Opinion |

Israel's Ben-Gvir, a Superstar in the UAE

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Far-right Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir shakes hands with Emirati Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja, last week.
Far-right Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir shakes hands with Emirati Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja, last week.
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

We have said again and again that the agreements known as the Abraham Accords are a blow to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but people who are considered sane ridiculed us. It was hard for them to understand why we opposed these agreements.

People’s eyes were blinded; the Gulf States were like a magnet that attracted almost all Israelis, both peace-lovers and warmongers, both people who love the Palestinians and people who hate them. The “anyone but Bibi” bloc went out of its way to praise these accords, which were signed by the “Bibi bloc.”

Yet even as the party was at its height, Palestinians were getting together in some neighborhood or refugee camp and lamenting their Arab brethren, who had abandoned them in the face of the Israeli soldiers ordering them to “show your ID card” or “go home!”

I’m no prophet, but I have eyes that I use as more than an adornment for my face. I saw that these agreements were suspect, and I criticized them harshly in these pages. I also criticized people, some of whom I admire, who viewed them as offering a horizon for peace with the Palestinians.

Peering out from behind these agreements were arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars. Their fangs still protruded even when the agreements were marketed as though they were pets.

The Abraham Accords upended the axiom in which the entire world believed – first peace, then normalization. The accords’ thesis, in contrast, was first normalization, then peace. First I’ll pay you, and then you’ll supply the goods. Any merchant would call that idiotic.

People closed their ears to the Palestinians’ explanations, and once again, the familiar mantra was heard – “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” It’s very similar to what happened after the peace agreement with Egypt was signed.

Then too, we said this agreement is suspect, because it leaves the main problem bleeding by the roadside. And in response, we were banished from the city square. Just three years later, in 1982, the Lebanon War erupted. This was a strange peace, a peace that give birth to war and rivers of blood.

The same scenario occurred after the current “peace.” Ever since that cursed normalization with the Gulf States, Israel has had a freer hand, the oppression has increased and the plans for ethnic cleansing in the West Bank’s Area C have been ratcheted up several notches.

And in between, the settler right has launched a campaign to persuade Israelis, asking them, “what are you complaining about?” After all, the Arab world, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have relations with us, including security relations, and our Pegasus spyware is working overtime there to surveil human rights organizations. Rightists boasted that only they understand the Arabs, who only understand force.

It was hard for us, members of the true left, to function in this atmosphere. We were depicted as the last remaining ideological dinosaurs. And our slogan, “a people that oppresses another cannot be free,” elicited gales of laughter.

But over time, a lie will always blow up. So from now on, please repeat after me – Odeh Bisharat was right. Today, Israelis fear Itamar Ben-Gvir’s plans, which are spreading darkness throughout Israeli Jewish society. But in the court of United Arab Emirates, so beloved even by the peaceniks, Ben-Gvir is a superstar.

If we had a healthy left, it would have been possible to expect a wave of protests against agreements with benighted dictators. Yet here, people didn’t just ignore the defilement, but actually celebrated it. “Birds of a feather flock together,” as the old saying goes in both English and Arabic. Long live the brotherhood of dictators and occupiers.

Moreover, when we tried to explain that these agreements strengthen the occupation, and that the occupation would eventually harm the occupiers, too, we were brushed aside. Now, everyone ought to be convinced. And if they aren’t convinced, the time will yet come when pure men will walk on one side of the road and pious women on the other.

Today, the UAE is telling us that the reception at which it hosted Ben-Gvir was an attempt “to influence the actions of the government that incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is putting together” (Zvi Bar’el, Sunday’s Haaretz). Please stop abusing the readers. The stench is already suffocating.

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