The current round of conflict in Gaza Strip and Israel affirms the urgent need to find a just solution to the Palestinian issue. The fruits of the Abraham Accords will not be complete without finding a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue; a solution that gives Palestinians their legitimate national rights in a state with East Jerusalem as its capital, ends occupation, stops building settlements and prevents denying Palestinians their legitimate rights in Jerusalem: rights to their properties and freedom of movement and worship. In exchange, this solution should provide Israelis with security and stability so that they can live in peace and prosperity in their state and in the region.
I don’t think that the military escalation in Gaza and Israel will push for a reconsideration of the Abraham Accords. This was a strategic decision by those countries. Motivations and reasons that led to making that decision are still strong, present and manifold at all levels.
The spirit of the Abraham Accords is based on the importance of diplomatic solutions, de-escalation of conflicts, and the adoption of pacification to create an environment of stability and engagement in development instead of wars and conflicts.
There is no doubt that the latest round of heated conflict in the Gaza Strip is a test for these terms. However, it will not lead to retreat and regress. Rather, it came to highlight the fact that peaceful and diplomatic solutions are a common interest for all except extremists on both sides to the conflict. Struggle and fighting serve the political, partisan, electoral and personal agendas of those extremists.
What we have seen in the past two weeks should be an incentive for the international and regional communities to push for finding a lasting political solution, not just a truce. This logic is in line with the rationale on which the Abraham Accords were founded: facing common threats by supporting elements of stability and prosperity, ending hostilities and fighting, and getting involved in development, regional cooperation and strategic partnerships instead of violence and wars.
Amidst the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the UAE has once again reiterated that ending violence, protecting peoples’ lives and preserving their dignity, and the two-state solution is the best way to solve the Palestinian issue. The UAE has also affirmed the need to protect freedom of worship in Jerusalem for all believers: Muslims, Christians and Jews. This holy city should remain an open place for coexistence, tolerance, and cultural and religious diversity. The historical character of the city and the solid rights of its inhabitants should not be changed, notably the Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The latest round of conflict has once again stressed the growing importance of protecting civilians, including journalists, from conflicts and wars. It has also proved that mutual political compromises, equality and justice in rights for both Palestinians and Israelis are the shortest cut to the resolution of intractable conflicts.
What is happening in Gaza does not undermine the new diplomatic relations which were established between Israel and Arab countries in 2020. However, it affirms the importance of achieving peace and avoiding the cycle of violence.
The UAE can never accept the killing of the civilian Palestinians by Israel nor the killing of civilian Israelis by Palestinians. However, the main purpose of Abu Dhabi’s call for de-escalation of conflict and peaceful solution is to - first and foremost - protect lives, properties, rights and human dignity.
What has happened over the last few days was actually a shock by all means. It might push Arab or Muslim countries, which were encouraged to establish ties with Israel, to wait, be careful and take more time or might reconsider such a step.
The sentimental and psychological dimensions of the conflict are important in our region and must be taken into consideration even if we agree that the mutual interests of Arabs and Israel definitely surpass the Palestinian issue to security, defense, trade, investments and diverse strategic partnerships, and preparation for a safe and more prosperous future.
Anyway, lessons must be learned from what has happened in order to cement elements of moderation and tolerance, protect human rights and shun violence and discourse of hatred which form the basic foundations on which the Abraham Accords were established.
It is extremely important to keep civilians and innocent people away from conflicts and agendas of political and electoral competition. It is also important to marginalize extremists and deprive them of the opportunity to solely dominate the scene and shape the outcomes.
What would most encourage other countries to join the normalization process with Israel is the adherence to these standards, as well as the clear display of the fruits of the Abraham Peace Accords signed with the UAE and Bahrain, not to mention the key aspects of the success of the agreements between Israel and Morocco and Israel and Sudan.
The more the Palestinian suffering is exacerbated, the more pressures will be placed on the Arab countries that have already singed the normalization agreements with Israel and the more embarrassing the situation will be for them. It is extremely important that the current problem be dealt with a thoughtful and measured way. This should help convince the peoples of the Arab region of the importance and relevance of signing peace agreements with Israel. In this regard, the Israelis bear the greatest responsibility for peace.
They should end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and harness Israeli right-wing and violent groups. For their part, the Palestinians share the responsibility for peace as well. They need to be realistic in their political proposals, work under one unified political leadership, stick to the peaceful means of expression, and refrain from all acts of violence against civilians.
The international community, for its part, must help build confidence measures between the two sides as a way to provide an appropriate foundation for holding serious negotiations that can put an end to bloodshed and enhance peace and stability in the Palestinian territories and Israel alike.
It would be wise for everybody to work hard by all means possible to make the Palestinians – not only Israelis - among the winners from the Arab-Israeli peace agreements.
The UAE’s demand from Israel to stop the annexation of 30% of the lands of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley in exchange of normalizing relations with Tel Aviv came to stress Abu Dhabi’s firm support for the right of Palestinian people to have their own independent and viable state, and that they should be among the winners from the Abraham Accords.
The new round of conflict in Gaza has proved once again that Palestinians like Israelis - as the U.S administration insisted - deserve “equal measures” of security, freedom, prosperity and democracy. This is absolutely the right path and lies at the heart of the Abraham Accords’ objectives.
Dr. Ebtesam al-Ketbi, President of the Emirates Policy Center.
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