The Deal of the Century

The Palestinian Issue Through the (Very Recent) Ages

First, check out Ian Black’s excellent review of GCC-Israel ties.

Now, a look back at the past 5 years or so of prominent commentator Abdelrahman al-Rashed’s main articles related to Palestine and the Palestinians.

From 2014 – “The Secret of Palestine’s Negotiations”

I doubt that Kerry’s plan will succeed for several reasons. The major reason is that the Israeli party will impose its conditions as it considers itself the stronger party in negotiations. Even if the Palestinian party thinks it has finally attained the state it wants, with the minimum amount of rights and conditions, it is not actually in a strong political position to ensure massive support from the Palestinians…

…we expect the idea to be put on hold for years until the time is right for peace and after all the stubborn men have eased their stance.

Aawsat, 1/14/2014

From 2015, “Boycotting Palestine, Even over Sports!”

Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot enter Arab countries. This is how they are rewarded for holding on to their land and tolerating decades of Israeli oppression. It is prohibited to sell their products in Arab markets, while Jewish Israelis can visit Arab countries if they carry other passports.

It is prohibited to buy from the Palestinians, to sell to them, to visit them, to host them, to pray in their mosques or to play football with them. The Arab League must be blind and deaf not to distinguish between the victim and the executioner, between the occupier and the occupied. It is time to reconsider the concept and policy on how to deal with Palestine and Israel.

Aawsat, 11/5/2015

From 2016, in conversation with Hudson Institute’s Joseph Braude:

Normalization with Arab Israelis should be initiated by the Arab League in Cairo, which historically has been the lion’s den of resistance to normalization. To them we might say that, after all, many Jewish Israelis hold dual citizenship and are free to work almost anywhere in the region with their non-Israeli passport. Meanwhile, most Arab Israelis are banned from working in Arab countries because they hold only Israeli citizenship. In a similar vein, many Israeli companies are already exporting goods to Arab markets through foreign corporate entities, while Arab farmers in Israel cannot sell their tomatoes in the Gulf market.

Hudson, 12/16/2016

From 2018, “Whom do you stand with, Iran or Israel?”

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa volunteered to explain the stance. He wrote on Twitter: “Since Iran violated the status quo in the region and violated countries’ (sovereignty) via their forces and missiles, then any country in the region, including Israel, has the right to defend itself by destroying the sources of threat.”

Sheikh Khalid’s stance is consistent with any state that stands against Iran’s crimes in the region. In politics, stances change according to the interests and necessities. 

Aawsat, 5/11/2018

Also 2018, “Does the Closure of the Palestinian Embassy end the Palestinian Cause?”

The Palestinians should have insisted on meeting the American delegations, not rejecting them…

One of the main mistakes is the belief that Palestine is a central issue that will not be abandoned by Arabs and Muslims. The truth is that they abandoned it a long time ago. Every nation is preoccupied with its own issues.

Aawsat, 9/18/2018

And now 2020, “Palestinians Will Lose out by Rejecting Peace Talks”

What is expected is just [for the PA] to sit down, talk and show goodwill; as no one will impose a solution that the Palestinians do not want. This is what the Israelis do, even though they are less willing to negotiate over the status quo because it gives them land and rule. They deal positively with Trump, who may be re-elected president in November, and have enormous power that they may harness to their advantage, or at least use to minimize any harm they could suffer.

Aawsat, 1/29/2020

[UPDATED] and further emphasizing the Israel vs. Iran point…

If Israel continues to bomb Iranian sites in Syria as it does, Iran will leave and its semi-occupation of the weak, destroyed country will end. The Iranian forces and their militias do not respond to these painful Israeli attacks, while the Russians, their closest partner, in turn did not express any objections, except media statements expressing their dissatisfaction…

Abdelrahman Al-Rashed, Aawsat, 2.19.2020

Meanwhile, from Arab News editor Faisal Abbas in 2018: “Israeli-Palestinian peace remote, but still possible”

For their part, Palestinians should realize that they can’t afford to lose any more. Short-sighted strategies, resorting to violence against civilians and internal conflicts have possibly left a potential state more crippled than the Israeli occupation ever intended.

Arab News, 5/15/2018

And a year later, citing anonymous Saudi and US sources: “A gleam of hope as we recall the Nakba”

This may be the last chance to secure a two-state solution. The Palestinians should negotiate hard, and then take what they can to secure a nation state for future generations; everyone would salute their courage and sacrifice if they did, while there is nothing to be gained from a refusal to come to the negotiating table.

That, of course, is what Israel is counting on; another Palestinian ‘no’ would allow the Israelis to claim that they had done everything possible to secure a deal and been rejected, and it would encourage the already generous Trump administration to cut them yet more slack.

Arab News, 5/14/2019

Finally, this past June, “What would it take to bring the Palestinians to Kushner’s table? “

Even then, while Team Kushner may be happy to show goodwill, how can they operate if the Palestinian side is unwilling to reciprocate? Perhaps the solution lies in benefiting from the time before the Israeli elections to revisit the Palestinian leadership and try to convince them once more. 

Moreover, given the lack of trust, Team Kushner may be well advised to bring a fourth party into the equation — perhaps a country or an entity to which neither Israelis nor Palestinians would object.

Arab News, 6/29/2019

Noncommittal and Supportive

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs carefully avoided taking a stance on the peace deal itself, while encouraging further work to resolve “any disagreement with aspects of the plan.” Per Mada Masr, Egypt’s MoFA took a similar tack despite considering stronger language; Jordan took a more critical stance in condemning any “unilateral” effort to resolve the conflict.

From some Saudi columnists, a more gentle encouragement for the Palestinians to take the deal as they best they are likely to get:

“The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that the status quo is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. Every peace plan rejected by the Palestinians and the Arabs has been paid for by making more concessions, starting with the partition plan through the Clinton plan and ending with the Trump plan!”

Khalid Al-Suleiman, Okaz, 1/30/2020

From some patriotic commentators, a harsher sense of exasperation with the Palestinian cause, effectively disowning it as a broader Arab/Saudi cause.

“Trump’s peace plan is an American-Israeli-Palestinian affair. The issue has ceased to be an Arab affair after the Palestinians rejected more than 10 peace initiatives, as they preferred to shops around and take bids on others. What matters is that our countries guarantee their citizens a visit to Al-Aqsa, and that Israel take pledges to protect worshipers from extremist aggression.”

And of course, Okaz has been piling on:

  • “Why did Abbas miss the opportunity to stand with the American President and the Israeli Prime Minister, to welcome the initiative as an effort from which to start negotiations…?” – Tariq al-Hamad, 2.2.2020
  • “History is repeating itself again. [The Palestinian leaders] reject plans that the Palestinians have not seen, but the Arab world will not stand long for the Palestinian issue – they must be aware of that.” – Wafaa al-Rasheed, 2.2.2020
  • “What does it mean for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to contest Saudi Arabia’s firm stances on the Palestinian issue, while in reality he is the head of a state with full relations with Israel and great trade and military cooperation at the highest levels ?!” – Hani al-Dhaheri, 2.2.2020

Muhammad al-Sa’id is always a treat, here in “Liberation wars in Vietnam vs. Palestine”:

We have not heard of the leaders of the Vietnamese Liberation Organization becoming billionaires floating their money in the banks of Switzerland, Paris and Malaysia, and we have not seen the children of Vietnamese leaders studying in America, Canada and Moscow, and their fathers through channels and radio stations cursing America day and night.

Okaz, 2.6.2020

Even some older Saudi liberal commentators had seemingly had enough. From noted writer Turki al-Hamad (part of a longer thread)

1) The Palestinians have made many mistakes by not accepting the American peace plans. What is the alternative? Many opportunities were lost by seducing the Palestinians with slogans, and using the strategy of everything or nothing. The result was in the end nothing: continuous occupation, loss of Jerusalem, large parts of the West Bank eaten away, an internal Palestinian conflict more severe than the conflict with Israel ..

Critical and Otherwise

Not all commentators from the older guard intended to let the issue go that easily, however. From Saudi sociologist and commentator Khalid Dukahil, in reply:

My friend, where is this “strategy of everything or nothing?” The Palestinians recognized Israel even without defining borders. They did not stipulate a corresponding recognition of their right to a state and withdrew their claim to 50% of what the partition law provides for them, nor did they stipulate a halt to the settlements. Then they accepted that their share of the land wouldn’t be more than 22% of the original amount – where is this “everything” strategy ?!

Earlier, from Dukhail directly:

“What Donald Trump announced just moments ago is not a deal but a lie of the century. Because it is not a peace plan, but rather a complete embrace of Israel’s ambitions towards Palestine. And that is in the absence of the Palestinians, the Arabs, the United Nations, the European Union and most members of Congress. Even CNN described what happened as a complete bias towards Israel.”

Former Arab News editor Khaled Almaeena was particularly blunt.

Much later, in Al-Watan

I am surprised by some Arab writers and politicians who want the Palestinians to not reject the Deal of the Century. [Yet] in its diabolical details, it does not provide [Palestinians] with a state at even the minimum level… I am surprised when they return to the records of history to remind the Palestinians of previous international peace initiatives, telling them “not to waste the opportunity” like before. This even though they know that Israel is has basically not accepted previous initiatives. The U.N. resolutions were not implemented, not “242”, “338”, or “252” or any other. Likewise, the Arab Peace Initiative provided by Saudi Arabia was rejected…

Muhammad al-Fayeh, Al Watan, February 19, 2020

Others merely noting that Saudi Arabia had not officially offered support for the plan, referring back to official statements.

“For those clamoring for the microphones:

Here the Deal of the Century has been announced, do you see the Saudi Ambassador at the White House, have you heard us accept it? The PA has even recognized Israel before us… Betray us if you want, we are the last wall.

#Saudi
#Palestine”

Al-Riyadh did not exactly criticize the deal, but at least suggested it might not be workable in its current form:

Real peace requires sacrifices on the Palestinian and Israeli sides, not that one side makes concessions that the other does not make, here it will be peace from one side that does not achieve the natural equation leading to continuity, but it could have counterproductive results that complicate the situation more than it is.

Editorial, Al-Riyadh, 2.4.2020

Offline, Princes Turki and Khalid Al Faisal have continued to be somewhat vocal (by contemporary standards) in support of the Palestinian cause. Opening a conference on Palestinian culture in December 2019, for example, Khalid Al Faisal enjoined his audience with the words: “We need culture and knowledge alongside political and economic action in the context of the Palestinian-Arab resistance to Zionist tyranny.”

Earlier last year, Prince Turki gave an interview to Al Arabiya in which he noted “There has been no change in the Saudi position and the media and other wishful thinking about the Israeli-Saudi cooperation because of the Iranian threat is only that, wishful thinking.”

While Turki Al Faisal did mention the Arab-Israeli conflict even more recently at the inception conference for the T20 (the think-tank sub-division of the G20), his remarks on the subject were only carried by the English-language translation of Al-Sharq al-Aawsat, not Arab News.

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