Opinion

Netanyahu’s threat a reminder of why Palestinians need a deal

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Netanyahu’s threat a reminder of why Palestinians need a deal

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Pre-election politics in Israel is nothing if not predictable. It is almost expected that the incumbent seeking re-election will try to boost his popularity by launching a military strike or by building more illegal settlements. Alternatively, or on top of such actions, the incumbent prime minister might resort to making preposterous post-election promises, such as Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge to annex the Jordan Valley.

This is not to say that Netanyahu’s threat should not be taken seriously. As any political analyst will attest, we are living in unprecedentedly unpredictable times where anything can happen.

This is particularly true given that the countdown has begun also for the election season in the US. As we all know, being pro-Palestinian does not win any politician votes in Washington, but being pro-Israeli does. In any case, the current US administration has made it crystal clear that unless the Palestinians are willing to sign a deal, there is not much it can do to help.

The Palestinian leadership has so far rejected invitations from White House senior advisor Jared Kushner’s team even to be at the negotiating table. This naturally gives the Israeli leadership — which is likely to be less interested in such negotiations — an excuse that it is the other side which does not want peace.

This brings me to the point I have repeatedly made in this column: Palestinians should play ball. Yes, they are unlikely to get all that they bargain for, but they will not come back empty-handed either. And even if they do, they do not necessarily have to accept the terms.

The longer it takes to reach a peace deal, the more harmful the results will be

Faisal J. Abbas

US and Saudi sources familiar with the Kushner initiative told Arab News earlier this year that the plan would entail sacrifices by the Israelis as well. Also, at no point did any of these sources confirm that there was any plan to annex parts or all of the Jordan Valley. Rather, as reported, they said there would be a proposal involving recognition of the State of Palestine, and a negotiated land swap between the two states.

For decades now, observers have been warning that the window for peace is closing. As painful as the reality may be, Palestinians must be pragmatic and accept the truth that the longer it takes to strike a deal, the less they will be able to get out of it. This has now been historically proven.

Furthermore, the longer it takes to reach a peace agreement, the more harmful the results will be, indeed have already been, for neighboring countries, especially Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Israelis must act quickly and decisively too, because regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, the prospects for a two-state solution are rapidly receding. Unless Netanyahu, or whoever becomes the next leader of Israel, has a plan to throw nearly 5 million Palestinians into the sea, the demographics on the ground will make coexistence impossible.

What complicates the situation further is that the Netanyahu team continues to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land to secure votes. While this has helped him become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, it has made peace with the Palestinians all the more difficult to achieve.

To put the problem in perspective, one need only consider the relatively small number of settlers who had to be relocated when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dismantled 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005. Or the few thousands who had to be evacuated from the Sinai Peninsula when then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin dismantled 18 Jewish settlements there in 1982.

Under Netanyahu, the number of illegal settlers in the West Bank is said to have grown to 800,000. Such a large population makes relocating the settlers a daunting challenge, and makes negotiations to establish a viable, contiguous state more difficult for Palestinians.

Under the circumstances, a plan to annex the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights or any other piece of Arab land may serve candidate Netanyahu very well from a political standpoint. But there is no gain for Israel going forward, for such a move would only make normalization of ties with Arab countries more difficult, while Iran remains a major threat to Arabs and Israelis alike.

• Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor in Chief of Arab News

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

King Salman denounces Israeli premier’s annexation threat

King Salman spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the telephone on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 13 September 2019
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King Salman denounces Israeli premier’s annexation threat

  • It’s a very dangerous escalation against Palestinians, Saudi monarch tells Abbas in a call
  • Abbas expressed his appreciation of the Kingdom’s unwavering support for Palestine and its people

JEDDAH: King Salman reiterated on Thursday Saudi Arabia’s condemnation and categorical rejection of the Israeli prime minister’s stated intention to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

In a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Salman said Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration is a very dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people, and a flagrant violation of the UN charter and international norms.

The monarch added that Israel’s attempt to impose a fait accompli will not obscure the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Abbas expressed his appreciation for the care and great importance that King Salman attaches to the Palestinian cause. 

The president also hailed the Kingdom’s consistent and firm stance toward Palestine and its people in regional and international summits and forums.

Abbas praised the Saudi call for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the level of foreign ministers to discuss and confront Netanyahu’s declaration.

Palestine’s Foreign Ministry urged the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, the occupying power, to dissuade it from carrying out the annexation, and to hold it accountable for its grave breaches of international law.

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“The pillars of Israel’s ruling right-wing coalition … are doing their utmost in conspiring to speed up putting forward the issue of annexing the occupied West Bank or large parts of it as a hot topic in the public debate in Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.

It warned of the damage that Israel’s expansion of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land is doing to prospects for peace based on a two-state solution.

“When will the (UN) Security Council and the states purporting to care for peace as per the principle of a two-state solution take practical measures to save the peace process and the two-state solution from the clutches of colonial settlement?” the ministry asked.

A spokesman for the UN secretary-general said Netanyahu’s vow would be a “serious violation of international law.” Stephane Dujarric also said the pledge would be “devastating” to the potential for peace with the Palestinians.

Russia warned that the move could sharply increase regional tensions. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had noted the Arab world’s “strongly negative reaction” to Netanyahu’s announcement.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry condemned Netanyahu’s plan as “contradicting international law and various UN resolutions, as well as threatening the continuation of the peace process.” The Indonesian government urged OIC countries to collectively respond to what it referred to as “dangerous announcement.”


Arab News Japanese edition to launch in October

Updated 57 min 24 sec ago
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Arab News Japanese edition to launch in October

  • Digital news service to be available in English and Japanese
  • Launch to coincide with Emperor enthronement ceremony

TOKYO: Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English language daily, is to launch a Japanese-language online edition as part of its ongoing global expansion.

The international edition will be the second under the Arab News brand, following the highly successful launch of the Pakistani edition. 

As a symbol of the cordial business, trading and cultural relations between the Kingdom and Japan, arabnews.jp will commence coverage to coincide with the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito next month. It will be a 24-hour rolling news website comprising original material generated in Tokyo and translations of Arab News’ award-winning English content.

Faisal J. Abbas, Arab News editor-in-chief, announced the project at the G1 Global conference in Tokyo on Monday, September 16.

He said: ““As part of our more digital, more global direction; we are delighted to announce the launch of Arab News Japan. The news site will be available in both English and Japanese, with a content mix that blends original reporting from both the Middle East and Japan as well as a translated feed of some of our most important news and views. 

“We are also honored to coincide our launch with our coverage of the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito. We hope that our new service arabnews.jp helps bring a better mutual understanding of both our rich cultures and become a trusted communication channel where our friends in japan can rely on us for credible information and insightful analysis,” he added.

Japan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most important economic partners. A major part of Japan’s energy imports come from Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom imports manufactured goods and electronic equipment from Japan, and is a significant destination for Japanese financial investment.

Saudi Arabia officials are working with their Japanese counterparts on the formal handover for the G20 leaders’ summit, which will take place in the Kingdom next year, following the high success event held in Osaka, Japan, in June.

At that event, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe that Japan was a country dear to the hearts of all Saudis. “We will work together to prepare for the G20 summit 2020 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Crown Prince said.

The prime minister praised the Kingdom’s progress in accordance with the Vision 2030 strategy and pointed to the keenness of the government of Japan and its readiness through public and private sectors to make further efforts and cooperation with the Kingdom.

Arab News is part of the regional publishing group Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). It has been the English newspaper of record for Saudi Arabia and the region for over 40 years.