Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Photo: Ynet
Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House

Israel must always reach out for peace

Opinion: Lapid did well to end 5-year break with PA's Abbas despite right-wing talking heads evoking Oslo Accords boogeyman; Israel must maintain communication channels with Palestinians to further build upon Abraham Accords

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 07.10.22, 23:33
The outcry over Prime Minister Yair Lapid's call to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas indicates that some of us have lost touch with Zionist tradition.
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  • There was, and there still is, uproar in the Arab world too about anything smacking of détente with Israel.
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    President Donald Trump speaks during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House,
    President Donald Trump speaks during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House,
    Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House
    (Photo: AP)
    Some Arab nations considered the Abraham Accords an aberration, or even a breach, of the old Arab Peace Initiative agreements which stipulated that peace with Israel would only come after peace with the Palestinians. "Why and how could you do such a thing?" Those Arab nations asked their Gulf peers in dismay.
    Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, an elite diplomat who previously served as the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was deployed to lobby other Arab nations around the region to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
    Gleaning from his three-part interview with Dubai-based news outlet Al Arabiya, his message was clear — It was the Palestinians who said no, they were always wrong to do so. We did everything we could to try and help them. We supported them. No cigar.
    Hence, it is a tad bit odd that some on the right would grumble about Yair Lapid and Mahmoud Abbas' communications as if it were a crime.
    6 View gallery
    Bandar bin Sultan gives a scathing lecture criticizing the Palestinian leadership on al-Arabiya on Monday, October 5, 2020
    Bandar bin Sultan gives a scathing lecture criticizing the Palestinian leadership on al-Arabiya on Monday, October 5, 2020
    Bandar bin Sultan gives a scathing lecture criticizing the Palestinian leadership on Al Arabiya, 2020
    (Screenshot: Youtube)
    "The pilgrimage to Abu Mazen," Religious Zionist Party chief Bezalel Smotrich labeled the call between the two, referring to Abbas by his kunya.
    "An embarrassing obsession," a political commentator on a leading news channel screeched over Lapid's phone call and Defense Minister Benny Gantz's meeting with Abbas. The only thing embarrassing here is that this is the standard for political commentary from an elite journalist on a leading media outlet in Israel.
    It's embarrassing because one of the foundations on which the Abraham Accords were built is the fact that Israel has always reached out for peace, and the Palestinians rebuffed our overtures.
    The Arab world, meanwhile, is growing tired of being held hostage by Palestinian intransigence. After all, this is the Palestinian founding ethos — playing the victim and naysaying, no matter what's being offered, they will always say no, unless it's an offer that effectively rules out the existence of Israel.
    So yes, Israel ought to keep saying yes, and always, but always, reach out for peace. This is Zionist tradition.
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    יאיר לפיד אבו מאזן חצי חצי
    יאיר לפיד אבו מאזן חצי חצי
    Mahmoud Abbas and Yair Lapid
    (Photo: AP, GPO)
    The Palestinians said no and are now suffering, Israel said yes and is prosperous.
    What exactly do these right-wing talking heads suggest we do? Switch roles? Stand firmly and full of "nationalist bravado" against the Palestinian leadership? Prove all those anti-Zionists who claim Jews are naysayers and the Palestinians are victims of Jewish colonialism right?
    One of former prime minister Naftali Bennett's biggest mistakes was his refusal to talk to the Palestinians. Fortunately, one year out of a century of conflict won't change much.
    Lapid was right to kick off his premiership by tackling this issue in his first week in office. And still, in order to further build upon the Abraham Accords, strengthen the regional alliance and encourage additional countries to join the circle of peace — we must reach out for peace and maintain communication channels with the Palestinians.
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    Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett in the Knesset on Monday
    Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett in the Knesset on Monday
    Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett in the Knesset
    (Photo: Screenshot)
    Despite the incitement taught in the Palestinian education system and Palestinian Authority paying salaries to terrorists and their families, the most significant normalization underway is the one with the Palestinians.
    Security cooperation with Israel and tens of thousands of work permits, for the Gaza Strip too, prop up a sizeable chunk of the Palestinian economy.
    As part of the ongoing campaign to bash Lapid, we are beaten over the head with the same old campfire story of "the Oslo Accords are back on the agenda" over and over again.
    Elements on the right have been spreading this malarkey for a year now, and Oslo is still nowhere to be found.
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    The signing of the Oslo Accords at the White House
    The signing of the Oslo Accords at the White House
    The signing of the Oslo Accords at the White House
    (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
    It is not like there aren't any parts of the government that wouldn't love to bring Oslo back, but their wishes mean nothing. Even if the left-wing Meretz Party was the dominant faction in the government, even if they could put together a coalition themselves, and even if they brought a generous peace deal to the table — the Palestinian response would be painfully predictable. But still, isn't it great we've still got the Oslo boogeyman?
    The Palestinian issue is still alive and kicking. It breaks back into our lives intermittently with another terror wave fanned by Hamas.
    Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu never got the issue off the agenda as some believe. He actually went a long way as the leader of the right-wing bloc when he agreed in 2014 to a Palestinian state on more than 90% of West Bank territories. The same Netanyahu who co-signed former U.S. president Donald Trump's so-called Deal of the Century in early 2020 which would have seen 70% of the West Bank evacuated in favor of a Palestinian state.
    This directly affected the Abraham Accords, which were made possible in September of that year following the Palestinian naysaying in 2014 and 2020.
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    (L-R) Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords
    (L-R) Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords
    Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump at the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    So yes, Netanyahu also understood that we must reach out for peace. He met with Yasser Arafat. He met with Mahmoud Abbas, and not just through phone calls.
    It is unclear whether or not Netanyahu really meant to follow through with the well-known and lesser-known agreements he signed. But one thing is clear, he never deviated from Zionist tradition. So why does anyone expect Lapid, of all politicians, to do so?
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