Americans for Peace Now's objective, and indeed our dream, is to see Israel living in peace with all its Middle East neighbors, far and near. If Israel's normalizing its relations with the UAE were a step towards ending the occupation of the West Bank, then we would be all for it.
Sadly however, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies in the White House will pocket the Israel-UAE normalization agreement to further normalize, entrench and perpetuate the occupation. We are therefore reluctant to celebrate today.
The sight of official representatives of the State of Israel visiting an Arab state and discussing terms for better relations should be uplifting and hope inspiring. For Americans for Peace Now, an organization committed to Israeli peace and security, such sights suggest that peace is possible and that the Israeli public still reveres peace as a value and as a national security objective.
But behind the sights in Abu Dhabi, there is an undeniable truth, which we must remember today, as we do every day. That truth is that Israel's existential conflict is not with Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Israel was never in a state of war with these emirates, and in fact had strong economic and other unofficial relations with them for years.
Israel's existential dispute is with the Palestinian people, who live not thousands of miles away in the Gulf, but rather 30 minutes away from Tel Aviv, in Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron, under an oppressive occupation, which denies them civil and human rights, and denies Israel its character as a democracy.
While Israeli, American and Emirati officials savor the pomp and circumstance in Abu Dhabi, Israeli soldiers patrol the streets of the West Bank, Israeli settlements grow and devour more and more Palestinian land, and Israeli democracy further erodes.
When the dignitaries return from Abu Dhabi and prepare for landing at Ben Gurion Airport, we urge them to look down and think of the future of young Palestinians and Israelis who deserve real peace and reconciliation in their homeland rather than ceremonies in the Gulf.