The recent Hamas attack on Israel, launched on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, is a stark reminder of the enduring tensions in the Middle East, fueled by the intricate and unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Amidst this protracted conflict, recent developments have further exacerbated tensions, with one notable occurrence being the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. This diplomatic milestone signifies a significant shift in regional relations and shared interests but notably sidesteps the Palestinian issue, a pivotal concern in the Middle East.
This article dissects the interplay between this normalization process and the recent Hamas attack, shedding light on its repercussions for the Palestinian cause, the worsening of existing grievances, and its contribution to heightened violence. By scrutinizing the complexities of this situation, this article aspires to unravel the nuanced aspects of the conflict and explore potential pathways toward peace and stability.
The Abraham Accords, inked in 2020 during the Trump administration, marked a pivotal juncture in Middle Eastern diplomacy, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) becoming the first Arab nation to normalize relations with Israel. This historic step paved the way for four other countries, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and Kosovo, to follow suit, igniting discussions regarding the potential normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
These negotiations, bolstered by support from the Biden administration in the United States, promise economic and security benefits for both nations. For Saudi Arabia, normalized relations could yield access to advanced American-made weaponry, including the F-35 fighter jet, and potentially contentious civil nuclear capabilities, such as in-country uranium enrichment. For Israel, normalization with Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s most influential power and largest economy, would bolster its security posture and regional influence.
Prime Minister Netanyahu articulated Israel’s interest in Saudi-Israeli normalization during United Nations General Assembly side meetings, underscoring the potential for regional peace and reconciliation. However, the Palestinian issue remains a substantial stumbling block to normalization, as Saudi Arabia insists on the necessity of a just and lasting resolution before recognizing Israel.
The Biden administration is eager to broker a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal, as it would represent a significant diplomatic achievement and enhance relations between the U.S. and Israel. Nevertheless, it faces pressure from human rights organizations and some members of Congress to avoid making concessions to Saudi Arabia, which has faced criticism for its human rights record, notably in the context of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
However, the most pressing concern lies in the marginalization of Palestinians in these normalization agreements. The dwindling faith in the viability of a two-state solution compounds this issue, deepening despair among the Palestinian populace. The lack of emphasis on the Palestinian predicament during the normalization talks, exemplified by statements from Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is a matter of grave concern for Palestinians and their supporters.
Domestic Israeli politics have also played a pivotal role in the recent escalation. The ascent of far-right ultranationalist parties has emboldened the Israeli government to pursue more aggressive and expansionist policies toward Palestinians, manifesting in increased settlement construction, restrictions on Palestinian movement and access to resources, and the use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians.
These Israeli policies toward the West Bank, coupled with regional events, have garnered criticism from Palestinians and their supporters. They argue that these agreements effectively reward Israel for its occupation of Palestinian territory and violations of Palestinian rights, while simultaneously weakening the Palestinian cause and obstructing the prospect of a just and enduring peace. Palestinians perceive their struggle as being suppressed, and the normalization accords as further isolating them.
An August 2023, a Palestinian Public Opinion Poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research overwhelmingly reveals that Palestinians believe these normalization deals will harm their cause and fail to lead to a just and lasting peace.
These factors have engendered a pervasive sense of despair and hopelessness among Palestinians, further bolstering support for Hamas and its militant ideology. To many Palestinians, Hamas represents the only force willing to confront Israel and advocate for their rights. Reports by the International Crisis Group and the Brookings Institution align with this view, suggesting that the Abraham Accords have negatively impacted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, emboldening Israel and neglecting to address the root causes of the Palestinian economic crisis.
The recent escalation should serve as a wake-up call to the international community. The current status quo in the Middle East is untenable, and achieving a just and lasting peace necessitates addressing the fundamental grievances of the Palestinian people and ensuring their participation in determining their own future.