On Wednesday, September 9, 2020, the Arab League held a meeting via video conference at the Arab League headquarters, at the level of foreign ministers, to discuss Palestinian Authority’s request for an emergency meeting to reject the UAE’s normalization deal with Israel (the August 13th deal brokered by the US). Even before the meeting, the proposal was rejected by Bahrain.
The proposal that was put forth by the Palestinian delegation meant to issue a formal condemnation of the Abraham Accord, set to be officially signed next week at the White House. Yet, in a sign of Ramallah’s declining standing in the world, countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and all Gulf nations elected to vote down the draft, instead of passing an alternative resolution that holds no condemnation of the UAE’s act.
The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, stressed during his speech at the start of the 154th session that the Palestinian cause was and will continue to be the subject of Arab consensus, and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative remains the road map for a just solution. “The goal all our Arab countries seek, without exception, is to end the [Israeli] occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Aboul Gheit said. To achieve a comprehensive and just peace between the Arabs and Israel, he added, the Arab Peace Initiative was still “the basic plan agreed upon by the Arab world”.
During the meeting, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki accused Washington of resorting to “blackmail” to get more Arab states to normalize ties with Israel. Malki also demanded to know why an emergency meeting of the Arab League’s Council at the ministerial level was objected to after the deal was announced last month (the respective meeting had been solicited soon after the reveal of the deal), considering the Israel-UAE deal was an “earthquake that undermines joint Arab action”.
Palestinian Ambassador Mohannad Aklouk told the Ma’an news agency that after a three-hour discussion, the Authority and the Arab countries agreed not to include a clear condemnation of the UAE-Israel deal. Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki told reporters: “Discussions regarding this point were serious. It was comprehensive and took some time. But it did not lead in the end to an agreement about the draft resolution that was proposed by the Palestinian side.” Moreover, the meeting’s final statement failed to condemn the UAE – Israel deal, and, instead, renewed its commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the two-state solution, and adherence to international law and resolutions relevant to the dispute between Palestine and Israel.
Reactions to the decision
As it was legit, since it was a deal under the auspices of the US, the decision of the Arab League was welcomed by the US.
However, Hamas criticized the Arab League’s failure to endorse the Palestinian draft resolution condemning the normalization agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. As such, the Palestinian faction said in a statement that the league’s failure underlines its abandonment of its role and duty towards Palestine by justifying agreements with the enemy, while the occupation continues with its oppression. Also, it added that the league has provided a cover for Emirati rulers despite the Israeli violations in Palestine, including the Judaisation of Jerusalem, the division of the West Bank with illegal Jewish settlements, and the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, among others. “The Arab League’s rejection of the Palestinian resolution can only be explained by reinforcing the occupation by covering up for the rulers of the Emirates, and a clear abandonment of the League’s position at the Beirut summit (March 2002), which stipulated to ensure Palestinian rights before normalization,” it added. At the end, Hamas appealed to the Arab peoples to pressure their governments to backtrack on their positions, due to the dangers the deal inflicts on Arab and Palestinian rights in the region.
Reacting to the results of the meeting, Morrocan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita said on Wednesday that Morocco’s attachment to the constants of the Palestinian cause is “unceasing, unconditional and is matched only by the sustained effort to find diplomatic, political, legal, and practical steps and channels capable of reaching a solution”. He said that the situation now regarding the cause “must call on us to stimulate initiatives and get out of the wait-and-see attitude, by reconsidering certain methods followed by opening up to all the major players in the file”. In the face of the current situation and also the fight against COVID-19, the Moroccan FM called for an “inclusive vision” to address the challenges based on the principle of solidarity rooted in the Arab culture.
The public reacted on social media and several Twitter users criticized what they called the “negative position” of the Arab League regarding the normalization of the UAE with Israel, terming that as a “death certificate” for the Arab bloc. For example, Ayman Nour, an Egyptian opposition member, tweeted: “The Arab League has been pronounced dead after dropping a Palestinian draft resolution condemning the Emirati-Israeli normalization agreement”. Nour echoed a statement issued by the Arab Council, established in 2014, in which Arabs were told to consider the Arab League a “dead entity” with no hope “for reform and revival”. Jordanian-Palestinian writer and politician Yasser Zaatarah tweeted that the Arab League decision was “expected”, adding the move is a new confirmation that the Arab bloc’s behavior is inconsistent with the demands of the “Ummah”.