Normalizations Do Not Help the Palestinian Cause, Panelists Say.

Jehad Al-Hallaq, Staff Reporter

Jerusalem. (Photo/Getty Images)

Correction (Oct. 19): Yara Hawari was referred to with the incorrect gender pronoun in a previous version of this article. This has been amended.

Recent normalization events between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are not really peace deals but the opposite, suggested pro-Palestine panelists in a webinar organized on Oct. 8. The webinar was organized by the Palestinian Student Club at Northwestern University in Qatar in collaboration with the Liberal Arts Program.

“The Future of the Question of Palestine: What now?” included panelists Yara Hawari, the senior Palestine policy fellow of Al-Shabaka: the Palestinian Policy Network, and Tariq Dana, an assistant professor at the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies and a policy advisor for Al-Shabaka.

The webinar discussed recent events and developments, including how the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, US President Trump’s proposed peace plan, Israeli President Netanyahu’s previous plans to annex part of the West Bank, and the UAE and Bahrain’s normalization deals with Israel have impacted the Palestinian peace process, or what remains of it, and what these developments mean to Palestinians, said Kayan Khraisheh, president of the Palestinian Student Club. 

“Arab official and unofficial normalization with Israel has been going on for decades,” said Hawari. “The difference with these two countries [Jordan and Egypt] and their normalizations or peace agreements is that they share a border with Israel, and they were in a state of war and hostilities. The UAE and Bahrain normalization deals are very different because neither of them share a border or have been at war with Israel.” 

Although the recent normalization deals include an agreement by Israel to stop its annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and are considered a great historic win by many international parties, they are not really peace deals, said Hawari.

“What happened was not a peace deal. It’s really full recognition in return for bilateral relations and promises of arms,” she said. “These are…rather normalization of the continuous abuse of Palestinian rights and, by extension, the normalization of continuous abuse across the region.” 

“Objectively speaking, there is no such a thing as a peace process. It actually doesn’t exist simply because the basic conditions of peace are not attainable today. What we actually have here are a couple of processes that are not directed towards peace but rather to the contrary,” said Dana. 

The peace process doesn’t exist due to Israeli settlements that are continuously being built in the West Bank, according to Dana. He listed the consequences of these settlements, which include the confiscation of Palestinian lands, demolishment of Palestinian homes, construction of settler-only bypass roads, exploitation of Palestinian natural and water resources, and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians. 

The timing of the normalization agreements is significant as they came after Trump’s deal in an attempt to support it, claimed Dana. He added that the normalizations serve Netanyahu, who has been facing corruption charges  and are coming at a point when Palestinians are at their weakest. “The Palestinians are extremely divided, their leaders are incompetent and corrupt, and their institutions are besieged,” he said.

Dana also emphasized the possible consequences that Arab states might face due to recent normalizations. “Not only [do] the UAE and Bahrain receive nothing in return for such a move, Israel also will gain privileged access to reach those markets and will be able to further penetrate the Arab society,” he said. However, some experts say that normalizations bring benefits for Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries as well.

“I think the only hope now lies in the ability and willingness of the Palestinians to rebuild their national institutions to serve the collective interest of the Palestinian people…the principles of democracy and the presentation must be incorporated as the core of the project of national liberation and self-determination,” Dana added.

Hawari mentioned that even though Arab regimes have given very limited support for the Palestinian cause, it is important to distinguish between governments and their people.

“I think it is important to remember that even though these regimes have often claimed support for the Palestinian struggle, we’ve really seen very limited support materially from them, but I think it is also always important to separate the regimes from the people,” she said. “The people on the streets still overwhelmingly support the Palestinian struggle, and that’s why I think it’s important to consider what happens in Palestine as not solely a Palestinian issue, but actually a much wider Arab issue.” 

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