Half-hearted rejection of the Deal of the Century by the normally militant Arab League opens the door for Israel to take unilateral actions that would cement its victory over the Palestinians
A session of the Arab League, an organization representing most Arab states, was called in to session in the aftermath of the rollout of president Trump’s “Deal of the Century” for peace in the Middle East at the request of the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. In a joint statement, the Arab foreign ministers present at the session unanimously rejected president Trump’s proposal, though without making use of the flowery language many of them had adopted in previous sessions dating back to the oil embargo of the 1970’s.
President Abbas addressed the session in a long speech in which he painted Israel in general and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu as the aggressors and as the party responsible for the lack of peace in the region. In an interesting twist to an otherwise unremarkable performance, Mr. Abbas addressed the condition, present in the American proposal and one that is often set forth by the Israeli right, that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. In response to this condition, Mr. Abbas said that he knows for a fact that Israel is not a Jewish state, specifically singling out Israelis who originate from countries of the former USSR, collectively known as “Russia” and those who originate in Ethiopia, as being not-Jewish. In this assertion, Mr. Abbas was echoing sentiments expressed by the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, who had just recently opined that many of the repatriates from the former USSR were not Jewish.
Mr. Abbas also mentioned that he had sent notice to Israel and to the US that he was suspending all cooperation, including in the security arena, with both states. It appears though that this notice was nothing but a piece of grandstanding, as no indications exist that there are any actual changes taking place on the ground.
In response to Mr. Abbas’s speech, Israeli Pm Netanyahu has taken to Twitter to express his (and most Israelis’) belief that Israelis who originate in the former USSR and Ethiopia are “our brothers and sisters” who “longed for the return to Israel” over the centuries of exile.
The clear upshot from all the rhetoric is that the ball is now in Israel’s court. There would be no official acceptance of any actions by Israel such as extension of sovereignty from the Arab states, but the signal they are sending out is unambiguous; should Israel take such actions, it would be condemned, but it would be a pro-forma condemnation, nothing more. The question that is now facing Israeli voters in the March 2nd election is will they elect a government that takes advantage of the opportunity to extend Israeli sovereignty over the strategically critical Jordan Valley and over Israeli Jews residing in Judea and Samaria, or will they elect a government that will make excuses for not taking these historic actions.