Top officials in the defense and intelligence establishments are starting to question how much of a positive effect the Abraham Accords will have on the Palestinian issue.
If you had asked a number of top generals and former intelligence chiefs – including Tamir Pardo, Shabtai Shavit and others – what the impact would be before the accords were signed, most would have said it would be positive.
For many years before they were signed, some of these officials were calling for a regional approach. The idea was that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other major Sunni countries would gang up on the Palestinians to get them to sign on the dotted line to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and cease being a destabilizing force in the region.
Despite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s initial anger at the accords, there was also significant positivity – because it was thought that, in time, they would move the Palestinians toward a more flexible approach to resolving the conflict with Israel.
However, nearly two years after the agreement was signed with the United Arab Emirates in August 2020, there has been little or no progress with the Palestinians, the accords did not prevent a war with Gaza last May, and nothing has stopped the current wave of terrorism.
Questions remain. Did the deal make any real difference on the Palestinian issue, or is a return to conventional direct diplomacy necessary?
None of this is to belittle the significance of the pact, which has advanced Israeli relations with several moderate Arab Sunni states. The benefits have been clear and concrete.
In addition, the wider impact of the accords has further isolated Iran in the region.
However, whether it was former director of the Mossad Pardo, former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, or other top officials, the defense establishment has recently been talking up the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
Pardo went so far as to say on Tuesday that some current Sunni allies might not be reliable in the long term, especially if the Palestinian issue is not resolved.
Former National Security Council chief Giora Eiland said that the Saudis could just as easily turn back toward Iran as making a move toward normalizing relations with Israel.
Almost all defense officials admit that the Palestinian issue is off the front page for the time being because, if the two alternative governments for Israel are one led by Benjamin Netanyahu
or a continuation of the current coalition – including a variety of right-wing parties – there is little political ability to move forward with the Palestinians.
Yet even if the public is disengaged from the issue, security and intelligence chiefs see it staring them in the face, as they continue to cope with fallout from the Gaza war and the current wave of terrorism.
This could explain why some of these officials are making more noise about the Palestinian issue even if the public is less attuned to it.
In trying to grab the public’s attention, these defense chiefs need to explain why a deal with the Palestinians is still needed despite the Abraham Accords.
Whether they have any chance of truly gaining public attention on the issue is anyone’s guess.
However, it is clear that some of them are starting to make a sustained push to get that attention.