Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
Up until now, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of nationalism and politics. Their leaders, such that they exist, have phrased their concerns in those lights and in opposing the normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab states. Although largely Muslim (80-85% of Palestinians on the West Bank are Muslim and 88% of those in Gaza), religion was not necessarily invoked except when convenient. However, there is a growing trend in the region that has the Palestinians somewhat worried and what better way to stoke the fears of Arab Muslims than to invoke Allah and the Koran?
There is increased talk in the region about certain Arab countries normalizing relations with Israel and this talk has the Palestinians running scared. Launched by the Nasser al-Aqsa Organization out of Lebanon, en educational campaign titled “Normalization is a crime,” the effort comes amid reports of Israeli delegations visiting certain Gulf Arab states. In addition, US negotiators Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner have made recent visits to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.
First, we need to step back a little bit. The Palestinians are arguing that fellow Arabs maintain the promises kept under the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. That move stated, in pertinent point that Arab states would normalize relations with Israel only after Israel retreated to their 1967 borders, withdrew from East Jerusalem, and addressed the refugee problem. Israel, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, rejected it as a non-starter. The initiative has been since condoned by Arab league summits as recently as 2017.
Given the move by the Trump administration to move the US embassy to Jerusalem along with the trips from Kushner and Greenblatt and the visits by Israeli delegations, the Palestinians now believe there is a concerted effort by all to basically undo the Arab Peace Initiative. That is, they believe that normalization will occur before the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is settled instead of the other way around. In short, they feel as the Deputy Secretary of the ruling Fatah Party said: it is a stab in the back of the Palestinians.
However, the Palestinians seem to be under the delusion that progress is being made given the status quo. The only “progress,” in the eyes of Palestinians, is how many bombs and rockets they can lob into Israel which has basically been their strategy since the roll out of the Arab Peace Initiative. So what is a poor Palestinian to do?
The answer: you get a gaggle of Palestinian Islamic scholars to issue a fatwa. And what does this Islamic religious decision say? Read on:
…normalization with the Zionist enemy, and accepting it in the region, is one of the most dangerous penetrations of the Muslim community and a threat to its security, as well as a corruption of its doctrine and a loss of its youths… normalization and reconciliation means empowerment of Jews over the land of the Muslims, surrender to the infidels and loss of religion and Islamic lands.
In effect, the fatwa is identical to wording in the Palestinian Authority’s charter. Besides asserting that the normalization of relations with Israel would go against the teachings of the Koran, it also sends a warning to Egypt and Jordan who have signed peace agreements with Israel. Further, it is a warning to countries considering normalizing relations with Israel, like Saudi Arabia and UAE. They note that many Muslims will view such an action as treasonous to the Palestinian/Arab cause. The threat is not thickly veiled. They may as well have added a photo of a slain Anwar Sadat after that paragraph. It is also a warning to the United States that Palestinians and many Arabs and Muslims will view any action as blasphemy against the teachings of the Koran.
It does not take rocket science to see what is happening here. The Palestinian leadership is attempting to rally the Muslim world by wrapping their disagreements with Israel in the Koran so that it appeals to Muslims outside Palestine. It is an effort to pressure those Muslim countries considering normalization to think long and hard before doing so. Considering that the Palestinian leadership is not really that religious, it also boxes them into a hard line against Israel.
For his part, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, now must become even more hard line than before. He is well aware that any peace agreement with Israel will come at a price. Because of this fatwa, Muslims will condemn him as a traitor and perhaps even call for his death. On a recent trip to Egypt, Abbas said he does not intend to die a traitor by making concessions to Israel.
In an effort to rally the Muslim world, the Palestinians, not known as the most religious and devout of Muslims (especially their leadership), are now hiding under the robe of Mohammed and behind the skirt of Allah. The question now becomes whether countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and others fall for this pitiful ploy, or whether they align their foreign policies with reality, not some interpretation of the Koran.
Years of no peace agreements have created stalemate and acts of terrorism, counterattacks, and more violence. Through it all, Israel shines as perhaps the greatest success story of the Middle East. Maintaining what we have now- which is what you would have gotten with a Clinton administration- has achieved squat. Anything which moves the needle while ensuring the security of Israel is a worthwhile intervention. Incidentally, if it was another Democrat in the White House, given their recent trends, Israel would be more isolated rather than embraced and protected.