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August 17, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8898

Senior Saudi Journalist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: Every Arab Country Is Entitled To Establish Relations With Israel; Qatar, A Critic Of The UAE-Israel Agreement, Has Maintained Relations With Israel Since 1996 – Even Hosting Shimon Peres When It Served Its Political Purposes

August 17, 2020
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 8898

In his August 15, 2020 column in the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, senior Saudi journalist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the daily's former editor-in-chief and former director-general of the Saudi Al-Arabiya channel, expressed his support for the UAE-Israel normalization agreement and for every Arab country's right to establish relations with Israel. He stated that just as no Arab element or state can impose its decisions about the Palestinian cause  and Palestinian matters on the Palestinians, the Palestinians and Arabs cannot decide whether any Arab state should establish relations with Israel or not, because this is a sovereign matter concerning that state's supreme interests and unique circumstances.

Rejecting the Qatari, Turkish, and Palestinian criticism of the UAE-Israel agreement, he wrote that this criticism is not connected to the agreement itself but has to do with internal disputes between various Arab states. He accused Qatar of hypocrisy, noting that it was the first to establish relations with Israel – in 1996 – and to open an Israeli legation on its soil, and that it had even hosted then-Israeli deputy prime minister Shimon Peres when it served its political purposes. About the Palestinians, he said that instead of benefiting from the Arab world's progress in establishing relations with Israel, they had chosen instead to sit on the sidelines as observers, and emphasized that they were missing out.


Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (Source: MBC.news, April 23, 2020)

The following is a translation of the main points of Al-Rashed's column:

"There are 193 countries in the world. [Together,] they comprise the international community of UN [member states], 163 of whom recognize Israel. These figures clearly show that what happened the day before yesterday [i.e. the announcement of the UAE-Israel agreement] is not too grave, despite all the [criticism] you have heard about it. The [establishment] of ties between the UAE and Israel comes 27 years after the Oslo Accords, 40 years after [the appointment of] Sa'd Murtada, Egypt's first ambassador to Tel Aviv, and 24 years after the appointment of the first Israeli [representative] in Qatar and the raising of the Israeli flag over the building of the [Israeli] mission in Doha.

"The Arab history of diplomatic, trade, and sports relations [with Israel] is flourishing, and has not yet ceased. Hence, the campaign of attacks and criticism waged by Qatar and some officials in the Palestinian Authority [against the UAE-Israel agreement] reflects [only] the strained relations between Arab countries, and has nothing to do with the [UAE's] diplomatic move vis-à-vis Israel.

"That said, it is vital to emphasize two important aspects that we tend to forget every time the issue of relations with Israel comes up. First, no Arab element, individual or state, has the right to tell the Palestinians what to do about their cause and their relations with Israel. These issues are exclusively the Palestinians' [to decide], by means of their legitimate authority in Ramallah. It is they who must decide whether they want to agree with Israel on a one-state or a two-state solution, or on no state at all. Even when it comes to the broad details, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide [whether] their state will include Jerusalem or not, whether the refugees will return or not, and [whether there will be] war or peace. The Arab patronage over Palestinian decision-making ended half a century ago, with an Arab League resolution [to that effect]. Decisions about Palestine are up to the Palestinians, not the Qataris, the Syrians, the Iranians, or the Saudis.

"The second point is that every Arab country is equally entitled to handle its international relations, including its relations with Israel. Every state makes its own sovereign decisions according to its own interests, not according to what the Palestinians or other Arabs desire. Every Arab state has its own individual circumstances. When Sudanese President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Burhan was asked why he established relations with Israel after the ouster of the regime of ['Omar] Al-Bashir, he said that it was a supreme Sudanese interest. The UAE likewise has its supreme interests, in light of the current severe crises.

"Why did Qatar open its gates to Israel early on, in 1996, receiving [then-Israeli deputy prime minister] Shimon Peres in Doha and opening an [Israeli] trade office [there]? This came three months after [Qatari Emir] Hamad bin Khalifa staged a coup against his father and took the throne. The reason is clear – he wanted to strengthen his status as ruler. In the larger strategic framework, the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat decided [to sign] a peace agreement with Israel. 

"The Arabs have already gotten over the stage of establishing relations with Israel, and doing so is no longer shocking – it is considered old hat. The Israelis have already landed at every airport in the Arab capitals, and have been officially received there as diplomats, athletes, security officials, or journalists. Those who have lost out throughout all these years are the Palestinians. Things are done in their name and they are not benefiting from them: There is no return of territory, no recognition as a [Palestinian] state, and no services or help provided to the residents. This is the choice made by the Palestinian Authority; it is satisfied with watching the news from the sidelines and reacting negatively to it. Since the Palestinian Authority cannot prevent these developments, it can [at least] benefit from them, and advance in all areas that serve its interests or the needs of its residents.

"At the same time, it truly saddens us to see senior Palestinian officials allow themselves to kicked around like a ball in the court of Qatar or Turkey in their disputes with others. The Palestinian losses have never stopped, because of their failure to deal with reality and their refusal to understand the circumstances of the Arab countries that establish relations with Israel, that can [actually] be of great help to [the Palestinians]."[1]

 

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 15, 2020.

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