The decades-old refrain throughout the Washington policy establishment tells us that peace would grace the entire Middle East if only the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could be solved. This thesis imagines a Middle East thoroughly consumed by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, thrusting the plight of the Palestinians squarely on the shoulders of Israel.
But the recent agreement to establish normalized relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, reached with the help of the U.S., upends this narrative. And it suggests the Gulf states may be ready to sidestep the greatest impediment to peace between Israelis and Palestinians: the Palestinian Authority.
In addition, the deal creates the possibility that the Gulf states could continue their longstanding commitment to the Palestinian people by the creation of an independent future investment initiative chartered to promote Palestinian self-sufficiency.
The recent UAE-Israel agreement — and the potential for future agreements — proves that the seemingly insurmountable conflict in the Middle East is not Arabs versus Israelis. Rather, it is the Palestinian Authority’s oppression, suppression and repression of the Palestinian people that crushes peace prospects. The UAE’s courageous move signifies that the Gulf states may be prepared to recognize this reality.
Since Israel is a military and economic powerhouse, the policy establishment narrative goes, the plight of the Palestinians is a result of Israel’s presence. Millions of Palestinians remain powerless and under Israeli “occupation.” Several million Palestinian refugees remain in camps in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon with no leverage or bargaining power.
Too many people who accept this narrative then go on to say that Palestinian terror is justified or understood. And much of the world, including the U.S., has sought to help the Palestinian people by giving billions of dollars to the faction governing them.
Ironically, the Middle Eastern party that has issued the most vociferous condemnation of an Arab-Israeli peace, even beyond the Iranian and Turkish regimes, is the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian Authority has refused to respond to six consecutive offers for a secure, viable sovereignty since 2000, and rejects any cooperation or coordination with Israel, even at the cost of Palestinian lives.
Perhaps one can understand the Palestinian Authority boycott of the Bahrain conference. The promise of $50 billion in start-up and regional assistance might have come with conditions. But a Palestinian governing body rejecting COVID19 medical supplies from the UAE because they passed through Israel is unconscionable. Just think of the suffering mothers and fathers.
For too long, the Palestinian Authority has sought to keep the Palestinian people poor and powerless — while enriching its apparatchiks and functionaries with villas and cars, as recently detailed by Yasser Jadallah, the former political director for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Unsurprisingly, recent polls reveal that 80% of Palestinians believe the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and not representative of the Palestinian public’s fundamental rights and requirements.
In addition, the Palestinian Authority has glorified violence against Israel through naming streets and schools after murderers of Israeli Christians, Jews and Muslims.
And the authority continues to sponsor the Pay for Slay campaign for Palestinian murderers and their families, with salary levels based upon terror results, even awarding stipends to families of suicide bombers.
In fact, 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is used for these terror incentives. This is money that could have been used for job training or economic cooperation with Israel.
However, with the recent Israel-UAE normalization agreement, the UAE has set a new standard in regional and global peacemaking. By normalizing relations with Israel, the UAE has effectively acknowledged that Palestinian suffering is not due to the Israelis. Rather, the suffering is due to the Palestinian Authority.
Now is the time for the world, led by other Gulf states, to rescue the Palestinian people from their Palestinian Authority “prison” and help them to pave a path to a peaceful and economically thriving independence.
To do so will require a new Gulf Cooperation Council relief organization that prioritizes the security and prosperity of the Palestinian people — not the enrichment of their corrupt and cancerous leadership.
This new organization — let’s call it the Future Investment Fund for the Palestinian People — would need to be independent, both of the corrupt Palestinian Authority cronyism that has exploited the Palestinian people and of the United Nations, which has retarded Palestinian progress.
The investment fund would be chartered to provide vocational training, coupled with tolerance and comity with all neighbors, based upon a peaceful Islam.
The courage of the UAE to throw out the false narrative regarding the Palestinian people and to make peace with Israel creates an opportunity for a new paradigm to help the Palestinian people finally escape their incompetent and cruel leaders.
An effective relief organization would engender a Palestinian civil society not dominated by the Palestinian Authority. The investment fund would enable a new, responsible Palestinian leadership that would ensure that the burgeoning Arab-Israeli normalization taking shape now will not leave the Palestinian people outside the expanding circle of regional peace and prosperity.