November 9, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 9015

Palestinian Writers: Our Leadership's Attacks On Normalization With Israel Harm Our Cause

November 9, 2020
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 9015

Following the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel, senior Palestinian officials continued to lambaste the leaders of the Arab countries that have normalized their relations with Israel and to warn other countries against following their example.[1] For instance, on October 24, 2020, Fatah Central Committee member 'Abbas Zaki said that if Saudi Arabia normalized its relations with Israel, "there will no longer be a Kaaba or a Prophet's Mosque [in Medina], and [Saudi Arabia's] future will be dark." Following the publication of this statement, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas hurried to clarify that it did not present the official position of the Palestinian leadership.[2]

The sharp responses of Palestinian leaders to the normalization between Arab countries and Israel, like those of 'Abbas Zaki, drew criticism from Palestinian writers,[3] such as Ziad Abu Zayyad, 'Abd Al-Majid Sweilam and Nabil 'Amru. They wrote that the rhetoric of curses, profanity and threats creates hostility between the Palestinians and the Arab countries and even encourages normalization with Israel instead of discouraging it. They argued that, instead of attacking the Arabs, the Palestinians should focus on healing the divisions among themselves and on renewing the activity of the Palestinian democratic institutions by holding elections, as a means to achieve their goal: the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The following are translated excerpts from their articles:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister 'Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister 'Abdullatif Al Zayani at the White House on September 15, 2020 (Image:, September 15, 2020)

Former Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Zayyad: The Normalization Train Will Not Stop; We Are Losing The Support Of The Arab Peoples

Former Palestinian MP and Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ziad Abu Zayyad published several articles criticizing the harsh Palestinian attacks on the Arab countries which have normalized their relations with Israel.[4] In a recent article in the daily Al-Quds he claimed that this kind of rhetoric is a serious political error and could actually encourage normalization with Israel. He wrote, "Like others, I followed the official Palestinian reactions to the first official public normalization [agreement] between the UAE and Israel as well as the responses that came later [to normalization] with Bahrain and then with Sudan. It is my impression that we are trapped in a cycle of [Palestinian] reaction [to normalization], and it may be said that its results are negative and it will not lead to any positive change in the positions of the countries that are traveling the normalization train, which is like an armored vehicle that the U.S. is driving, [while] Israel controls its radar, as it collects more [Arab] passengers along the way, with the threat of the carrot and stick approach. This train will not stop, on the contrary, according to all the signs, additional Arab passengers will board it, ultimately leading to the total disappearance of the Arab [political] element, which customarily hid behind the fig leaf called the Arab Peace Initiative.

"In the face of this careening train we use only the method of hostile rhetoric, which is characterized by vilification and slander to the extent of [placing] curses on [the Arab] brothers. We must ask ourselves honestly and courageously what benefit and what gains can we expect from this approach? Ever since the announcement by the American President Trump of what we rightly refer to as "The Slap[-in-the-Face] of the Century," we have expanded the international diplomatic lexicon with a list of curses which were unacceptable and were never previously exchanged by the countries of the world, curses which we rarely hear in street brawls. We are currently directing the curses at the regimes in the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan and [we will curse] those [regimes] which will join them in the future while ignoring the fact that these curses have a negative effect on the peoples and do not stop at the rulers. [We ignore the fact] that there are likely to be corrupt and biased people who will use these curses to incite the other Arab peoples against us and against our people [living] in those countries. In the end, we are likely to find ourselves on one side and the other Arab peoples on the other side while the normalization train chugs along. What is frightening about the normalization and the manner in which we contend with it is that we are losing the Arab peoples and pushing them into the arms of their regimes and that this state of collapse will serve as a bridge or avenue, along which Israel will advance not only to annex parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, but so as to swallow up everything and to annex everything, while the Arabs – who we have transformed into our enemies – cheer and applaud their old-new friend, Israel…"

["Instead of this aggressive rhetoric against the Arabs,] I call on the Palestinian leadership to take the following steps. First of all, create an infrastructural separation and a division of labor between the PLO, which embodies [our] leadership and identity and is the address [for any dialogue with the Palestinians], and the PA, which is the administrative arm of the PLO. Political action should be confined to the PLO and domestic administration should be confined to the PA government, regardless of whether we are a state or an authority. [Second, President 'Abbas] must immediately issue an order [to hold] parliamentary and presidential elections, schedule them according to the law and take practical measures to hold them…"[5]

Palestinian Journalist 'Abd Al-Majid Sweilam: The Arab Countries That Have Normalized Relations With Israel Constantly Stress Their Ongoing Support For The Palestinians

In his column in the Al-Ayyam daily, 'Abd Al-Majid Sweilam claimed that the Arab countries which recently normalized their relations with Israel honestly believe that this step will also enable them to advance the interests of the Palestinians, similarly to Egypt and Jordan, which maintain a "cold peace" with Israel and continue to pressure it to advance the two-state solution. He wrote, "We must recognize that the world does not view the normalization process through our prism and does not see it the way we do… At certain moments, it seemed as though anyone who supported the normalization process necessarily opposed our national interests, and as though the normalization process would eventually shatter our national rights and dismantle our entire national enterprise. But if we fall into the trap [of thinking this way], we will necessarily find ourselves politically isolated, because, [even if] important and influential world countries support the option of normalization, in the vast majority of cases this does not mean that they have withdrawn their support for our national rights, that they have adopted new positions that minimize the importance of these rights, or that they have reduced their support for the Palestinian people…   

"Notice that the 'new normalizers' [i.e., the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan], even the most eager and enthusiastic of them, never stop stressing their ongoing support for the Palestinians' national rights and [emphasizing] that they will make every effort to turn the normalization into a factor that will advance the realization of these rights and promote a political solution leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the June 4, [1967] borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Moreover, they even emphasize their commitment to the Arab peace initiative…

"The Arabs closest to us are the Jordanians, and Egypt is a country with which we have no choice but to maintain excellent relations. These two sister [-countries], both the large [Egypt] and the small [Jordan], have 'normal' relations with Israel. In Jordan's case these relations have been frigid for years, ever since the normalization [i.e., the Jordan-Israel peace agreement], and in Egypt's case it has been a 'cold' normalization for decades. We must give the Arab peoples a chance to define [the character of] the normalization that will be established in practice, [and at the same time] determine the suitable means to oppose this normalization…"

"Our response must be on the ground, not in the media and social networks, and should match the danger and challenge [we face. We must] unify the Palestinian position, end the schism, rebuild our government mechanisms and unify the institutions that represent our people. We must [also] renew the sweeping popular resistance and rejoin the [Arab] nation: [all] its institutions, parties and [political] forces, without exception."[6]

Former Palestinian Minister Nabil 'Amru: The Chaos Of Outbursts Against The Arabs Destroys Our Credibility

Former Palestinian MP and PA Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nabil 'Amru wrote that the numerous outbursts against the Arab countries by Palestinian leaders have harmed the Palestinians' image and caused them tremendous political damage, and urged that they be stopped. He wrote: "After the train of normalization left the stations of the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, and even though its route was entirely predictable, the Palestinian political echelon responded as though this was an astonishing and shocking event… After this surprise had its effect and many senior [Palestinian] politicians got themselves into trouble by making emotional responses replete with threats, [the discourse] on the various platforms went back to being rational… not because some contradictory information or clarifications [by the normalizing countries] caused [the politicians] to wake up and motivated a change in the position and tone, but following explicit instructions from President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who, haunted by the [the memory] of the Kuwait affair,[7] ordered them to hold their unrestrained tongues… 

"In politics there are two factors that cannot be untangled, namely one's position and the language [one uses to express it]. But the Palestinians have apparently invented a way to separate them, and there are examples of this that are unique to the Palestinian [political] echelon. Not a single development occurs without dozens [of politicians] responding to it. Each of them purports to speak for the entire Palestinian people, and when [their remarks] spark negative reactions, an official statement is issued clarifying that they spoke only for themselves and did not express the position of the PA or of the [Palestinian] leadership, even though the speakers are respectable members of both these bodies…

"There is nothing wrong with having a plurality of Palestinian opinions, interpretations and positions; [on the contrary,] this is desirable and essential. But it is a disgrace when there is a chaos of official statements, which is a blatant hallmark of the official Palestinian discourse. This plays into the hands of the rivals of the Palestinian people and [proves] their claims, and nothing does more devastating harm to the Palestinian narrative and to the credibility of the policy that is based on this narrative…"[8]


[2], October 24, 2020;, October 24, 2020.

[5] Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), October 25, 2020.

[6] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), October 26, 2020.

[7] The reference is to Yasser Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein during the invasion of Kuwait and the severe harm this caused to Palestinian-Kuwaiti relations.

[8] Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), October 28, 2020.

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