Have the Palestinians fallen from International grace?

Not everything is a loss. Arab states stood with the Palestinians at the United Nations Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly at the end of last month.

UAE FOREIGN MINISTER Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (left) and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi greet as they visit the Holocaust memorial prior to their historic meeting in Berlin, this week.  (photo credit: MICHELE TANTUSSI/REUTERS)
UAE FOREIGN MINISTER Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (left) and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi greet as they visit the Holocaust memorial prior to their historic meeting in Berlin, this week.
The Palestinians this week continued their very swift fall from international grace, with consecutive hits from both Europe and the Arab world.
For the last four years of the Trump administration, the Palestinians have sought solace from US rejection of their narrative by relying on those two tried-and-true allies.
It has long been an active part of Palestinian strategy to show that Israel is isolated on the international stage.
THIS is one of the reasons they have pushed, so repeatedly over the last decades, to pass resolutions targeting Israel at the United Nations. With each massive vote count against the Jewish state, the Palestinians subtly underscore the message that they possess what Israel lacks: international legitimacy.
Among the most famous of these was the 2016 Security Council vote on Resolution 2334 condemning settlement activity. In that moment 14 hands out of the 15-member body were raised against Israel, in an almost j’accuse fashion. The only vote absent was the US, and even then it had lent its tacit support to the text.
But in hindsight, that vote, which was a massive victory for the Palestinians, was one of the last moments of international solidarity with regard to the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israel being blamed for the failure of the peace process.
From almost the moment he entered office, US President Donald Trump and his team began to whittle away at that paradigm, a move that created open hostility and ultimately a break in relations between the Palestinian Authority and the US.
The Palestinians rebuffed all US peace initiatives, secure until recently in their support from the international community, primarily Europe and the Arab world.
At the United Nations last month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called for a January 2021 international peace conference to achieve a two-state resolution based on the pre-1967 lines, a move for which he received a certain amount of lip service, followed in general with anti-settlement and anti-annexation rhetoric.
But what followed this week was essentially a double slap in the face to the Palestinians, first from the Arab world, which the Palestinians had already accused of betrayal, with the normalization deals between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates without resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Although Saudi Arabia has not followed suit, the country’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz gave a major interview to an Emirati-based Saudi news outlet in which he blamed the Palestinians for not making peace with Israel. He didn’t make do with just one throwaway line. He devoted an entire three-part series to the topic, going back through the history of the Jewish state and even before it.
Essentially, Bandar breathed new life into the persistent Israeli charge that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
THE INTERVIEW took place on the sidelines of the triad meeting between German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Israeli and United Arab Emirates counterparts, Gabi Ashkenazi and Abdullah bin Zayed, respectively. On the diplomatic level the German-hosted event Tuesday marked the first high-level Israeli-UAE meeting since the September 15 signing of the peace agreement between the two countries. To the casual eye it almost seemed like the latest in a series of feel-good moments that have occurred in the aftermath of the White House ceremony. But it also involved a series of subtle messages that affirmed realigning of the Arab and European narrative in support of Israel.
During the one-day event, the trio visited Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, where the UAE foreign minister paid homage to the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust.
It was not just a gesture of friendship but a nod in the direction of the Israeli “never again” narrative that links the survival of the Jewish people with the survival of its modern state. It indicated that the UAE accepts Israel as a necessity for the Jewish people and not just as an unfortunate reality that the UAE must contend with. When he signed the guest book, Abdullah even used the phrase, most often quoted by Jews, “never again.”
It’s an emotional step the Palestinian leadership has not taken toward the Jewish state. The UAE gesture marked a sharp contrast, particularly with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He has spoken against the heinous crime of the Holocaust, but he also wrote a dissertation that questioned its death toll. In 2018 Abbas made a comment that blamed the Jews for European antisemitism.
The public pageantry of the diplomatic portions of the event which included speeches, also included a realigned narrative for Europe against the Palestinian stance. The three men at the podium did not include any high-level representation from the US, even though the deal was brokered by the Trump administration, a move that highlighted the fact that this triad parley was a European show. 
It was, therefore, one of the most public gestures a European country has made to show its support for the US-backed Israeli-Arab normalization process. Effectively, Germany was letting the Palestinians know they could no longer find a comforting shoulder to lean on in Berlin, in its battle with the US against Israeli-Arab peace.
On the surface, Germany, along with Europe, has paid lip service to support for Palestinian principles. There should be a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines, a halt to settlement activity and, of course, no annexation. But this week, Germany showed that this support for the Palestinian position rests merely on oral statements, not unlike those also made by the UAE and Bahrain. When it comes to the Abraham Accords, it stands with the US on normalizing Israel relations with the Arab world.
Germany is not alone on this score. Last week, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, according to reports, rejected a Palestinian request for additional money to help it protest pending Israeli annexation plans. Upon hearing that Israel planned to annex settlements, the PA stopped accepting Israeli transfers of its tax revenues, a move that has shaken its already fragile economy. Rather than support that move, the EU has let the Palestinians know that now that Israel has suspended annexation, it should accept the tax transfers.
Borrell did this even though he had to have known that Israel planned to go ahead with approvals and advancement of plans for upward of 4,430 West Bank settlement homes.
THE COMBINATION of the Saudi, UAE and European messaging has almost seemed to have left the Palestinians adrift without an oar in a new diplomatic sea.
Not everything, of course, is a loss. Arab states stood with the Palestinians at the United Nations Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly at the end of last month to speak in support of two-states at the pre-1967 lines. And Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activity against Israel still continues unabated.
In an interview he gave to Middle East Monitor published Wednesday, legal expert Richard Falk, known for his extreme anti-Israel views, said, “Palestinians are winning the legitimacy war.”
In 2016 and even a year ago, that line would have rung true. But read this week, it seemed almost out of context, as though it referenced a bygone era.
True, history has shown that diplomatic winds can change swiftly like a sudden tornado. But this week, those winds appeared to strip the Palestinians of some of its tried and true pillars of support, leaving it on shaky ground as it opposed a normalization drive that is gaining increasing support.