If the Abraham Accords grow to include normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, it would prove that Israel can expand settlements, control the Palestinians and have great relations with Arab states — all at once, warned Thomas L. Friedman in Tuesday’s NY Times (Jumping Jehoshaphat! Have You Seen How Many Israelis Just Visited the UAE?). “It is called ‘Abraham Accords washing,’ using the new ties with Arabs to mask Israel’s West Bank occupation,” he cautioned.
“Biden needs to move fast, though. Among the Israeli groups aggressively reaching out to the Gulf Arabs to come visit are right-wing Jewish settlers. They want to prove that Israel can expand settlements, control the Palestinians and have great relations with Arab states — all at once. It is called “Abraham Accords washing,” using the new ties with Arabs to mask Israel’s West Bank occupation.”
According to Avi Bell, an Israeli Professor of Law at the University of San Diego and Bar-Ilan, adding “washing” to an Israel-related term is meant to depreciate positive aspects of Israel by indicating that they are in reality merely parts of a vast Israeli-Jewish conspiracy to “hide the occupation.”
But first, Friedman is not wrong: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed have succeeded in taking the Middle East in a never-before seen direction – away from being eternally mired in the terrible things a fledgling Israel was accused of doing to the Arabs that lived in its midst, to a brand-new epoch of prosperity, cooperation, and regional stability and security.
Which is why, predictably, Friedman says “Biden needs to move fast” if he wants to be able to thwart all those efforts in favor of the old, familiar, and bloody 2-state solution.
“The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia need to understand that they have more leverage now to influence Israeli-Palestinian relations than they realize,” writes Friedman, because “Israel does not want to lose them.”
It’s at this point in his op-ed piece that we realize Friedman is a relic. A hissing vinyl record from way back in the Clinton administration, when both the Democrats and Republicans in Washington imagined that the only thing keeping the Saudis and the Emiraties from making peace with Israel was the settlements. Today only three people seem to believe in this ancient prophecy: Mahmoud Abbas, former Meretz leader Zehava Galon, and Tom Friedman, and Abbas is not so sure.
Friedman, though, is a true believer. He writes: “Imagine if Saudi Arabia agreed to join the Abraham Accords, but only on the condition that it could open the Saudi Embassy to Israel in Israeli West Jerusalem while, at the same time, opening an embassy to the Palestinians in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.”
Why on Earth would the Saudis risk their trillion dollar Hajj industry in Mecca, with millions of pilgrims pouring into Islam’s holiest shrine, to open an embassy that recognizes the Zionist state? And for whom, the Palestinians? The most reviled and feared people in the region?
There were 400,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait before the 1990-1991 Gulf War. After the Iraqi occupation, an estimated 200,000 of them were forced out to the desert, because of PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s alliance with Saddam Hussein which made them collaboration suspects. The other 200,000 fled before the occupation. Now ask how many Saudi relief convoys were sent to help those thousands of men, women, and children in the desert? None. Only Jordan, which is 80% Palestinian, extended some humanitarian assistance. Because no one loves the Palestinians. Except for Zehava Galon and Tom Friedman. In countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, not to speak of Syria Lebanon, the Palestinians are worse than second-class citizens. They are often made to dwell in refugee camps which, under police and military guard, can easily be considered concentration camps—for many decades.
It’s true that back in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and even the ’90s, Arab regimes habitually diverted the attention of their citizens away from their poverty and repression with slogans about liberating Palestine. But very few regimes stick to this antiquated strategy. From Morocco to Sudan and from Saudi Arabia to the Muslim former Soviet republics, Israel is viewed as a model for copying, a much desired source of state-of-the-art technology, a promising trade partner, a reliable military ally against the terror-spreading Iran, and last but not least – a great source of tourism.
And that alarms Tom Friedman worse than anything else, and rightfully so:
I was Googling around the other day for a factoid: how many Israelis had visited the United Arab Emirates since the signing of their normalization agreement, known as the Abraham Accords. Answer: more than 130,000.
Jumping Jehoshaphat, Batman! In the middle of a global pandemic, at least 130,000 Israeli tourists and investors have flown to Dubai and Abu Dhabi since commercial air travel was established in mid-October!
Yup. Them DIBs is irrepressible. And there won’t be a 2-state, Tom. Because it’s a bad idea. Even Israeli Arabs, who actually consider themselves to be Palestinians, are pulling their votes away from the Joint Arab List that’s been waving the flag of Palestinian Statehood from day one. One of its most popular leaders, MK Ahmad Tibi, used to work for Arafat. And yet, in the polls, the Joint Arab List is down to 9 Knesset seats from the 15 it won in the last election. Israeli Arabs want their state to quell the daily murders in Arab streets, deal with their housing needs, education, employment – enough with the 2-state solution. And PA citizens line up and cut through wire fences to seek work inside Israel. They, too, couldn’t care less if the cops who round them up are paid by Jerusalem or Ramallah.
We did look up the “Jumping Jehoshaphat” in Friedman’s title. According to the Christian Science Monitor (Who is Jehoshaphat and why is he jumping?), Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! (and just plain Jehoshaphat!) originated in the United States during the 19th-century craze for “minced oaths,” pseudo-swearwords that replaced profane or blasphemous words with inoffensive ones. These not-quite oaths could be quite poetic: They rhymed (holy moly!), used alliteration (jumpin’ Jupiter!), and were fun to say (gee willikers!). Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat follows suit.