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Arab League to Palestinians: Pound sand

Has Mahmoud Abbas gotten the memo yet? Palestinians failed to get the Arab League to issue a condemnation of the United Arab Emirates for agreeing to normalize relations with Israel. The PA wanted Arab nations to redeclare their commitment to block any normalization without a resolution of the Palestinian question, but ended up with diplomatic egg on their faces instead.

Abbas’ attempt flopped even though he ended up watering down the resolution before the vote:

The Palestinian Authority failed on Wednesday to get the Arab League’s foreign ministers to endorse a resolution criticizing the U.S.-brokered normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Why it matters: This is a very unusual development and a big blow to the Palestinians, who hold the rotating presidency of the Arab League. For decades, Arab League foreign ministers have endorsed every draft resolution the Palestinians have put forward. …

Other foreign ministers — mainly the Saudi foreign minister — pledged their support for the Palestinians and their aspirations, but stopped short of criticizing the UAE.

The Saudis may have sounded supportive, but they’re also signaling that the Palestinian question is no longer all that fascinating to them:

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday agreed to allow eastbound flights from Israel to use its airspace ahead of the signing ceremony for the U.S.-brokered normalization deal between the Jewish state and Abu Dhabi next week. …

While Saudi Arabia will not join the UAE in normalizing relations with Israel, the first peace agreement between the two states in over a quartet of a century, the gesture to allow flights is a significant step that will boost travel and tourism.

Newsweek notes that this has resulted from a complete change in strategy from the US. The days of acting as an objective broker are over, in large part because the Palestinians never responded to that approach. Instead, the Trump administration is slowly but surely isolating the Palestinians by focusing on the much more serious threat to the Sunni Arab nations in Iran:

Trump and Kushner have focused their Middle East strategy on building a coalition of Sunni Arab states against Shiite Iran, seen by many Arab leaders as a bigger threat than Israel.

In the process, the Trump administration has upended the decades old U.S. policy of trying to broker deals between Israel and the Palestinians by appearing to be even handed in its diplomacy. Kushner’s Middle East peace plan envisages concessions from the Palestinians that they have rejected out of hand.

The Arab League’s unprecedented rejection of the Palestinian petition makes it clear that this approach has paid dividends. It might also be a rebuke to the Palestinians, especially Hamas, for aligning with Iran themselves. In retrospect, that was an easily foreseen disaster that only got delayed in its damage thanks to an effort in the previous American administration to try to play nice with Tehran. Trump has instead taken a hard-line approach to Iran and rallied the Sunni nations, which means that they now have the opportunity to choose between their own security and the Palestinians.

And surprise, surprise … they’re more interested in their own security than the Iranian satellites in Gaza and the West Bank.

With Bahrain now rumored to be next in following the UAE’s example, the Palestinians have to ask themselves some hard questions. Their maximalist demands — a Palestine “from the river to the sea” and the right of return — have zero chance of coming to fruition now. Their footsie-playing with Shi’ite Persians in Tehran is not sustainable in the Arab League any more, either. Do they want a state of their own, or will they spend another generation leading their people into dead ends? They’ll wait for the US election to pass, but if Trump wins, they’d better cut a deal while they still have any leverage left.