New openings in the Middle East – Commentary


A few months ago, it would have been unthinkable, but almost every day in recent weeks, the Arab major newspapers have shown pictures of Israelis and Arabs embracing each other.

The unusual images are a direct result of the peace agreements signed on September 15 between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

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In the coming weeks, more peace agreements are expected.

But the agreements are sometimes ridiculed, underestimated and even condemned. It is said that these Arab states were never at war with Israel. But the main objection – and what makes many frustrated – is that the peace agreements weaken the Palestinians’ negotiating position, since they are left more alone.

So why are the agreements so dramatic, how can they still change the Middle East?

Yes, for over 70 years, Arab regimes – without exception – have deliberately created a hatred of Israel. It began in schools and continued in state-run newspapers and television stations.

The aim was to divert attention from one’s own fades at home and justify the need for militaristic, non-democratic and oppressive regimes. And if there was one thing the Islamists could support their hated oppressors in, it was these racist images of the enemy.

It all grew to mythical proportions.

The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians became “the mother of all conflicts.” True, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is fierce and brutal, first and foremost for the Palestinians under occupation. But for the rest of the Middle East, and this involves hundreds of millions of people, the lack of democracy and regime brutality are among the most important problems.

This was seen in early 2011, when millions of people across the region tried to free themselves from their dictators. Israel was never the main problem in the Middle East.

The regime-inspired hatred became so pervasive that it also helped to destroy its own societies. It helped prevent the emergence of liberal and tolerant political traditions. One sees it today, where Sunni Muslims are fighting against Shia Muslims and where homosexuals are at worst executed.

The region is now characterized by so many wars that one can actually no longer know what is meant when one uses the terminology “Middle East conflict”.

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What is happening now, after the agreements, is that these enemy images are beginning to be degraded.

Business people are already flocking back and forth between the former front lines. The universities enter into collaboration agreements. In addition, one must not forget that the Gulf states are setting the tone, as the major satellite channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah come from here.

Countless Arab intellectuals have also moved to the Gulf to take positions in the many newly established universities and think tanks.

But there is no doubt that the rapprochement between Israel and the Arab countries weakens the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pulling his country in an authoritarian direction, nor is he interested in a peace that comes with a price – to create a Palestinian state. His focus today is his own political survival in the hope of preventing him from being sent to prison for corruption crimes.

The fact of the matter, however, is that it is not only the Israelis who have prevented a peace settlement here, the Palestinian leadership is absolutely complicit. In 2002, a united Arab world presented a historic peace proposal, which included the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israel’s peace with all Arab countries.

But since 2006, the Palestinians themselves have been divided, with one government in the West Bank and one in Gaza, and unable to make difficult decisions. After 14 years of waiting, more and more Arab countries now say that enough is enough and instead enter into their own peace agreements with Israel.

But suddenly something happens on the Palestinian side.

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After years of inaction, the Palestinian leadership has finally realized that they must wake up. President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected to a four-year term in 2005 and is still in power, finally talks about holding elections, albeit not for his own position.

As long as Netanyahu rules, nothing is possible, but the question is whether these new alliances in the Middle East will force the Palestinians to change course: The so-called anti-normalization line that the Palestinians promoted, and which is now collapsing, was based on maintaining enemy images, images that at times could become racist and grotesque: Israel became a kind of metaphysical expression of evil. But in a way, Abbas was also imprisoned in his own strategy.

But in the long run, these new peace agreements can actually benefit even the Palestinians.

The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be demystified, it will no longer have the apocalyptic character of being a conflict with the entire Muslim world.

Instead, the conflict, difficult as it is, will be marked by very concrete challenges in the West Bank and in Gaza that will require very concrete political solutions. But without this apocalyptic touch, the answers may come easier.

The point is that a peace here is not only about land and Israeli occupation, but also an often absent Arab acceptance of the other, the Israelis. But then the new peace agreements, which include just such an acceptance, will in the long run be able to accelerate a Palestinian-Israeli peace – that is, peace comes through the new agreements.

In addition, one must not forget that the more Arab states Israel has peace with, the more limited Israel will be in its freedom of action and oppression in the West Bank.

One should not be naive, the new peace agreements have little to do with, for example, airy ideas about democracy. Instead, it was a common fear of Iranian hegemony, as well as an idea of ​​combining Israeli high technology and Gulf Arab investment capabilities, that brought them together.

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But as always in international politics, the ripple effects will go beyond the intentions.

Last week, Dagsavisen reported a sensational news – that the United Arab Emirates is already trying to establish peace talks between Syria and Israel. This news was confirmed on Sunday by the Arab major newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

The map of the Middle East is at peace with being redrawn. And as a result of the many new alliances, new openings will be created with surprising opportunities we can not yet imagine today. Yes, that’s why it’s going to be historic.


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