Palestinian professor slams PA’s ‘overreaction’ to Israel-UAE deal

Born to one of east Jerusalem’s historic families, Dajani said that the Palestinians should look at the long-term benefits they stand to gain from the Israel-UAE deal.

Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi (photo credit: Courtesy)
Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Mohammed Dajani, a prominent Palestinian professor of political science and peace activist, on Monday criticized the Palestinian Authority leadership for rejecting last week’s agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize their relations.
Asked if he saw any benefits for the Palestinians from the agreement, Dajani, founder of the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post: “Definitely, I think that here we have to understand the nature of things, that this peace will go through two processes. The first process will be the government-to-government, and the second will be people-to-people.”
Dajani, who gained international recognition for his work to raise awareness to the Holocaust, said what we are witnessing now is government-to-government peace between the UAE and Israel. “I strongly support this initiative by Abu Dhabi, because I feel it is a step forward toward reconciliation,” he said. “It is important to have more Arab countries involved in the peace process.”
In 2014, Dajani took a group of students from Al-Quds University – a Palestinian university that has campuses in Jerusalem, Abu Dis and el-Bireh (next to Ramallah) – to the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz. Facing criticism from some Palestinians over the trip, Dajani resigned from the university. A year later, his car was set on fire and destroyed in front of his home in northern Jerusalem.
Born to one of east Jerusalem’s historic families, Dajani said the Palestinians should look at the long-term benefits they stand to gain from the Israel-UAE deal.
“If the Palestinians can build good relations and bridges with the Arab countries instead of criticizing and demonizing the United Arab Emirates, they can, for example, use the United Arab Emirates to pressure Israel regarding the peace process,” he said. “This is the role that Jordan and Egypt have played by using their relations with Israel in order to achieve peace for the Palestinians.
“Those countries that have relations with Israel are much more possibilities to be able to involve themselves in trying to seek the Israeli government’s recognition for a Palestinian state and Palestinian rights. It is more useful to have more Arab countries with good relations with Israel so that they could pressure Israel into moving in that direction, rather than to have enmity relations where they have no input on Israeli policies.”
Commenting on the PA’s strong condemnation of the deal, Dajani accused the PA leadership of “overreacting” to the Israel-UAE agreement.
“I believe they should not have overreacted in this way,” he said. “Even if you are giving a lemon-maker lemonade, even if you don’t like it, try to see how you could benefit from it rather than close all doors in your face.
“The Palestinian leadership is losing. They have to understand one thing: that the United Arab Emirates did not do this out of the blue; they did not just suddenly do it. There are other countries involved, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and other Gulf countries. In addition, there are other countries such as Sudan, Morocco and Lebanon that are thinking along these lines. By being anti and aggressive, and criticizing the government and leadership of the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian leadership is damaging its relations with that country.”
Dajani told the Post he has no doubt that the Palestinian leadership’s harsh criticism of the UAE will harm the Palestinians.
“Without doubt, it will harm the Palestinians,” he said. “There are 400,000 Palestinians living in the United Arab Emirates. It is all about how you are rejecting [the deal]. You can reject it, but it has to be in a diplomatic way. I think the way it is being rejected is bad.
“The Palestinian leadership is inciting the Palestinians against the United Arab Emirates and its leadership. You see demonstrations where pictures of the UAE leader are being crossed out and people trampling the flags of the United Arab Emirates. This is not the right way to criticize, even if you are opposed to the agreement. Also, I think that the statement that was issued by the Palestinian Authority is more emotional because it talks about a ‘stab in the back’ and other things. The Palestinian leadership should have been more moderate in the way they criticized the deal.”
Dajani advised the PA leadership to calm down “and stop this overreaction.” The Palestinian leadership, he added, should try to open channels with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments, especially those countries that will be next in line in reaching normalization agreements with Israel.
“The Palestinian leadership needs to halt all this reaction, cool it and try to study how the Palestinians could benefit from the deal and take it to their own advantage,” he said. “But taking this negativity will put them outside the room when they should be sitting at the table. Therefore, it is important for them to reconsider this overreaction.”
Dajani dismissed allegations by many Arabs and Palestinians that normalization of ties with Israel is a form of treason.
“I don’t believe that normalization with Israel is treason,” he said. “I think it is part of the reconciliation process. If you have taken a strategic decision that you want peace, then peace cannot happen without reconciliation, and reconciliation cannot happen without normalization.
“Since a decision has been taken to seek peace with Israel through diplomatic ways and negotiations, then normalization should be a pillar in that reconciliation process. Without that, there will be no negotiations and no peace. It is therefore important that peace be done on the people-to-people level.”
Asked if many Palestinians share his views, Dajani said there are Palestinians who agree with him “but are afraid to speak out.”
“Here we have something like moving with the crowd,” he said. “Anyone who moves away from the crowd could be labeled as a traitor or collaborator. It is easy to label people these days in different ways. That’s why many people prefer to keep their ideas to themselves rather than to speak out.
“What is happening today reminds us of the days when [former Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat took the initiative [to make peace with Israel] or when [former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel] Nasser took the initiative to accept the [former US secretary of state William P.] Rogers ceasefire plan. We missed on the Rogers plan, we missed on the Sadat initiative, and we are today in that same position.
“We have to think differently; we have to be able to think creatively. The problem is that the present Palestinian leadership has been around for such a long time. The mentality dealing with this issue today is the same mentality that dealt with the Rogers plan and the Sadat initiative. That’s why the Palestinian leadership is not offering anything new. We need to get out of that hole, out of that box,” Dajani said.