Palestinians Warned Israel at Start of Arab Spring: Ties With Egypt Will Change

Adviser to Abbas told senior official in Netanyahu's government to expect waves of anti-Israel protests across Muslim world following UN vote on Palestinian statehood.

Shortly after the masses began crowding into Cairo's Tahrir Square earlier this year, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to prepare for a dramatic change in the relations between Israel and Egypt.

The adviser estimated that the nascent Egyptian protest movement would not stop at regime change, and told his counterpart in Jerusalem that if the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories continued, the new Arab world would show the Israelis that solidarity with oppressed brothers is not exclusively a Jewish tradition.

Egypt Israel - AFP - Aug. 19, 2011

The Palestinian adviser warned that the day after the United Nations vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood, waves of anti-Israel protests would wash over the capitals of Arab and Muslim states.

It is unclear whether Israeli official passed this message on to the prime minister, or if he kept it to himself.

Either way, Netanyhau refused Abbas' offer to renew negotiations based on U.S. President Barack Obama's May 19 speech calling for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and agreed land swaps. Simultaneously, Netanyahu made great efforts to convince "the world" that the Israeli-Arab conflict and anti-Israel sentiments are not related to the June 1967 borders but to the May 1948 borders – hence the very existence of Israel.

The conclusion was that ending the occupation will not affect Israel's international and regional standing. The result: a political deadlock and new construction in West Bank settlements.

A brief look at history underscores a clear link between political progress in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and a souring of relations with the Islamic states closest to Israel: Egypt, Turkey and Jordan.

Budding relations with other countries such as Tunisia, Pakistan, Indonesia and some of the Gulf states, that started forming after the Oslo Accords, have withered as the settlements bloomed.

This pattern does not characterize only the regimes, but also other power centers that have an influence on the street. For example, following the Camp David Accords in March 1979, Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Jad Al-Haq (who went on to become Minister of Religious Affairs and the head of the Al-Azhar University) published a breakthrough decree approving the peace with Israel.

Israeli government spokespeople who say the breakdown of relations with Turkey has to do with the Islamic nature of the regime, have apparently forgotten that Turkey  downgraded relations with Israel after the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law in 1980, many years before the Justice and Development Party rose to power.

Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002 caused a further deterioration in relations, while the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 brought Anakara and Jerusalem closer – until the siege on the Gaza Strip and Operation Cast Lead.

Relations with Jordan, which were put to the test after Israel's unsuccessful assassination attempt of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, have also fallen victim to the right-wing government's policies. For a year and a half, ever since Ambassador Ali al-Ayed was appointed Minister of Public Relations, King Abdallah is content with having a substitute to the Ambassador in Tel Aviv.

In many other Muslim countries, the street – and therefore the regime – does not forgive Muslims hurting other Muslims, and views Jews hurting Muslims with much more severity. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most prominent Sunni theologians, declared that President Bashar Assad, who is slaughtering his own people, is unfit to rule. The Turkish government declared an open conflict with the regime in Damascus after Assad defended his right to continue the violence against civilians.

After taking Osama bin-Laden's place at the helm of Al-Qaida last June, Ayman al-Zawahir said he would never accept an agreement that recognizes Israel's legitimacy. The Egyptian terrorist promised a campaign against "Crusader America and its stepdaughter Israel" and all those who assist them.

On Saturday, a senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that if the Americans foil the Palestinian independence bid, Obama should not be surprised if the U.S. ambassadors in Cairo and other Muslim capitals are forced to return home without their suitcases.