Palestinians Never Miss an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity | Opinion

In 1973, legendary Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously quipped: "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

In 2020, whereas the Palestinian leadership is continuing to squander every opportunity before them, Arab states, courageously led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, are leading the way by grasping them.

Ahead of Tuesday's historic White House peace signing between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, there is much to ponder about how far we've come since Eban uttered those famous words—and about the tectonic shift gripping the Middle East, particularly vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

To truly understand the extent of the Palestinians' self-inflicted isolation and abandonment, one must look at the Arab response to their self-righteous indignation over news of the recent peace accords.

Palestinian leadership has decried both agreements with the UAE and Bahrain as a "stab in the back" Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the UAE decision to normalize ties with Israel was "a poisoned dagger" and called the UAE a "traitor to the homeland and our cause."

In response, the Gulf Cooperation Council demanded an apology from Abbas and other Palestinian leaders for using "irresponsible language of incitement and threats."

Mere months ago, an Arab League resolution condemning Israel would have been entirely guaranteed. Yet last week, the Palestinians suffered a humiliating defeat when the Arab League resoundingly rejected their demand to condemn the Israel-UAE deal.

Secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, claimed that if the Arab League did not condemn the UAE peace deal with Israel, it would cease to remain "relevant."

No, Mr. Erakat. As the world is moving forward, it is your failed leadership that has made the Palestinians increasingly irrelevant, consigning them to further misery and you to little besides a meager footnote in history.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Arab world has grown frustrated with the Palestinians' relentless intransigence, selfishness and rejectionism, refusing to be held hostage to their veto on peace and normalization with Israel.

What was the national interest for the Arab countries in acquiescing to the Palestinian demands and pouring billions after billions of dollars in aid, when they could be collaborating with Israel on security, innovation, science and technology and actually seeing real, tangible benefits?

It was Albert Einstein who reportedly defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." That is a rather apt description of decades of failed Middle East foreign policy, which prioritized appeasement of the Palestinians and pressure on Israel to make further concessions as the only path to peace.

Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner
Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The belief was that if only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were to be solved, that would unlock broader peace and normalization between Israel and Arab countries.

However, the U.S. administration, led by President Trump and Jared Kushner, had the courage to think outside the box and see the bigger picture.

They understood that the Palestinians, flush with foreign cash while the international community's obsessive compulsive focus remained on Israel, had little to no incentive to change their behavior.

The United States was not prepared to sit idly by while the Palestinian leadership held ransom Israel's normalization with Arab and Gulf countries, thereby also holding back real progress and hope of a better future for everyone else in the region.

As Jared Kushner noted, President Trump has sought to "align the different countries in the region around their common interests, as opposed to focusing on historic grievances."

One of those common interests was Iran. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of the United Nations and the European Union, the United States also understood that it was not Israel, but rather the Islamic Republic of Iran, that was the main destabilizing force in the Middle East—and the one that could also unite Israel with the Arab and Gulf countries which Iran also threatens.

Therefore, the U.S. turned the entire conventional wisdom upside-down and proved all the naysayers and so-called "experts," who said peace in the Middle East must first go through Ramallah, wrong.

What we are witnessing today is nothing short of a full paradigm shift in the geopolitics of the region—not only normalization between Israel and Arab countries, but recognition of the importance of laying the foundations for a warm, durable peace, from the bottom up and not from the top down.

The only question remains: Will the Palestinian leadership follow the courageous lead of the UAE and Bahrain, look to the future and make peace with Israel—or continue to miss the opportunities before them, thereby consigning their own people to further misery?

Arsen Ostrovsky is an Israel-based international human rights lawyer. You can follow him on Twitter: @Ostrov_A.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.