When an Israeli Plane Landed in Abu Dhabi…

Majed Kayyali- Palestinian writer

The step UAE took towards normalizing relationships with Israel paved the way to a new stage in Arab-Israeli relations, as it placed the Palestinian Cause on the shelf, brushed Arab rights aside, and turned a blind eye to the real face of Israel as a colonial, settler, racist, and religious state in the Arab world.

When I heard the news of an Israeli plane landing at the Abu Dhabi Airport, it stirred up the memories of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem (late 1977), which, at the time, was a bombshell that rocked the Arab world, and fueled mass demonstrations in many Arab countries. The people voiced their rejection and condemnation of this initiative and branded it as treason, which led to isolating and boycotting Egypt… This reaction did not repeat itself this time with the UAE normalization step, which moved on through very nonchalantly, as if nothing had happened.

This indifference could only be explained in light of a series of events and developments that have shaken the Arab world during the past four decades: First, a significant event was the state and social collapse that has afflicted the Arab Mashriq, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, due to the disasters that these societies went through. Second, Iran’s growing influence in the region has created anarchy and ruined what used to be national consensus in the Arab world. Third, the frustration resulting from the abortion of the “Arab Spring” revolutions in both waves; the first in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, and the second in Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, and Lebanon. Fourth, the lack of an effective, cohesive, and self-centered Arab regime, with the prevalence of authoritarian regimes that marginalize their societies and deprive those who are supposed to be their citizens of their freedom, rights, and resources. Last, the Palestinian cause has receded from view after the decline of the Palestinian national liberation movement (PLO), that ultimately turned into a mere authority.

Normalization with Israel unquestionably deserves condemnation and rage, and no instance of normalization could shadow or justify another. Yet, the Emirati normalization step, despite its special nature, could be viewed in the light of the following contexts and observations:

First, perhaps the main two Arab parties who normalized with Israel and affected the Arab-Israeli conflict and weakened the Palestinian situation are firstly, Egypt and Jordan.

Second, the Qatari normalization, publicly and secretly, direct and indirect, even if it happened without bragging or arguments, is no less dangerous than the Emirati normalization. Let us take “Hamas” for example, which has sovereignty in the Gaza Strip. It could not have been so stubborn and inflexible concerning the prolonged division if it had not been for the Qatari support, which happened in coordination with Israel, with the authority in Gaza being held responsible for that as well.

Third, Israel is resistant to normaliziation or peace. It has not even normalized with Israeli Arabs (Arabs of ‘48), its supposed citizens, after 72 years. When Israel says it wants normalization or peace, it contradicts our definition of Israel as a racist state and runs counter to its self-perception as a Jewish country. Noting that it grows and feeds on the myth of the Arab-Israeli conflict, or being surrounded with a seemingly hostile Arab environment, and because it refused to transform into a normal state, with geographical and human borders, and a constitution.

Fourth, the normalization that Israel aspires to is to exclusively recognize it as a state and its side of history, and striking up diplomatic, economic, and security relations with it, which shows that culture and societal normalization is of little importance to Israel. These two areas will not serve its interest as a ghetto state in the region, in the long run.

The new arrangement Israel has in the region is bound to affect the form of the Arab regime and its inter-relations, as well as its relations with other regional parties.

Fifth, the step the UAE took towards normalizing relationships with Israel paved the way to a new stage in the Arab-Israeli relations. As it puts the Palestinian Cause on the shelf, brushes the Arab rights aside, and turns a blind eye to the real face of Israel as a colonial, settler, racist, and religious state in the Arab world. Moreover, it gave Israel the chance to boast as it imposed its conditions, forcing Arabs to accept the principle of “Peace for peace.”

Last, in terms of security and economic benefits, Israel is the winner owing to its economic reality and the fact that it has become the most stable state in this troubled area of the world.

In any case, the UAE normalization could help in shedding more light on the following developments:

First, the Palestinian cause is no longer the one that dominates the Arab-Israeli relations. In other words, statements such as: “To consider the Palestinian cause resolution is the gateway to normalization,” or that “Peace begins with Palestine, as well as war,” or “Full normalization for full withdrawal,” have become history for Arab regimes, as they could brush them aside, as the Palestinian cause declined, and after all the calamities that the Arab world been through.

Second, in light of these findings, the new arrangement of Israel in the region is bound to affect the form of the Arab regime and its inter-relations, as well as its relations with other regional parties.

Third, there is a new era of the Arab regime’s way of handling the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people, an era which still has not molded yet and thus it is too early to define its form or features.

Fourth, on the Palestinian side, this development will liberate the Palestinian cause, and its national movement, from any exploits from the regimes that did much more harm than good (and perhaps this is the only bright side in this), especially the regimes that always humiliated the Palestinian people. In other words, Palestinians have to shoulder the responsibility of settling their situation according to this change in course, after they have become practically and theoretically alone in the face of Israel and its policies.

One final observation that might be worth noting here, the name of the Israeli plane that landed in Abu Dhabi is the “Kiryat Gat,” which is the same as that of the Jewish settlement that sits on the remains of the ethnically cleansed villages, al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja (between Hebron and Gaza), where the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser fought and dozens of Palestinian and Egyptian soldiers sacrificed their lives and were killed in the battles. Perhaps this is not a coincidence, in a conflict fraught with history and symbols.

This is how we arrived here, a status quo imposed by the corrupt and immoral despotic regimes… “No one is excluded.” Yes, it is a historic day for Israel and a day of shame for those regimes.

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