The normalization of relations with Israel: Does the «Arab Consensus» Exist?

Rashid Ghannouchi, the «patriarch of Tunisian political Islam,» leader of the Ennahda movement and speaker of the Tunisian parliament, sharply criticized the Moroccan authorities’ decision to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara (source). According to Ghannouchi, he was shocked by this decision, which he called «contrary to the Arab consensus» on the issue. He assured that «Tunisia will not join this madness called normalization» and that there is an official and unofficial consensus in his country on this issue.

Well, it is reassuring that there are countries like Tunisia and politicians like Ghannouchi. But is the statement that normalizing relations with Israel contradicts a certain «Arab consensus» an attempt to present a desired outcome as reality? In fact, only four Arab countries officially recognized Israel in 2020: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Of these, the first three did so on their own initiative, while the others were practically forced to do so by Donald Trump’s administration, which is more concerned with Israeli interests than American ones, which is understandable given that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a Hasidic Jew and Zionist, is responsible for this issue.

However, Egypt, the largest Arab country, and Jordan, a small but important one, have official relations with Israel. Unofficially, major Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar also have relations with Israel. So what «Arab consensus» is the respected «patriarch of Tunisian political Islam» talking about?

In light of this, it is not surprising that there are attempts to normalize relations between Israel and Turkey, as we recently predicted (source). The Turkish president’s advisor on foreign affairs, Mesut Kasin, recently announced these negotiations. «If Israel takes one step, Turkey can take two,» he commented on their progress.

Does this mean that unofficial or official normalization of relations with Israel automatically implies agreement with its policies of annexing Jerusalem, building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, etc.? No — many countries that are moving toward this normalization, such as Morocco officially or Saudi Arabia unofficially, or those that already have relations with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, emphasize that they support an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem and the de-occupation of its land, including illegal Jewish settlements.

Moreover, the governing coalition in Israel on which Benjamin Netanyahu relied to pursue his aggressive policies has collapsed. Thus, he will most likely have to fight for power again in early elections in 2021. And it is not certain that he will be successful this time, considering that he barely won the previous elections by forming parliamentary government coalitions. Now, with Joe Biden in the White House instead of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, Netanyahu may face a much less favorable attitude from Israel’s main ally and patron.

Therefore, it is not impossible that the new Israeli leadership will have to choose a more compromising line in its relations with the Arab world. But whether the Arab world will be able to use this to obtain concessions from Israel regarding Palestine is a question. But does this Arab world itself exist as a political and not just a cultural and linguistic phenomenon? Or have we long been dealing with a reality in which each Arab country, despite declarations to the contrary, pursues its own interests?

This is where the discussion on the question of whether or not there is an «Arab consensus» on the issue of Israel and Palestine should begin…

2015 — 2023 ©. All rights reserved.