Debate in the Arab and Muslim World Over Normalization With Israel

Since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, leaders of Arab and Muslim countries have warmed their relations with Israel. During the U.N. General Assembly of September 2005, meetings took place between Arab foreign ministers and Israel’s foreign minister; Pakistan declared its willingness to normalize relations with Israel; and Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Muhammad bin Mubarak confirmed that his country had decided to lift its boycott of Israeli products, saying, “Bahrain has signed a free trade agreement, and it does not include implementation of the boycott.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim, while in New York, called on the Arab countries “to respond favorably to Israel’s disengagement move with an international conference or with meetings between [representatives of] Israel and Arab countries.” He also stated that it would be possible to establish full diplomatic relations between Qatar and Israel prior to Israel’s complete withdrawal from the occupied territories. At this writing, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was on a visit to Tunisia, and the London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that diplomatic sources in Rabat foresaw a warming of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel following this visit. The London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat reported that the Israeli airline Arkia had announced that it had signed a partnership agreement with a Qatari airline.

These developments generated a debate, which included the issuing of fatwas, in the Arab and Muslim world. Advocates of normalization stated that the Islamic faith does not forbid normalization under suitable conditions. Some argued that the Arab world must be realistic and must promote the interests of the Arabs and Muslims in order to produce a regional balance vis-à-vis Israel. Others added that such a move would demonstrate the Arabs’ peaceful intentions, and that Israel has already made considerable progress towards peace.

Opponents of normalization described it in harsh terms, using expressions like “stabbing the Palestinian people in the back,” “selling Jerusalem to the murderers of the prophets,” etc. They stated that normalization at this time – following the disengagement but while Gaza was still closed off and isolated, and prior to withdrawal from the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem – would only weaken the Palestinian negotiators and encourage the expansion of settlements, and may result in the elimination of the Palestinian problem from the agenda. Some also argued that Israel should not yet be rewarded with normalization, since it has not demonstrated that it respects the peace process. They claimed that, at this stage, normalization would only generate economic profits for Israel, and may also be used by Israel for purposes of espionage.

Please read the full article detailing the opponents of normalization with Israel, written and published by MEMRI, here.

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