Shimon Stein was Israel’s Ambassador to Germany (2001-2007) and is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University. Moshe Zimmermann is professor emeritus at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
The phrase that Soviet President Michael Gorbatschow addressed 31 years ago to Erich Honecker and the citizens of the GDR could be addressed today to the Palestinians and their political leaders: “If you are late, life will punish you”.
Because they slept because of the change in the balance of power in the Near and Middle East. And your response to the wake-up call through the peace deal orchestrated by US President Donald Trump between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and with Bahrain clearly shows that you still haven’t categorized the change in time.
It was the cornerstone of their policy and their hope that there will be no peace between Israel and the Arab states without a solution to the Palestinian issue in the sense of the two-state solution. But that is now a thing of the past.
This has been indicated since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded in 2014 to bring the peace negotiations under the auspices of US President Barak Obama to a deadlock by stating that Israel should be recognized as a nation-state of the Jewish people as a condition of an agreement. (whatever that means) demanded.
Since then he has been able to continue the creeping annexation of the Palestinian territories unhindered. The stubborn attitude of the Palestinian negotiators, the split on the Palestinian front between Fatah (West Bank) and Hamas (Gaza), but especially Iran’s role in the region prevented the Palestinians from falling out and enabled Trump and Netanyahu. the dissolution of the decade-long consensus in the Arab world.
At first, it seemed to benefit the Palestinians as Iran gradually emerged as the spearhead of the fight against Israel. Especially when it became clear that the 1993 Oslo Accords had failed. But the Palestinians had misjudged: the organizations Hezbollah (Lebanon), Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Gaza Strip), which also supported Iran with weapons, developed into a serious threat to Israel, but at the same time caused a major tectonic shift across the whole. region.
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Iran not only positioned itself as a serious threat to Israel; his Arab neighbors also felt increasingly threatened. In view of the hegemonic claims of the regional superpowers Iran and Turkey, the pro-Western Arab states have again set their priorities. The result: the fight against Israel and support for the Palestinians faded into the background.
For the Emirates, which are geographically distant from Israel but close to Iran, the deal with Israel was a smart move: it allows the Emirates not only to position themselves at the top of the Sunni pro-American axis, but also through their contact. to reassure Israel for a continued US presence in the region.
Peace with Israel has ceased to be a taboo since 1979
Since the US is the security guarantee against the two regional superpowers for these Gulf states, and as America wants to withdraw militarily from the region under President Donald Trump, a ‘deal’ that also promises them generous arms supplies is the better tactic – including the Price of a agreement with Israel. Since two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, had already made peace with Israel in 1979 and 1995, there was no longer a taboo.
Given Israel’s occupation policy, it had been difficult in the past to justify such a turnaround in the Arab world. But the world and the region have changed radically in the last decade. The fate of the Kurds in the region, who were supported by the West and then dropped again, made it clear that everyone is on their own. Please with the best weapon systems in the arsenal.
This turnaround has not only driven out the Palestinians, but also the Europeans, who have been trying to verbally help the Palestinians since 1967. As a result, not only the Palestinian people but also the EU are on the losing side as Trump and Netanyahu celebrate their success.
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Netanyahu is proud to have removed another cornerstone of traditional Middle East policy with last week’s White House ceremony, “To create peace, territories must be given up or returned.” Netanyahu’s alternative slogan is “Peace for Peace”. with Arab states without having to evacuate Palestinian territory. In a newspaper ad from Netanyahu’s Likud party, former iconic Likud boss Menahem Begin is even accused of giving up the conquered Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace with Egypt.
Unlike Egypt and Israel, the Emirates, Bahrain and Israel have no common border and no dispute over territories. Yet the new treaty also has a territorial aspect. In exchange for the Emirates’ readiness for peace, Israel has committed to refraining from the planned annexation of Palestinian territories for the time being.
Now the next step can follow: the normalization of relations between the Gulf states and Israel and the suspension of the impending annexation can help save the two-state solution that has been declared dead.
Israel would endanger its democracy
And this is more urgent than ever. Because it is a dangerous illusion to believe that the Palestinian question is on the back burner. Many Israelis are also giving in to the belief, as it currently appears as if the Arab world is looking to free itself from its historic task of resolving the Palestinian issue – leaving this task solely to Israel. But the Palestinians will not disappear into thin air. And if there is no two-state solution, Israel has a problem.
Because equality for the Palestinians is not part of Netanyahu’s plan. This means that either all Palestinians without civil rights remain under Israeli rule or there is a bantustanization of the Palestinian enclaves. Both are incompatible with a democratic system.
Israel would pay for it by destroying free democracy and renouncing the Jewish “character” of the state. Trump doesn’t care, but for Israel, which identifies itself as a democracy and a Jewish state, it would be a catastrophe. Again, the EU is called upon to influence opponents and use the latest developments as an opportunity to act as an “honest broker” to get both Israel and the Palestinians out of trouble.