Israeli Arabs should support the Israel-UAE peace plan -opinion

After passing all the hurdles, and over a month after it was signed in a celebratory ceremony at the White House, the Knesset approved the peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates with an overwhelming 83-13 majority last Thursday.Who are the 13 MKs who opposed the deal? They are the 13 members of the Joint List.Not even one member of the party that represents the Arab minority in Israel thought that establishing ties with an Arab country is a cause worth supporting. Why? The party said in a press release that it would not support the agreement because its introduction mentioned Donald Trump’s peace deal.“This deal is an element in a clear plan to abolish the rights of the Palestinian people,” read the Joint List statement. “The goal of the plan is to solidify the occupation and the settlements, and mostly – to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.“We support a just, genuine and comprehensive peace, as is expressed in the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on peace and normalization in return for ending the occupation and the Palestinian question and not the other way around,” the statement concluded.Putting aside that there is a group of politicians who oppose genuine peace in the region; it seems that the Joint List is not only getting the entire story wrong, it also tries – with all its resources – to revive a reality that died a long time ago.The Middle East is changing, and so, too, has the manner that other countries in the region deal with Israel. If the Saudi peace initiative once seemed like the only way for Israel to pave its road to recognition by other countries in the region, the rise of Iran and Turkey – alongside the Arab Spring – has flipped the table and made Israel into a desirable partner for moderate Islamic countries.The Joint List wants to keep Israel as an isolated country that begs for attention and which must make painful concessions to a people that doesn’t seem to evolve and stretch out its hand for peace.This adds to a long line of controversial diplomatic positions that the Arab parties in Israel have taken along the way. Among these expressions is a 2016 Hadash endorsement of Syrian President Bashar Assad – even after his horrific slaughter of innocent people was already known to the world. In 2016, Hadash and Balad published a condemnation of the Gulf states and the Arab League after they declared Hezbollah a terror organization.Obviously, the Joint List is entitled to hold independent opinions and to vote and release announcements freely like any other party in a democratic system.But one must wonder are the motives behind their positions? In reality, the deal with the UAE stopped the plan to annex parts of the West Bank – a move that could have harmed the Palestinians, which the party claims to represent – and created unprecedented opportunities for the Arab citizens of Israel, the actual constituency of the Joint List.The Arabs, who speak the language and understand the Gulf’s culture from within, would be the group that could benefit the most from this deal, including spearheading the teams that establish economic ties between the two countries.It seems that the Joint List, or at least parts of it, has been undergoing major changes over the past few years. If it was once vocal mainly around diplomatic issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it now focuses more on domestic issues – like police brutality, fighting the novel coronavirus and civil equality for Arab Israelis. It also proved that it can recommend a candidate to form a government if he or she meets their terms – a move it had avoided for years.Perhaps this trend to pragmatism should also penetrate into the diplomatic sphere.It was once said that Arab Israelis could be a bridge between Jews and the rest of the Middle East.We can only hope to see these changes sooner than later.



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