Debunking the Netanyahu doctrine

Daoud Kuttab

Middle East Eye  /  February 4, 2023

By choosing to negate Palestinian nationalism and opt instead for a shaky deal with Arab leaders, Israel has proven its lack of interest in peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in peace through negotiations with Palestinians. He has a different route to peace. Netanyahu told CNN on Tuesday that the way to peace with Palestinians is to first make peace with the Arab world.

The Arab world, however, is not at war with Israel and the normalization process dubbed the Abraham Accords has nothing to do with peace with Palestinians. Nor would it contribute to ending the decades-long Israeli occupation and settler-colonialism, or the state’s refusal to address the Palestinian refugee crisis it created.

Netanyahu and most Israeli Zionists don’t accept that their army is occupying another land and holding millions hostage in an illegal occupation.

They took revenge against Palestinians for simply asking the International Court of Justice to provide a legal opinion about the status of the territories that six million Palestinians live on.

Failed doctrine

Netanyahu’s strategy was exposed last week when the Israeli army raided the Palestinian town of Jenin, killing 10 Palestinians including an elderly woman. That raid, as well as the provocative visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, triggered the beginning of the collapse of the Netanyahu doctrine.

Following Ben-Gvir’s incitement at the third holiest site in Islam, Netanyahu’s visit to the United Arab Emirates was cancelled. Israeli attempts to spin the cancellation being the result of itinerary issues were rejected in a public statement by the leadership of the UAE.

Instead of receiving Netanyahu, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN filed a complaint in the UN Security Council against Israel for its minister’s violation of the status quo.

Netanyahu’s effort to circumvent the Palestinian issue suffered a serious blow when senior US officials demanded that the Israeli leader first mend the problems with his nearest neighbour, Jordan. Jordan has been upset by the Israeli indirect efforts to change the historic status quo at Al-Aqsa.

Despite being shunned from the visit to Abu Dhabi, Netanyahu continued spinning his failed doctrine by telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that peace with Palestinians will happen only once all Arab states normalize relations with Israel.

In other words, Netanyahu believes that the Arab regimes will pressure the Palestinians to surrender to the dictates of the right-wing Israeli leader who is beholden to an even more radical group of Jewish settlers.

The Israeli prime minister facing trial for charges of corruption, bribery, fraud, and breach of trust needs every one of his coalition members to change the legal system in Israel simply for himself to stay out of jail if he is convicted.

For Palestinians, the Israeli doctrine flies against Arab League resolutions initiated by Saudi Arabia that call for normalization only after Israel withdraws from all Arab areas it occupied in June 1967. In addition to Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Arab Peace plan requires Israel to also withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

The elephant in the room

Arab countries who agreed to normalize relations with Israel during the Trump era had both personal and regional goals. The personal goals had more to do with their relations with Washington and the regional goals were in part aimed at putting a stop to Netanyahu and Trump’s efforts to annex parts of the occupied West Bank to Israel.

Netanyahu’s aim to improve relations with Arab states that have normalized with Israel, or even with others who have not, will not bring peace. Israel needs to confront its own realities on the ground.

The decades-long Israeli occupation has turned Israel into an apartheid state built on Jewish supremacy over non-Jews in the areas between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.

The term “Jewish supremacy” has been used by three well-respected Israeli human rights organizations, including B’Tselem.

Israel’s efforts to selectively implement the Oslo Accords by subcontracting its security to the Palestinian security forces without fulfilling the political parts of the Palestinian-Israeli Declaration of Principles has proven to be a huge mistake, causing bloodshed on both sides.

By avoiding the elephant in the room, the occupation itself, Israel’s strategy of normalizing relations with Arab regime leaders will do little to address the problems back home.

When the Declaration of Principles was signed in 1993 at the White House, the deal was clear, both Israel and the PLO recognized each other’s national aspirations.

The Israelis have reneged on Palestinian statehood while avoiding paying any political price for the failure to achieve any peace deal. They have even stopped keeping up appearances of any peace talks.

By choosing to negate Palestinian nationalism and opt instead for a shaky deal with Arab leaders, Israel has proven its lack of interest in peace. The Netanyahu doctrine has been exposed as a fake doctrine that has no basis or future.

A return to direct serious talks to end the occupation and toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state to live in peace alongside Israel and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem is the only way forward. The sooner that this is implemented, the better it would be for all.

Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem