Israel UAE
A man thumbs up as he drives by Peace Bridge in Israeli Mediterranean Coastal Plain, the historic land bridge between Europe, Africa, and Asia, August 16, 2020 Image Credit: AP

The Palestinians have endured unending loss, humiliation and hardship throughout generations. No peoples on earth have been treated so unfairly for so many decades, not only at the hands of the occupying power but also by Western powers and the United Nations that has merely supported Palestinian rights on paper.

Those who have lost their homes, seen their villages erased as though they never existed, witnessed the torching of their orchards and the imprisonment of their children for the ‘crime’ of throwing stones at tanks, are right to feel embittered. The world at large may have let them down but never the Arabs.

Arab sympathies have always firmly rested with the dispossessed forced to leave their homeland to make way for the birth of a Jewish state. Egypt, Syria and Jordan were at war with Israel in 1967 when Israel launched a surprise air attack while in 1973, Egypt and Syria aiming to win back Egyptian and Palestinian territories occupied in ’67 battled against Israeli forces in Sinai.

Let us hope that this new peace will be fruitful and will eventually break down barriers between Arabs and Israelis who’ve been indoctrinated to hate for too long

- Linda Heard

Egypt’s then leader President Anwar Sadat took the bold and unthinkable step of making an impromptu visit to his enemy’s heartland, a journey that led to a lasting peace plus the return of all Egyptian lands.

Sadat understood that engaging in serial wars against a militarised entity tied at the hip to Washington was a hiding to nothing. He knew that given the dire state of his nation’s economy at a time when Egyptians were struggling to afford the price of bread eliciting mass public unrest, he had to take a new tack.

More on the issue

On March 26, 1979 he signed a peace treaty with Israel brokered by President Jimmy Carter. For that he was vilified, condemned by almost the entire Arab World as a traitor and murdered by fanatics.

The Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a genuine peacemaker who later worked sincerely towards a two-state solution hand-in-hand with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, suffered the same fate as Sadat.

So many years have gone by since the 1948 Nakba when almost half the Palestinian population was forced to flee their homes under threat of extermination convinced their exile would be temporary.

Yet despite wars, intifadas and rockets fired from Gaza, the Palestinians have gained nothing and the maintaining of a belligerent relationship with Israel in reality has blighted any hopes of a settlement because Israel’s Arab protagonists have no influence, no cards to play.

As long as Prime Minister Netanyahu felt he had nothing to lose and was blessed by Trump in the White House, he was poised to stroke Israel’s religious right-wingers who make-up a major part of his base with the annexation of most of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

More Arab countries to follow suit

The threat of annexation has now been averted because the leadership of the United Arab Emirates took the historic step of being the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to establish formal relations with Israel while maintaining its position of pursuing a just peace for the Palestinians to include a Palestinian state loosely based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. It is generally believed that this accord paves the way for other moderate Arab countries to follow suit.

It is a great pity that the Palestinian leadership has been so scathing. Hurling insults at the Emirates which has always backed the Palestinian cause to the hilt since the days Arafat regularly travelled around the Gulf seeking donations is far from wise.

Does President Mahmoud Abbas want the status quo to endure along with his empty hands? He has no solutions for the miserable predicament of his people except threats to disband the Palestinian Authority.

Likewise Turkey is hypocritically condemning the détente even as it maintains close relations with the Netanyahu administration. The Turkish President is trying to position himself as a neo-Ottoman dominating the Middle East and it goes without saying that Iran is using harsh criticism to score points with Hamas and other militant groups. Presidents Erdogan and Rouhani are disingenuous using the Palestinian cause for their own ends.

Let us hope that this new peace will be fruitful and will eventually break down barriers between Arabs and Israelis who’ve been indoctrinated to hate for too long.

Mutual antipathy has prevailed for more than 70 years and now that our world is fighting a vicious pandemic that has brought about a global economic downturn, there is no better time for joined hands that just maybe will one day open hearts.

Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.