How Netanyahu botched the normalization hype

Gone with the wind

May 22, 2021 - 21:39

TEHRAN – The Israeli regime sought to use the normalization deals with some Arab states to project a different image of itself to the Arab world but the recent carnage against Gaza once again brought it into disrepute. 

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli regime held into Saturday as mediators continued consultations with the Israeli and Palestinian sides to make sure that the war would not break out again.

Having failed to achieve its goals, Israel unilaterally announced a ceasefire with Gaza on Friday midnight after 12 days of heavy bombardment against Gaza. The Palestinians from all walks of life celebrated their victory while Israel and its newfound allies in the region remained silent. This silence is telling. Israel lost more than it achieved. Resistance groups in Gaza are still around and they became even more confident due to their shrewd management of the fighting with an enemy enjoying overwhelming military support from a number of Western governments.

Israel’s loss is not limited to damaged buildings and cars; its global standing also was severely damaged as hundreds of thousands of people around the world took to the streets to denounce Israel’s brute violence against civilians in Gaza. Furthermore, Israel’s much-vaunted myth of co-existence between Jews and the so-called Israeli Arabs was shattered when the Israeli police resorted to the use of lethal force to quash Arab protests inside Israel, prompting some of them to push back against the police. There were also clashes between Arabs and Jews in several mixed cities. 

Observers say the last round of violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel has left them afraid of each other, with some of them refraining from leaving their homes even for medical treatment out of fear that they would be targeted by the other. Individuals from both sides began to apply for weapons licenses, and everyone exchanged accusations, amidst extremely tense situations.

The Israeli Ministry of Interior revealed that the number of Jewish gun license applicants doubled seven times over the past week, from 270 requests to 1926, noting that there are about 145,000 Jews who possess licensed weapons at present.

An Israeli security official has said the hike in demand for the weapon is dire, but it is based on an understandable logic, signaling that fear has prevailed over Israeli society. As a result of this tense atmosphere, fear and anxiety spread widely on both sides. Many Arab workers complained of receiving dismissal orders, and Arab university students refused to go to their universities, according to Asharq Al Awsat. Several hospital administrations revealed that Arab doctors and nurses were absent from work, and they explicitly said that they feared attacks, the newspaper said, adding that Arab students at a Beersheba university complained that right-wing activists attacked them for participating in a demonstration. 

Before the 12-day Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, there was a belief among some Israeli Arabs that without co-existence between Arabs and Jews inside Israel it is impossible to achieve peace between Israel and the Arab world because if Israel was to suppress its own Arab “citizens” it would fail to make the case that it can live in peace with Arab states. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to downplay this belief, believing that peace is possible with the Arab world while trampling on the rights of Palestinians. From this perspective, Netanyahu pressed ahead with his normalization deals with a number of Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Last year in August, then U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he brokered a “historic deal” between the UAE and Israel to normalize their relations, the first such deal between Israel and an Arab country since 1994. The last time an Arab country signed a deal with Israel to normalize relations was on October 26, 1994, when Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel. Following in the footsteps of the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan also normalized relations with Israel. 

These countries enumerated a variety of reasons to justify their controversial decision to normalize ties with Israel and mitigating Israeli aggression against the Palestinians was the prime one. For example, the Emiratis said their normalization with Israel would encourage Tel Aviv it to treat Palestinians well and make it more receptive to internationally recognized solutions to the decades-long Palestine-Israel conflict. 

To back their arguments, the Emiratis largely pointed to the Israeli decision to suspend plans to annex large swaths of the West Bank in exchange for normalization with the UAE.

But the Israeli aggression showed that the Emirati reasoning was flawed. Israel can never be expected to behave normally or to respect the rights of the Palestinians without pressure. Netanyahu showed that the hype surrounding the normalization deals with Arab states was a ploy to hoodwink more Arab countries into accepting normalization without first addressing the Palestinian issue. But as the Israeli warplanes pummeled Gaza with rockets and missiles, this ploy went up in smoke. Now, the Arab world understands that Israel only understands the language of power and that it will never be willing to make peace with the Palestinians through diplomatic compliments. 

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