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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo

Time for Palestinians to get on board with peace, too

it's time for the Palestinians to embrace the potential that peace can offer them, as well as the leverage that the U.A.E. and Bahrain can bring to the table Special to National Post & Avi Benlolo Publishing date: Sep 15, 2020

A political earthquake is underway in the Middle East, as, all of a sudden, Arab nations seem to be falling head over heels for Israel.

A mere 29 days after the United Arab Emirates made a surprise peace announcement with Israel at the behest of the United States, the Kingdom of Bahrain admirably joined the peace parade. Like the U.A.E., Bahrain agreed to establish full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. It becomes the fourth country (including Egypt and Jordan) to make peace with Israel. The timing is impeccable, as Bahrain will join the U.A.E. on the White House lawn today for a historic signing of the peace accord.

Everyone is celebrating these achievements except the Palestinian Authority, which was quick to condemn the peace deal and withdraw its ambassador, as it did when the U.A.E. announced its agreement. Naturally, Hamas and Islamic Jihad also had strong words for Bahrain. But the wind of change is picking up speed. Speculation persists that Oman, Saudi Arabia or Morocco could be next. It’s no coincidence that the Arab League rejected the Palestinian call to condemn the U.A.E’s embrace of Israel.

Before now, making peace with the Jewish state was always contingent on a peace agreement with the Palestinians. But everyone has lost count of precisely how many times the Palestinians either rejected statehood or missed an opportunity to make peace.

Soon after the Oslo Accords, then-PLO leader Yassir Arafat turned his focus away from peace and toward suicide attacks against the Jewish state. Other peace initiatives were later rejected by the Palestinians, including generous offers by Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. Even U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” was rejected.

Is it any wonder that many Arab countries, which are desperate to modernize and gain international acceptance, would not want to continue waiting for the Palestinians to make peace before entering into economically advantageous trade and diplomatic agreements with Israel?

Nothing ever seems to be good enough for the Palestinians, but the world has been changing all around them. Arab delegations have been secretly coming to Israel and vice versa over the last three years. The Arab media has softened its hostility toward the Jewish state. Scholars and clergy have called for greater tolerance and acceptance. Business leaders have quietly reached out to one another, even negotiating deals.

So much has changed and the time is ripe for peacemaking. Middle East rulers are more interested in prosperity, in science and innovation, than in Hamas’ rockets and suicide belts. They are weary of the Iranian threat, the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State, and the Syria-style anarchy that can spread with public discontent.

A peace agreement not only provides access to Israel’s high-tech and medical-sciences sectors, it is also a gateway to U.S. and European markets. It creates more educational opportunities and prosperity in the region. And it provides more access to advanced weapons like the F-35 that can offset emerging threats. The Palestinian Authority, unfortunately, refuse to realize that a comprehensive peace agreement will help bring security and sustainability for its people and legitimize its quest for statehood.

More significantly, an Israel buoyed by peaceful relations with its Arab neighbours will soften its posture. This has already happened with respect to the U.A.E.’s demand that Israel back down from its plan to annex some parts of the West Bank. With this in mind, it’s time for the Palestinians to embrace the potential that peace can offer them, as well as the leverage that the U.A.E. and Bahrain can bring to the table.

It’s only a matter of time before the next Arab country joins the march toward peace in the Middle East. The clock is ticking. Let’s make peace.

National Post Avi Benlolo is a human rights activist.

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