Why Palestinians Oppose the Negev Summit

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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The foreign minister of the U.S., Israel, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt and Morocco at the Negev Summit in Sde
The foreign minister of the U.S., Israel, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt and Morocco at the Negev Summit in Sde Boker last week.Credit: Shlomi Amsalem/GPO
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

I looked last week at the four foreign ministers of Arab states who participated in the Negev Summit, and I wondered if any one of them, or even all of them together, could sway Israel’s government to release a single Palestinian being held without trial, prevent the seizure of a single water tank from a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley or pressure Israel to prosecute a single settler who embitters the lives of the Palestinians. The answer is no.

These “gentlemen” didn’t even put matters far more trivial than ending the occupation on the agenda. I didn’t hear any of them whispering into the ear of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – or of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, when she visited the United Arab Emirates last year – that the nation-state law is not legitimate and not humane. On the contrary: After her visit Shaked seemed more determined than ever to pass the law.

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Truth be told, I didn’t expect the foreign ministers of Egypt, Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain to discuss “sensitive” issues such as human rights, since the governments of these distinguished men crudely trample human rights. Why would they care about the rights of others? They, like Israel, react hostilely to any demand to end human rights abuses.

But in Israel, as usual, the event was celebrated as if history itself had come to settle in Sde Boker. With all due respect even history, if not accompanied by concrete change, turns into farce. The senior officials arrived, the senior officials smiled, the senior officials were photographed, and in the end the senior officials vanished. It was as if they never were. And to paraphrase a remark of the statement attributed to Churchill, apparently erroneously – “An empty taxi drew up outside 10 Downing Street, and Clement Attlee got out”– we could say: An empty summit ended, and four Arab foreign ministers got out.

It must be noted here that the occupation has become Israel’s trademark, and it was Israel the occupier that met with the four Arab foreign ministers – and these invisible ministers had nothing to say on the matter. Therefore, anyone who signs a peace treaty with Israel in its current form, without trying to change its inhumane nature, in effect tells Israelis: Carry on, as far as we’re concerned there’s no problem with the occupation, at most we’ll issue a statement in support of “two states for two peoples,” empty words that evaporate as soon as they’re exposed to sunlight.

The occupation and opposition to it often resemble groundwater – out of sight, out of mind – but even when everything seems to be under control thanks to the oppression and killing of Palestinians, it bursts forth in a great gushing of blood, Jewish and Arab. Anyone who refuses to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table in the usual way – that is, through the door – is surprised each time anew when they come in through the window, sometimes a bloody window.

At the Negev Summit, in the face of the broad smiles, the Palestinian felt trampled when he saw that even his Arab brothers, who are supposed to represent his interests and his suffering, are abandoning him. He feels he has no one but himself, and the consequences are dire. Israelis are surprised each time, as if these outbursts appeared out of nowhere.

Peace seekers in Israel pin their hopes on the “peace” of the Abraham Accords, but there is no peace here, rather an act of deception. This peace promises the average Israeli shopping and tourism, as well as sickening pleasure trips, but the standard for judging any peace agreement is the extent of its effect on shortening the days of the occupation. Anything else that is called peace and does not address the occupation is a shot in the arm for its continuation.

“All that glitters is not gold,” and not all of the Arabs are on the right side of the equation. The Arabs who came to the Negev Summit are a reserve cadre for perpetuating the occupation. And afterward, people here complain that the Palestinians don’t support this “peace.” The reason is very simple: It’s because it is strangling them.

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