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September 22, 2020 5:39 am

The Arab League and the Time for Rapprochement

avatar by Eyal Zisser / Israel Hayom /


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (not pictured) in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 31, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

JNS.orgThe historic peace treaties inked last week between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates mark more than a breakthrough in Israel-Gulf relations — they may very well herald the end of the century-old conflict between Israel and the Arab world.

The Arab League’s refusal to condemn the peace deals despite the considerable pressure exerted by the Palestinians reflects a wider pan-Arab consensus that the time has come for rapprochement, as well as the fact that the Arab world is no longer willing to needlessly pay the price for Palestinian rejectionism.

A little over 100 years ago, in January 1919, the head of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann, and Emir Faisal, on behalf of the National Arab Movement, signed an agreement on Jewish-Arab cooperation, as part of which the Arabs recognized the right of Jews to establish a homeland in Israel.

Regional history could have been different, more stable and prosperous, had Jews and Arabs been able to cooperate. But Palestinian rejectionism dragged the Arab world into a protracted confrontation with Israel.

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Now both sides have gone back to the same starting point, hoping not to waste another century.

The UAE, Bahrain, and hopefully in the near future Sudan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and others, are not really embarking on an uncharted course. Israel and the Arab states have long been in the same boat, coordinating positions and cooperating to counter the same threats and challenges.

After all, Israel is no longer the major issue the Arab world is facing. The immediate and tangible threat comes from Iran and its allies in the region, as well as from Turkey, which also seeks to impose its hegemony over the Arab world.

Faced with this complicated reality, Qatar has chosen to side with Turkey and flirt with Iran, betraying most of its Arab brethren. But other Arab countries long ago chose Israel as a friend and ally.

The end of the Israeli-Arab conflict has left Israel to deal with two major issues: the Palestinian issue, which has thus been rendered an internal Israeli issue, given that its own moves will now determine how events unfold; and Iran, whose proxies — Hamas and Hezbollah — will, to great extent, determine stability in the region.

The breakthrough achieved between Israel and the Arab world with the signing of the Abraham Accords opens the way to Israeli initiative and allows it to become more proactive vis-à-vis its regional adversaries.

No one wants to provoke a military conflict that serves neither side’s interests. But a more resolute policy will be formed to counter any threat, be it from the Gaza Strip or from Lebanon.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. A version of this article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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