to a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines or of a future Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.
The closest they came was a reference made by bin Zayed, in which he thanked Netanyahu for “halting the annexation of Palestinian territories.”
In other words, the very territory that Israel has planned to annex and to which the Right already believes must be an integral part of sovereign Israel, remains in their eyes, Palestinian territory.
Away from the spotlight, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash went one step further when he spoke of the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a plan that called for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines.
Twenty-six years ago, on September 13, on that same White House lawn, president Bill Clinton inaugurated the 1993 Oslo Accord together with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat.
At the time, it seemed as if peace and Palestinian statehood were just around the corner. But the accord never led to a peace deal; what followed instead was decades of terrorist attacks and diplomatic warfare.
For the last three years of the Trump administration, the Right had hoped that the very idea and feasibility of a Palestinian state had been shelved, if not buried.
On Tuesday, September 15, Israel signed not a promise of peace, but documents of peace. These were not plans that would begin years in the future, but already now.
Airlines flights have already been scheduled. Business and medical cooperation is already in the works.
Tuesday’s ceremony, in some ways, underscored the limits of a ceremony built on the hope of peace, rather than one that laid the foundation for actual peace.
But one element remained the same, and that was an attempt to forge a path toward a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians have spoken of their feeling of betrayal by the Arab states, which they hold should have refused to make peace with Israel until their conflict was resolved.
Perhaps they are correct, that they will be tossed aside by the tide of normalization.
Or perhaps, Tuesday’s ceremony was a renewed step that brought Palestinian statehood back into the limelight and opened once again the door of possibility toward a state of their own.
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