On Saturday, Palestinians in Gaza burned images of Israeli, American, Bahraini and UAE leaders to protest the moves by the two Gulf countries to normalize ties with Israel.
Bahrain joined the UAE on Friday in agreeing to normalize relations with Israel, a move forged in part by Iran’s shared fears but which could leave Palestinians further isolated.
The protest in Gaza, which was attended by a few dozen people, was organized by the ruling group Hamas.
“We have to fight the virus of normalization and block all its ways before it can prevent it from spreading,” Hamas official Maher al-Holy said.
Protesters set fire to images of United States President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al. Nahyan.
While the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a significant step towards peace and stability in the Middle East, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.
They fear a weakening of a long-standing pan-Arab stance that requires Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in exchange for normal relations with Arab countries.
Despite a deep political rift dating back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority (PA) has limited government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have united against the move by the Gulf states.
In the West Bank, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary general Saeb Erekat said the diplomatic push will not lead to peace if the decade-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved sooner.
“The agreement between Bahrain, Israel and America to normalize relations is now part of a larger package in the region. It is not about peace, it is not about relations between countries. We are seeing an alliance, an alliance. military that is being created in the region, “Erekat said.
Iran, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Bahrain’s move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state television reported. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards said Bahrain will face “bitter revenge” from its own people and the Palestinians for the Gulf State move.
Turkey also condemned the deal stating that it undermined the Palestinian cause and “would further encourage Israel to continue its illegal practices … and attempts to make the occupation of the Palestinian territories permanent.”
Bahrainis opposed to the government’s agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel on Saturday vented their frustration on social media, highlighting the complexities of the Gulf rapprochement. with Israel.
The hashtags #Bahrainis_against_normalisation and #NormalizationIsBetrayal were trending on Twitter after Trump announced the deal on Friday.
Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a large Shia population, shares a deep enmity with Israel towards Iran and relies on the United States, which places its Fifth Fleet in the small but strategic archipelago.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said the deal represents a historic step towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have condemned it as “another stab in the back” by an Arab government.
Unlike the UAE, opposition to normalization runs deep in Bahrain, which has a history of open politics even though it has been suppressed for the past 10 years.
Former MP Ali Alaswad wrote that it was “a black day in the history of Bahrain”.
The kingdom – a small archipelago located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces stifled Shia-led protests calling for reform.
The Al-Wefaq opposition group criticized the normalization agreement.
“The agreement between the despotic regime in Bahrain and the Zionist occupation government is a total betrayal of Islam and Arabism and a departure from Islamic, Arab and national consensus,” he said on Twitter.
Other anti-normalization groups, based in Bahrain and abroad, have expressed their anger in statements sent to the media calling the deal “shameful”.
‘Deterioration of unity’
Sari Nusseibeh, a former top PLO official, said the Palestinian leadership was “very upset”.
“But I don’t think they are more upset than in the past about the Arab world in general. The Palestinians have always complained that the Arab world has not been behind them as they should have,” he said. Nusseibeh.
The Palestinian cause had already become less central as the region was shaken by the upheavals of the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the bloody assault by the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
At the same time, hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran has increased.
“There have been all kinds of problems in the Arab world – disputes, revolutions, civil wars, tensions between different Arab countries,” said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib. “The Palestinians are now paying the price for the deterioration of Arab unity.”
The PA maintains the validity of the so-called “Arab consensus” and rejects the idea that it is isolated. This consensus has long held that Arab states will normalize ties only if Israel fulfills a number of conditions.
One demand is that Israel withdraw from the territories occupied in the 1967 Six Day War.
Another is to accept a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a third to find a just solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
“We hope that Arab countries remain committed to this consensus,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official, adding that moving away from it “will lead nowhere.”
“Those who are violating the Arab consensus … will be isolated” in the long run, he warned.
A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared the view that at the moment “the Palestinians really don’t have a way out”.
“They are also blocked because of those who want to support their cause, be it Turkey or Iran”.
Iran already has relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and slightly colder ties with the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian cause has also received the support of Turkey, a regional power increasingly at odds with Israel and militarily supporting a rival faction in the war in Libya against the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
“Turkey has an ambition to lead this cause and points to the hypocrisy of both Arab states and the West for not emphasizing this issue enough,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s National Institute for Security Research.
Rajoub insisted: “We are not ignoring any country. Turkey is a regional superpower, it is an Islamic country and we are on good terms. We will continue to cooperate with everyone.”
But Khatib argued that the Palestinians should keep their distance. “It is unwise for Palestinians to be involved in regional tensions and competition between regional superpowers,” he said.
“If you side with Iran, you will lose Saudi Arabia. If you side with Turkey, you will lose someone else. It is best for the Palestinians to keep a safe distance from these different regional superpowers.”