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Islamists Playing Israel’s Political Game

Islamists Playing Israel’s Political Game

Wednesday, 21 April, 2021 - 09:45
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Whenever Islamists make a rather controversial move in their political game of chess with Israel, ideological thumpers of the Palestinian cause fall into a deafening silence.


Although they fuss over Saudi Arabia hosting a concert or the opening a café, Islamists become oddly silent when leading Islamist figures warm up to Israel.


Islamists have especially kept quiet after Mansour Abbas, an Arab-Israeli politician who heads the Raam party— the political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement —voted against dissolving the Knesset and backed holding a new round of legislative elections.


Abbas’s move clearly signaled that Islamists now support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset and that Raam could potentially lend him a helping hand in forming a new government.


More so, media reports have warned that Raam decamping the predominantly Arab Joint List party and announcing it was ready to cooperate with Netanyahu could ultimately shake the foundations of Arab political institutions in Israel.


Raam assisting Netanyahu at parliament brings up fundamental and ethical questions like: Where are the supporters of the Palestinian cause? What positions are Islamists taking? And where did all the criticism go?


Some may argue that there is no harm in Palestinians playing their political game both rationally and pragmatically.


Frankly, there is nothing damaging about Palestinians adopting a “give and take” approach, one can even say that it is overdue. But this is about Islamists looking to outbid rational and moderate parties in the region, especially Saudi Arabia.


They have gone beyond the pale in committing forgery, creating crises and pretending to care.


Arab leftists that claim to be staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause did nothing to stop Islamist movements, like the Muslim Brotherhood, from double dealing with Israel and the West. Today, hypocrisy falls short in describing the Brotherhood’s duplicity.


While they are quick to slam regional opponents for taking steps towards Israel, Islamists stumble when it comes to condemn Raam’s election moves.


Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Mashaal, and some Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders who once fiercely attacked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for normalizing ties with Israel did not do the same to Islamists moving closer to Netanyahu.


“We are acting according to the expectations of our people,” said Abbas.


But what would happen if the PA or Hamas truly acted upon the hopes of Palestinians everywhere?


What is certain is that the Palestinians are tired of buying into slogans and internal divisions. They want to establish both a state and peace.


If there were free and fair elections, or a real vote, Palestinians would strongly come out against all current leaders, regardless of orientation.


They would have collectively urged their leaders to work for releasing Marwan Barghouti as hard as Haniyeh mourned Qassem Soleimani, whom he dubbed the “martyr of Jerusalem.”


In short, Islamists need to quit raising the stakes.


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