My Word: Weddings and peace agreements, how the PA's anti-normalization hurts peace

When the PA insists that there can be no “settlers” in its territories, what is it really saying? Not “we cannot live with Jews” but “we will not live with Jews.”

June 21, 2019 14:34
A Palestinian protester burns a replica Israeli flag as another holds a Palestinian flag

A Palestinian protester burns a replica Israeli flag as another holds a Palestinian flag during clashes with the Israeli troops near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah October 18, 2015.. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)


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‘You can’t dance at two weddings,” goes the saying, often used to mean “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Sometimes, dancing at even one wedding is too much. Figuratively speaking, Radi Nasser, the mayor of a Palestinian town near Ramallah, was left with cake on his face after a video went viral on social media showing Israeli “settlers” dancing at his son’s nuptials. But this was no slapstick wedding cake routine. The consequences for the mayor of Deir Qaddis are serious, potentially deadly serious.

As The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh, among others, reported, Fatah – the ruling Palestinian faction in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – expelled the mayor from its ranks. It also formed a commission of inquiry to remove him from his job as mayor. Meanwhile, the PA security forces are investigating the Palestinians who were seen celebrating with the four Jewish Israelis – who reportedly work together in a car repair shop.

The incident is small, but telling. The Palestinian Authority, ostensibly the body with which Israel is meant to one day reach a peace agreement, cannot accept four Jews sharing the joy of a workmate on his marriage night. Just the sight of Jews and Arabs dancing together, being carried on friends’ shoulders in a style common to wedding dances in both communities, is enough to cause the Palestinian regime to call out the big guns.

The PA can’t bear to see Israelis and Palestinians being happy together. It doesn’t want to see them together, period. And it doesn’t seem to want the Palestinians to be happy. That would go against the victim culture and anti-normalization narrative carefully nurtured over the decades.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh declared that the participation of “terrorist settlers in Palestinian social events is a cowardly, condemnable, despicable and reprehensible act.” It was not. In fact, it requires commendable courage. And these weren’t “terrorist settlers” but wedding guests.

Sadly, the clampdown on the wedding party is not an isolated incident. The PA (and its even uglier sibling, Hamas) routinely condemn those who maintain any type of relationship with Israelis. Normalization, in the eyes of the Palestinian leadership, is treason.

The world somehow accepts this – the same way as it unthinkingly accepts that the Palestinians uniquely can pass their refugee status down through the generations.

When the PA insists that there can be no “settlers” in its territories, what is it really saying? Not “we cannot live with Jews” but “we will not live with Jews.”

Good luck with turning that approach into a sustainable peace agreement.

Everyone knows that a marriage itself is more important than the wedding night. The same principle is true for a peace agreement. The signing ceremony, with all the festivities, can create a good feeling for a few hours but it is worth nothing if the couple can’t live together afterwards.

So far, every peace process since the Oslo Accords has been accompanied by a wave of Palestinian violence. A mayor of Sderot, a town targeted by Gaza-based Palestinian rocket launchers, once likened the situation to domestic violence. If a man hits his wife, you don’t say: “It’s alright as long as he doesn’t do it too often.” The battered wife, who doesn’t know when the next blow will fall, lives in fear which never quite disappears.

One of last week’s fleeting news stories was more than a slap in the face: On Thursday night, a rocket from Gaza scored a direct hit on a yeshiva in Sderot. Fortunately, most of the students had gone home early for the weekend and because the building has been heavily reinforced to withstand this type of attack, there were no injuries and no heavy damage. It’s the equivalent of suffering a black eye instead of being blinded. Basically, luck separated Israel from the sort of tragedy that would have inevitably have led the IDF to respond heavily with a subsequent escalation on both sides.

As it was, the response was light – almost imperceptible – and within a few days Hamas got want it wanted: $15 million was delivered courtesy of Qatar. It would be easy to consider it in terms of protection money, but it doesn’t even buy protection.

I’M INTERESTED in seeing how the Trump administration’s Economic Workshop in Bahrain works out. I favor fostering peace through joint economic initiatives – and I don’t mean paying the Hamas terrorist organization millions of dollars to buy quiet.

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations, told The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on June 16: “The Bahrain summit is aimed to show what could happen to the Palestinian economy if there’s a peace agreement. We understand completely that there is no economic vision that’ll work without a peace agreement. But we also want to make the point that there will be no peace agreement that works without true economic vision.”

The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the Bahrain workshop, although some brave Palestinian businessmen have announced that they will attend. Most notably, businessman Ashraf Jabari, a founding member of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce which connects Palestinians and Jewish residents of the area, has once again stood up where it counts. Jabari, who during Ramadan hosted a kosher Iftar meal in Hebron with Palestinian businessmen and local Jewish leaders, has told reporters he is interested in the Bahrain workshop from the economic standpoint.

Given the PA’s stance, the risk he is taking is not an economic one, but life-threatening. I don’t blame the man on the Palestinian street for being scared to have contacts with Israelis. I blame the Palestinian leadership for betraying their own people. In fostering hatred, violence and the culture of martyrdom, the top ranks of the Palestinian Authority are guilty of the deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis.

In the 1990s, I traveled to the Sultanate of Oman to cover multilateral talks about water that took place after the First Oslo Accord but still within the framework of the Madrid Process. At the time, the Omanis were particularly interested in Israeli desalination technology and knowhow. I got a glimpse at what could be in a region which enjoys economic cooperation and stability.

It’s no wonder that the Arab world is increasingly growing impatient with the Palestinians – and Iran – who are holding everyone back. The Bahrain initiative, led by Jared Kushner and Greenblatt, is carefully trying to avoid a diplomatic emphasis. The region needs to refocus. There are bigger problems than the Palestinian “refugees” whose leadership prevents them from shedding their reliance on outside support.

As the Post’s Seth J. Frantzman noted on Facebook this week, there has been a wave on incidents in the Middle East as US-Iranian tensions rise. These include rockets launched on Israel and the response (both in Gaza and in Syria) but also rocket attacks in Iraq in areas with a US presence, the attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and the under-reported Iranian-backed drone attacks by Yemenite Houthis on a Saudi Arabian airport.

“One could see this as one giant complex conflict, over 3,000 km. of different ‘frontlines,’ a regional conflict pitting Iran and its allies against the US and its allies,” Frantzman wrote.

That’s why apart from the Bahrain workshop, another significant gathering is scheduled to take place next week – in Jerusalem. US National Security Adviser John Bolton, his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat are expected to meet to “discuss regional security issues.”

It might be a marriage of convenience but it’s not a marriage made in hell. And that’s a reason to celebrate.

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