Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (pictured) is also now under attack by many Palestinians.... He will not be able to make any concessions to Israel because people will say, "You are an unelected leader. You are a dictator. You have been in power for more than 15 years without elections. Who voted for you?" This will all have a negative impact on any future peace process. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Many journalists in the mainstream media appear not to be interested in certain stories here, particularly ones that reflect negatively on Arabs or Palestinians. Most are only searching for stories that reflect negatively on Israel, that have an anti‑Israel angle.
That leaves the rest of us opportunities for publishing stories that the mainstream media in the West do not want.
In addition to Palestinian affairs, I also follow the Arab world -- where it is important to discuss Iran.
In the last few weeks, many people in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf countries -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates -- are extremely worried about the way the Biden Administration and the Western powers are dealing with Islamic Republic.
Every day in dozens of articles and op‑ed pieces – in newspapers, websites, radio, television broadcasts out of these Arab countries -- it is amazing to see how concerned they are, the Arabs over there, about the possibility that the Biden Administration might return to the nuclear deal with Iran.
Even today, an Egyptian journalist wrote how the Arabs were worried about the possibility of returning to the nuclear deal because they don't trust Iran. The Arabs are saying that the Iranians are liars. They are saying that Iran is trying to advance its own agenda. Iran is trying to export the Islamic revolution to the Arab world and destabilize the Arab countries. Iran is already interfering in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. And they are sponsoring terrorism.
When you look at the Arab reactions to what the US is engaged in, you can see that they are less worried about the nuclear bomb than about what Iran is already doing. "Look," they are saying, "Iran is already in Yemen through the Houthi militia; in Lebanon through Hezbollah; in Gaza through Hamas; in Syria through Hezbollah, in the Assad regime. Iran is also meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq, and Iran is sponsoring this wave of terrorism in Gaza." They are deeply worried by what they perceive as a policy of appeasement towards Iran.
This is why now, we see that many people in the Arab world, all these commentators and political analysts and columnists, are sounding an alarm bell directed to the Biden Administration.
If I can quote Egyptian writer in Asharq Al‑Awsat, a Saudi newspaper, he is saying, "President Trump was right when he walked out of the agreement with Iran because this agreement was very dangerous. The Iranians never abided by it anyway. They were trying to play everyone for fools." He even wrote, "Thank you, Mr. President Trump, for being aware of the Iranian ploy."
The message coming out of the Arab world to the US right now is, "Don't let the Iranians fool you. If you embolden Iran, you are facilitating Iran's mission to undermine security and stability in the Middle East. You are helping Iran threaten our regimes, our government, our economy. You are helping Iran through its proxies in the Middle East -- Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis - spread terrorism in the Arab world."
These are powerful messages.
I have never seen such concern in the Arab world towards the policies or the attitude of a US administration with regards to Iran. We cannot ignore it.
The Saudis are saying that the more America appeases Iran, the more rockets and drone attacks they are getting from Yemen through the Iranian‑backed Houthi militia. Look, also, at what is happening in Lebanon.
For the first time, you have a Lebanese Intifada against Hezbollah and Iran. For the first time, you have people demonstrating on the streets of Beirut and other parts of Lebanon saying, "We want to end the Iranian occupation." This is unprecedented. We never saw such protests in the past.
The Arab world, out of concern, is sending a message to the Biden administration: "Please, be careful in your dealings with Iran. Do not embolden Iran. Do not appease the mullahs unless they change, of course."
The prediction in the Arab world, though, is that the Iranians, under the current regime, the mullahs, are not going to change. The general feeling is that the Iranians are trying to play the Westerners, the Biden administration for fools, by pretending that they are going to abide by their agreements and all that. Perhaps that is one of the reasons people at the US State Department are now following me on Twitter to see what I am writing. It is good that they are... Whether it will change their position, I don't know, but at least they are listening to these voices. We are just putting them in their face.
That is Iran. The other issue it is important to address is the Palestinians. It's my favorite topic. As you all know, the elections have been canceled. It's like, "Oh, okay. Big surprise."
From day one, in January, when President Abbas announced that he was going to hold elections, a few of us said that we had very serious doubts that he would hold them, and would try to find an excuse to cancel or delay them indefinitely -- and that preferably this excuse had to be by putting all the blame on Israel.
Those who believed that he was keen about elections, they don't know what they're talking about. President Abbas is now in the 16th year of his four‑year term in office. There was no reason why he should suddenly wake up one morning at the age of 85 and decide to hold the elections.
The whole thing was a scam from the beginning. It was intended, mostly to appease the Europeans, who were pressuring President Abbas, "Please, go have elections. Please, do something."
Promising elections was also probably an attempt to impress the Biden administration by showing that, "Oh, you see, Mr. President, we are capable of having democracy, or Mr. President Biden, you see I am a legitimate elected leader, I, Mahmoud Abbas...." That was the real intention.
President Abbas earlier said he had no real intention of proceeding with the election unless Israel allowed the vote to take place in Jerusalem. He was sitting there waiting for an excuse. I feel sorry for all those Palestinians who registered for the parliamentary election, which was supposed to take place in a few weeks.
If you want to look at the positive aspect of this whole thing, we had 36 lists registering for the parliamentary election, and many of them had young people, ambitious people, reformists -- people who want democracy, who want regime change, who are saying, "We are fed up with corruption. We want new, young leaders. It is time to get rid of the old guard represented by Abbas."
In the end, President Abbas was searching for an excuse, and he found the issue of Jerusalem as a very good excuse to put all the blame on Israel.
Now, many people in the Western media, and many of my Western colleagues, did not pay attention to a number of facts regarding the dispute over Jerusalem. President Abbas is not telling the truth when he says, "Israel said no to holding the elections in Jerusalem."
There was never any government announcement from Israel saying anything like that. Israel said, "We are not going to interfere with the Palestinian elections. The Palestinians can do whatever they want."
President Abbas was misleading everyone by not telling the truth when he said that Israel had said no to holding elections in Jerusalem. That is number one. Number two, President Abbas is also lying when he tells everyone that under international agreement, Israel is obliged to allow elections to take place in Jerusalem, Palestinian elections.
I have read the Oslo Accords and all the interim agreements. All I found there was that Israel said that it will allow a number of East Jerusalem residents, a number of Arabs from Jerusalem, to vote through the Israeli post offices in Jerusalem.
The rest of the Arabs can vote wherever they want. If an Arab from Jerusalem wants to go to Ramallah and vote over there, Israel is not going to stop him. In the past, many Arabs from Jerusalem went to villages surrounding Jerusalem that are under the Palestinian Authority control and voted over there.
Besides, according to these agreements, something like 6,000 Arabs from Jerusalem were supposed to vote through the Israeli Post Offices in Jerusalem. If that is the case, President Abbas, why did you set the elections on a Saturday, on Shabbat? You know that the Israeli Post Offices do not work on Shabbat.
You cannot on the one hand announce that the elections will take place on Shabbat and then say, "Oh, Israel didn't allow me to..." It was very clear from the beginning that President Abbas was not very serious. If he really wanted these elections to take place, including with the participation of the Arabs in Jerusalem, they would have taken place.
There is nothing better than blaming Israel. That is what President Abbas has been doing for the last 10 or 15 years, redirecting the anger on the Palestinian's towards Israel, daily inciting hatred against Israel.
The allegation that Israel did not allow the election in Jerusalem just seems part of that ongoing campaign of incitement against Israel -- one that is aimed at delegitimizing Israel and demonizing Jews.
President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are saying, "Oh, because Israel did not allow us to hold the elections in Jerusalem, this is the war crime, and we're going to add it to the list of war crimes that we are going to bring it before the ICC," the International Criminal Court, and all that.
It's like, "Excuse me, President Abbas, who are you fooling?" Fortunately, for us, by the way, there are many Arabs and Palestinians over here, who do not believe President Abbas. They know that he was using the issue of Jerusalem as a pretext to avoid the elections.
Why didn't President Abbas want elections? Because his ruling Fatah party is split. For the first time, he is facing a serious challenge from Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Fatah leader who is serving multiple life sentences for murder.
For the first time, he is facing a serious challenge from Nasser Al‑Qudwa, a former Palestinian foreign minister and a nephew of Yasser Arafat. For the first time, he is facing a serious challenge from exiled Fatah leader, Mohammed Dahlan.
In the last four months, we saw that Fatah, Abbas's Fatah faction, was running under three different lists. One belonging to Abbas himself, the second belonging to Nasser Al‑Qudwa and Marwan Barghouti, and the third belonging to Mohammed Dahlan.
Abbas knew that if his faction was divided, that plays into the hands of Hamas, and Hamas will win the election again. We have been to this movie before. In 2006, Hamas won the parliamentary election because Fatah was divided. As I said, the best thing you can do is you put all the blame on Israel.
Many of my Western colleagues, unfortunately, bought this excuse. They parroted it without even checking. They did not verify with the Israelis. They did not even talk about what is really happening to Arabs in Jerusalem.
There is also another factor over here that the international media has ignored. It is, if you ask most Arabs in Jerusalem, "Are you interested in participating in a Palestinian election?" The answer you get is, "No, we do not care. We do not want to be part of the Palestinian political system. We are happy living under Israel. We want to retain our status as residents of Israel. We do not have any confidence, not in the Palestinian Authority, and not in Hamas."
In many ways, the Arabs in Jerusalem were not going to vote in the elections. In the last three Palestinian elections, in 1996, 2005, and 2006, only a minority of Arabs in Jerusalem voted. Which means that their participation or non‑participation would not have changed anything regarding the Palestinian vote. Mahmoud Abbas was looking for an excuse, and eventually, he used the whole issue of Jerusalem as an excuse.
Now, there is also another topic: relations between the Palestinian Authority and the Biden Administration.
The Biden Administration was very quick to announce the resumption of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, unconditionally, by the way, which I think was a mistake. They announced that they are going to resume aid to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Organization for Palestine Refugees, which, I believe, was also a mistake.
If you are rewarding the Palestinian Authority without demanding anything in return, you will have no leverage with the Palestinian Authority anymore. You've already given them what they wanted, so why should they do what you ask them in the future?
If the Biden Administration thinks that President Abbas will return to the negotiating table with Israel and resume the peace process because they have resumed the financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, that is not going to happen. If it happens, President Abbas will not be serious about the peace process. The Biden Administration was too quick in making all these decisions.
They have already given a gift to President Abbas without getting anything in return. This will not help revive any peace process over here, not in the near future, let alone the fact that President Abbas is also now under attack by many Palestinians who are saying, "Oh, he is not a legitimate leader. He canceled elections. He is preventing us from having democracy. We do not trust him anymore."
I hear these voices every day from a growing number of Palestinians who are questioning his legitimacy.
When you question Abbas's legitimacy, he will not be able to make any concessions to Israel because people will say, "You are an unelected leader. You are a dictator. You have been in power for more than 15 years without elections. Who voted for you?" This will all have a negative impact on any future peace process.
Add to this the fact that the Palestinians continue to be divided. Everyone talks about a two‑state solution. I hear now that the Biden Administration is once again talking about the two‑state solution. I told some US journalists a few days ago that we already have a two‑state solution over here. They said, "What? What are you talking about? When did that happen?"
I told them, "Listen, it happened in 2007." They said, "What? What do you mean?" I said, "You guys have a short memory." In 2007, Hamas, the Iranian‑backed Islamist movement in Gaza, woke up one morning and kicked the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, with Israel's help, ran away to the West Bank.
Since then, we have two states for the Palestinians. One in Gaza is run by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Muslim brotherhood. Then you have another mini‑state in the West Bank run by President Abbas. The Palestinians call them the mafia.
This is the reality on the ground that many people are ignoring. How can you talk about reviving the two‑state solution when you have these Palestinian divisions when you have this power struggle going on when you have an erosion of Palestinian confidence in Palestinian leaders?
According to all public opinion polls, more than 60 percent of the Palestinians are demanding that President Abbas step down, but who cares. No one talks about these issues. These are all the issues that we are dealing right now.
I can tell you that the more I look at the situation on the Palestinian side, I see that it continues to be a total mess. I see divisions, more corruption. What worries me is not that Fatah and Hamas are at each other's necks and killing each other. They have been doing that for years. What worries me is that Fatah, Hamas, President Abbas, Ismail Haniyeh, and all these leaders are continuing their incitement against Israel.
This is extremely serious incitement. That is what is encouraging violence. That is what is driving all these terrorists to go out and carry out all these attacks. The rhetoric coming out of Ramallah and Gaza is extremely dangerous. It is emboldening the radicals. It is promoting terrorism.
If you keep telling your people, "The Jews are killing the children, and the Jews are desecrating with their filthy feet our holy sites, and the Jews are violently invading the Al‑Aqsa Mosque, and the Jews want to destroy our holy shrines, and the Jews are cutting the trees, and the Jews are burning the children, and the Jews are...."
How can you ever talk about resuming any peace process with Israel? You delegitimize Israel in the eyes of your people, the Palestinians, to a point where your people will never accept any kind of an agreement or compromise with Israel.
This incitement has to stop. That is why I would have liked to see the Biden Administration tell the Palestinian Authority, "Listen. We will resume financial aid to the Palestinians, but before we do that, on Palestine TV, can you please stop calling for jihad? Can you please stop publishing or broadcasting all these messages that encourage violence?" but the Biden Administration did not demand any of these things, and look where we are now.
Now, President Abbas is calling for an intifada in Jerusalem. His prime minister is calling for an uprising against settlers. They are accusing Israel falsely of planning to destroy the Al‑Aqsa Mosque. These are very serious allegations that are being broadcast.
They are telling their people that violent extremist Jews are planning to undermine stability, planning to attack people in their homes, and other messages that are very, very dangerous.
It was a missed opportunity.
Question: Do you think the US should re‑enter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as it is trying to do, and what effect would a nuclearized Iran have on stability in the Middle East?
Abu Toameh: When President Trump walked out of that agreement, I think he had good reason. He realized, like the Israelis before him, that the Iranians were not abiding by that agreement.
We see all these reports about Iran continuing to enrich uranium, about Iran continuing to develop its nuclear and missile programs.... The Iranians are not even trying to hide that, by the way.
If you want to rejoin the agreement, at least make sure that they abide by it. Make sure that they are not hiding things. You cannot just walk back into an agreement without verifying it.
A nuclear bomb in the hands of Iran is not only a threat to Israel. Listen to what the Arabs are saying: "We are also worried. These mullahs in Iran will not hesitate to use any type of weapon against the Arabs, against the Muslims in the region. If the Iranians are now using drones and ballistic missiles to attack Saudi Arabia from Yemen, who is going to prevent them in the future from using nuclear bombs against moderate Arabs, moderate Muslims, or any other Arab or Muslim?" This is the message that is coming out of the Arab world.
I am not in a position where I can advise the Biden Administration what to do and what not to do, but what I can tell them is do not be fooled by these people. If you want to return to that agreement, at least listen also to what the Israelis are telling you, because the Israelis have a lot of intelligence.
That is why the head of the Mossad visited the White House recently and met with US officials, and, according to some reports, even with Biden himself. I do not think that this whole Iranian threat is exaggerated. It is a real threat, and extremely serious.
If you look at Iran's behavior in the past, you see that these Mullahs have no intention of honoring any agreement.
Add to this, the rhetoric, which is very bad, of their ongoing incitement. They might agree to some of the terms set to them by the Americans and the Westerners. But they will not abide by these agreements. They have no intention of abiding.
For them, it is also a matter of dignity. In Arab and Muslim culture, these are issues of dignity. These are cultures of honor, pride, and defiance. I do not think that Iran is suddenly going to wake up in the morning and say, Okay, we are now prepared to make concessions to the big Satan or to the Zionist entity. They see any agreement with the West as a humiliation. That is why I do not trust them. Many Arabs don't trust them. That is the message that they are sending to Biden. If you want to rejoin any agreement, at least listen to what your allies are telling you. Listen to us, the Arabs, also, what we are telling you. Listen to what Israel is saying.
Question: What do you believe is best for a solution with the Palestinians? When and how might this happen?
Abu Toameh: When we talk about a solution, I can think of 10,000 solutions. Everyone here has a solution. Hamas has a solution.
If you ask Hamas, they will tell you, listen, replace Israel with an Islamic state. If there are some Jews who would like to live as a minority, they are welcome. Otherwise, get out of here or I will destroy all of you.
President Abbas has a solution. He is saying Israel must give me 100% of what I am demanding, which is all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and all of East Jerusalem. On top of that, I want the right of return. I want to bring millions of Palestinian refugees into Israel itself. President Abbas is saying, I want the Palestinian state next to Israel. Then I want to turn Israel into another Palestinian state by flooding it with millions of refugees. These are unrealistic solutions. No one takes them seriously.
I think that at present, all Israel can do is work with any Palestinian who wants to work with you and shoot back at any Palestinian who shoots at you. Let us stop talking about solutions. Maybe, right now, there is no solution that will satisfy the needs or the demands of the Palestinians.
When you have Hamas demanding 100 percent of all the land, including Israel, and then you have President Abbas coming up with all his demands, that is impractical. You cannot make solutions with people who are telling you, "Give me 100% or there is no deal." It does not work like that.
Israel is in many ways fortunate, by the way. It has one Palestinian camp that is now working with Israel, which is the Mahmoud Abbas‑led camp, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and then you have Hamas in Gaza with whom you can have ceasefires and things like that.
The situation is dangerous. We live in a dangerous neighborhood. Israel is surrounded by too many enemies. Israel cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. What do I mean by that? What worries me is that Israeli concessions are being misinterpreted as signs of weakness.
In May 2000, Israel woke up one morning and withdrew from Lebanon. We saw what happened. It emboldened Hezbollah. Hezbollah took credit for driving the Jews out of Lebanon through rockets, through suicide bombing.
In 2005, Israel repeated the same mistake with Gaza. In this part of the world, you do not wake up and run away. Even before the Israeli withdrawal or disengagement from Gaza, people were asking, "What is going to happen?" I said, "This will embolden Hamas. This will bring Hamas to power. Israel's withdrawal will be seen as a retreat, as a runaway from violence." That is why, after Israel left Gaza, we saw that Gaza continued to attack Israel. I was there in Gaza the day after Israel left Gaza. I was asked by many of my colleagues to take them on a tour of Gaza to ask Palestinians, "What do you think about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza?" We could not find one Palestinian who saw the Israeli withdrawal as a sign that maybe these Jews really want peace.
What we did find on the other hand, was that 100% of the people we talked to in Gaza, said, "Wow, this is wonderful. We have killed 1,000 Jews in four and a half years. We have carried out all these terrorist attacks against Israel. In the end, Israel runs away from Gaza, so we need to continue firing into Israel!" Why? "Because, today, they ran away from Gaza, tomorrow, Israel will run away from Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, and from there to the sea." Look where we are now.
If you want to make concessions, do it through agreements. Do it after you receive guarantees from the international community.
Do not just wake up in the morning and run away. It doesn't work like that when you are dealing with Arab and Muslim culture. In this part of the world, if you show any sign of weakness, it brings more violence.
Unfortunately and sadly, Israel has paid a very heavy price for mistakes they have made.
Question: Are there any Palestinians who want to work with Israel?
Abu Toameh: Yes. The Palestinian Authority's rhetoric is very anti‑Israel, but there is one good thing about them. They are conducting security coordination with Israel in the West Bank. They are helping Israel fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
They are not doing it because they love Israel or because they are Zionists. They are doing it because they are being paid by the Americans, by the Europeans to do it. They are doing it because Hamas and Islamic Jihad also threaten them -- President Abbas and company.
The Palestinian Authority is delivering on the security front, and, for me, that's fine. I even hear it from Israeli security officials. They are satisfied with the performance of the Palestinian security forces. Three days ago, we saw that the Palestinian police found the car that was used by a terrorist in a shooting attack against three settlers in the West Bank.
That is part of the security coordination I am talking about. This is bringing us some kind of stability in the West Bank. There are people who want to work with Israelis. There are also Palestinians who believe in peace with Israel.
There are also Palestinians who want to make concessions to Israel, but are afraid to speak out because you do not have democracy in Ramallah. You do not have a free media in Ramallah, and you do not have a freedom of expression under Hamas.
I can speak out because I live in Israel. I am fortunate that as an Arab Muslim, I live in Israel, so I can write in Gatestone and in the Jerusalem Post. I can express my opinions freely. It is ironic that I, as an Arab Muslim, I have to live in Israel to be able to practice some form of democracy and freedom of speech.
There are people out there but they cannot speak out. Many of my colleagues in Ramallah and Gaza, they tell me, "You know, here is a story we cannot publish. Can you please publish it? You are lucky, you write in Jewish newspapers, you write for Jewish media outlets."
This is where we are. The Palestinians are in a tragic situation because they are controlled by two dictatorships, two corrupt regimes. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and I see that as an internal Palestinian problem.
Israel should not be involved in it. Let the Palestinians vote for whomever they want. Let the Palestinians choose their own leaders. If they vote for bad leaders like Hamas, they will pay a price like they are paying in Gaza right now.
If they vote for President Abbas who is corrupt and depriving his people of international aid, that is also an internal Palestinian problem. Israel should only be worried about Israel's security.
Israel should tell these folks, "Listen. You guys want to kill each other, you want to deprive your people of the international aid, that is your problem. You want to be corrupt, that is also your problem, but do not mess with my security."
When it comes to security, it is a red line. I think this is Israel's policy in the last few years. Israel should not be meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. Let them do whatever they want when it comes to economy, things like that.
Israel can also help them by allowing more people to come and work in Israel, but Israel should only focus on its security because the internal Palestinian scene is very, very complicated. It is a messy situation over there.
Question: Please assess Mansour Abbas.
Abu Toameh: We have two Abbases: Mahmoud Abbas and Mansour Abbas. I keep asking myself, "What makes someone who is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood suddenly so pragmatic?"
Mansour Abbas belongs to the Islamic Movement in Israel, and his views are well known or have been well known for many years. Personally, I do not trust anything that comes out of the Muslim Brotherhood or anyone affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
He has not abandoned his ideology. I did not see any change in Mansour Abbas's ideology or in his party's list and the ideology of his party, but I did see some surprising developments coming out of Mansour Abbas.
Mansour Abbas today presents a new trend among Arab Israelis. He broke away from the Joint List, which used to consist of four Arab parties, and ran in the last Israeli election on a ticket that said, "Vote for me. I want integration into Israeli society. Vote for me. I want to be part of the Israeli decision‑making process."
As such, more than 150,000 Arabs in Israel voted for him, which is a good sign. It shows that the Arabs in Israel want integration. They do not want to see their representatives in the Knesset talking about Hamas and Islamic jihad or representing the Palestinian Authority.
They want to see their representatives in the Knesset dealing with the real problems facing the Arab community inside Israel, and that's where Mansour Abbas was very successful.
He told the Arab Israeli constituents, "Vote for me. I am not going to represent the PLO. I am not going to represent Hamas. I will focus on internal issues, and I, Mansour Abbas, I do not even rule out the possibility of sitting in a Netanyahu‑led government," and as such, many people voted for him.
Now, it is premature to assess policies. But if Mansour Abbas is going to be an authentic representative of the Arab Israelis and work for equality and work for better services, and for solving the problems of unemployment and poverty in the Arab sector, that's very good.
If he is going to use his list as a Trojan horse to enter any Israeli coalition and then start telling us about the Muslim Brotherhood, and then talking about spreading Islam and all that, no, thank you. That is not what the Arab Israelis want. We have to wait and see.
There are two Mansour Abbases out there. There is one who is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and has not distanced himself from it.
There is another Mansour Abbas who seems to be a pragmatic, realistic man who wants to serve his people. I suggest, we wait to see what is going to happen.
Question: How do the Palestinians feel about the Abraham Accords?
Abu Toameh: When we talk about the Palestinians, we always need to draw a distinction between the Palestinian men on the street and Palestinian leaders or Palestinian politicians and Palestinian factions.
The reaction of the Palestinian leadership, whether it's in Ramallah or in Gaza, has been extremely negative towards the peace agreements, or the Abraham Accords, between Israel and some Arab countries.
The initial reaction was, "Oh, our Arab brothers are abandoning us. They are stabbing us in the back. They do not care about us anymore. They have betrayed the Palestinians. They have betrayed Al‑Aqsa Mosque." We saw very strong reactions coming out of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza.
They were inciting, actually, against the Arab countries. They were inciting against the same Arab countries that were giving them millions and millions of dollars for many, many years.
That is why they have damaged their relations with many of the Arab countries, by attacking the Arabs and accusing them of betraying the Arab cause, betraying the Palestinian issue, betraying Al‑Aqsa. These are serious allegations, especially when they come from Arabs and Muslims.
When you accuse the rulers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates of betraying Al‑Aqsa, betraying Islam, and betraying the Palestinian issue, you are sending a message to the Arabs and the Muslims that these are infidels. These are traitors. They deserve to be beheaded. They deserve to be hanged. We do not want to see them anymore.
Now, in the Palestinian streets, I did not see mass protests against these agreements. I meet many Palestinians every day. I do not see people walking on the street and saying, "Oh, my God. What are we going to do? It is really a tragedy. We are very worried. Israel has signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates!"
You do not really get that kind of reaction. In fact, I meet many Palestinians who are very hopeful. They say, "Oh, maybe there is an opportunity for us to go and work in the United Arab Emirates? Maybe we can go and work there? Maybe we will have tourism from these countries?"
They are saying things that are actually the exact opposite of what their leaders are saying. In many ways, that is encouraging. The same is true of the Arabs in Israel, by the way.
One of the biggest mistakes that the Arab Knesset members made was to vote against the Abraham Accords. This was insane. This was like, how can a representative in the Israeli Parliament vote against the Peace Agreement between Israel and some Arab countries?
That is another reason the Arab voters punished the Joint List: because many Arab‑Israelis have been traveling to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Many Arab Israelis are looking forward to doing business with the people in the Gulf. They saw these Abraham Accords as an opportunity for all kinds of cooperation, for all kind of hope.
There is always this gap between leadership and the man on the street, whether it is among the Arab Israelis or among the Palestinians. I think that is encouraging that, at least, the man on the street is satisfied or is very optimistic about these agreements.
Question: What would the Middle East be like with a Palestinian state the way the Palestinian Authority is now, and do you think the Palestinians should accept a smaller state than they wish, called a "Swiss cheese" state?
Abu Toameh: The answer is obvious. We already have two Palestinian states. We have two dictatorships. How are they different from the dictatorships in the Arab world? Look at Gaza. Can you show me one newspaper in Gaza that is independent?
Ten days ago, and I was one of the few people who mentioned on Twitter that a female journalist was beaten up by Hamas officers because she was not wearing the hijab. It is hard to talk about public freedoms, both under Hamas in Gaza and under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Unfortunately, any Palestinian state you have in the near future will be the same. We have reached a situation, I am not exaggerating, where people in the West Bank, even in Gaza, tell me, "We hope one day, we will have a democracy like the one the Jews have in Israel."
Do you know how many times I hear in Ramallah people telling me, "We wish one day that we will have our own Knesset"? The Palestinians have not had a parliament for the last 13 or 14 years because of the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas.
A Palestinian state would look exactly like what we already have. Now, will the Palestinians accept anything less or that? I really don't know. What I do know right now is one thing. I cannot find one Palestinian leader who has the courage to make any kind of concessions to Israel.
Any Palestinian leader under the current circumstances who tells Israel, "Okay Israel, I will sign an agreement with you that will give me 90%," will be shot. He will be executed in a public square and condemned as a traitor. President Abbas knows that. The Palestinian leaders can only blame themselves for that. Why? Because Palestinian leaders keep telling their people that anyone who makes concessions to Israel is a traitor. If that is the message you are telling your people, how can you come back to your people with anything less than 100%? That is why we are caught in a vicious cycle.
We are not moving forward because of all these bad messages from the Palestinians. The ordinary Palestinian does not really care if the Palestinian state is three miles less, or four miles... People do not really care about that. People want to live in dignity. They want public freedoms. They want a good economy. They want good leadership. They want something like what Israel does.
If you are going to give us a Palestinian state that is going to look like Sudan in the past, or Syria, or Lebanon, and all those other failed states, no thank you. Just leave us alone, and leave things as they are right now. We do not want another failed Muslim, Iranian‑backed dictatorship in the Middle East. It is bad for the Arabs before it is bad for Israel.
The above are from a briefing to Gatestone Institute on May 5, 2021.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.