“The sense of Israel being somehow a greater friend or lesser enemy than Iran is a factor here,” he said. But it is also one that will not last forever, he said, creating an urgency to build ties “based on common humanity, not some fleeting shared-security concern.”
For the Palestinians, the council’s arguments fly in the face of decades of efforts to isolate Israel in the hope that this would force it to make concessions at the negotiating table.
Even Palestinian leaders who do not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement oppose fully normalizing Arab relations with Israel, arguing that Israel’s diplomatic gains from the Oslo peace process had only encouraged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expand settlements on the West Bank.
Husam Zomlot, who leads the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom and did the same in Washington until the Trump administration closed that office, belittled the new council’s members as an “extreme fringe of isolated individuals.” From Tunisia, whose new president has called it treasonous to engage with Israel, he said, to Lebanon, where protesters are waving the Palestinian flag alongside their own, “the sentiment of the vast majority of the Arab world is going in the other direction.”
“They are playing into the hands of Netanyahu,” Mr. Zomlot said, because Mr. Netanyahu wants to “convince the Israeli electorate that he can have the cake and eat it too: keep the occupation and still normalize relations with the Arab world.”
Mr. Netanyahu, indeed, has long posited that Arab nations are so eager to engage with Israel, culturally and commercially, that they will come around to normalizing ties even in the absence of a Palestinian state.
The Arab Council’s members, however, explicitly reject the view that it is possible for Arab countries to reach formal diplomatic relations with Israel without resolution of the Palestinian conflict. And they argue that polls show that when Israelis are offered the enticement of acceptance by Arab nations, they become more willing to compromise, even by giving up land.