Following Israel’s groundbreaking peace treaties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, skeptics in both the West and the Arab World condemned them as a betrayal of the Palestinian people—without any explanation of how over seven decades of Arab nonrecognition of the Jewish state has aided the Palestinians. Robert Cherry argues that, to the contrary, the Abraham Accords and Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy of “shrinking the conflict” rather than seeking grand solutions has contributed to the short duration and limited scope of last month’s fighting in Gaza:
Over the last few years, Israel’s leadership has been winning the political battle by weaving Israeli Arabs into the educational, occupational, and political fabric of the country. In addition, the Abraham Accords made clear that the economic and military interests of other Arab countries would no longer be held captive to the decisions of the Palestinian Authority. Finally, the post-Netanyahu government embraced a strategy of “shrinking the conflict:” not allowing small flashpoints to fuel larger conflicts. It included . . . allowing more Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank to work within Israel, expanding permits for Palestinian housing, and an unwillingness to evict Bedouin communities from strategic West Bank locations.
As shrinking-the-conflict policies have reduced tensions, hundreds of gunmen belonging to West Bank militant groups, most notably Islamic Jihad, have stepped up their attacks on settlers and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. “There is a feeling that the Palestinian Authority is no longer in control,” said a Palestinian academic from Ramallah. In July, at least 23 Palestinians were injured in shooting incidents in the Jenin and Nablus areas, including Nasser al-Shaer, an academic who previously served as deputy prime minister. President Mahmoud Abbas is afraid that these men will turn against him if he orders a crackdown. As a result, it was left to Israeli forces to counter these militants, leading to the Gaza conflict.
Fortunately, this military engagement did not result in any significant anti-Israeli demonstrations in east Jerusalem or the West Bank, forcing Islamic Jihad to accept a quick ceasefire and military defeat. For many, this verifies how the shrinking-the-conflict strategy has created an unwillingness among Palestinians to risk its benefits—weakening, at least for the moment, the likelihood of a third intifada.