Perhaps it’s the audacity of our times. The abnormality of these days bring some pleasant gifts. The Saudis for instance, struck hard at the Palestinian leadership this week. Perhaps they are paving the way toward peace with Israel. Or maybe they are giving U.S. President Donald Trump a much needed lifeline before the election. Either way, like others who are using COVID for cover, they are dumping their standard operating procedure in this era of instability.
Given their harsh rhetoric toward Israel over the years, a peace agreement with Israel seemed unlikely in my lifetime. But in just a few months, we have witnessed the unimaginable signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the U.A.E. and Bahrain. Behind the scenes of this trial balloon were the Saudis, who gave the peace deal an all-clear blessing and permission for Israeli commercial flights over their territory.
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None of the exciting developments mattered in comparison with the earthquake that unfolded thereafter. By silently acquiescing to the peace agreement, the Saudis shattered the foundational Palestinian belief that their cause was moral and just. Predictably, and because Palestinian leaders never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, they went on the offensive — or what the Saudis called a “low level of discourse” — denouncing the peace agreement.