When fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas last month, some cynics rushed to declare that the peace agreements between Jerusalem and several Arab countries brokered by the Trump administration were failures. Some of these same cynics had previously put forward the bizarre claim that these diplomatic breakthroughs constitute an abandonment, or worse, of the Palestinians—as if the Palestinians had somehow benefitted from the Arab world’s perpetual state of war with, and refusal to recognize, Israel. But such commentary bespeaks only a misunderstanding of the Middle East, writes Ali al-Nuaimi, an Emirati diplomat who was involved in the recent negotiations with Israel:
The truth is, the [central] Middle East conflict isn’t between Israelis and Palestinians but between Israel and Iran. Ask yourself who benefits from this conflict? The Palestinian people’s rights and hopes have been hijacked by Hamas to serve an Iranian agenda. And it is against Iran’s extremism that we must continue to fight.
The people of the [Middle East] crave change, not least among them the Palestinian people, who are desperate for fresh leaders, leaders who can move beyond a rigid regime with an agenda that abuses the very people it rules.
For this to happen, we also have to fight the war of propaganda—one that the Israelis lost in this last round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. . . . One of the biggest errors, . . . which I saw repeated over and over in the media, was [speaking] about Gaza as if it’s occupied by the Israelis. It’s not: it’s occupied by Hamas. And the Palestinian people in Gaza are suffering because of Hamas, not the Israelis.
Twenty years ago, the Palestinian cause was priority number one in the region. Now, people in the Gulf see things differently. We still care. We still support the Palestinians. We believe in the two-state solution. But people in the Gulf no longer believe that this [result] should come at the expense of our national interests. Many activists responded to Hamas- and Islamic Jihad-influenced media and social-media posts to say, “we do care about the Palestinians—but we don’t care about these terrorist organizations.”