Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a Member of Knesset for the Blue and White Party and a legal expert and human rights activists discusses the recent growth in Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
She touches on several issues, including length of time it took to get to this point and the need to “depersonalize” this relationship. She recently wrote at Khaleej Times on how Israel and the UAE are building a better future for children, in a piece co-authored with Thani Al-Shirawi and Arsen Ostrovsky.
Asked about the flowering of relations, Cotler-Wunsh looks back at how the countries got here.
“We had unofficial relations with the UAE for years and I think this ‘new’ normalization and peace reflects the long-term process, because a process is needed it’s not a one minute pivot. I would say that where I find the paradigm shift that I am most excited about is the pivot away from the 3 ‘nos’ at Khartoum [in 1967]: No recognition, no negotiation and no peace. I changed the order on purpose, and now we have three yeses: Yes to recognition, yes to negotiation and yes to peace.”
She says that this order of the peace process is essential, beginning with recognition and moving to negotiation and then peace is a natural process, as opposed to peace first. “It’s not a magic wand.” Peace will also bring prosperity, she says.
“Speaking of peace, despite the personalization of the Trump Plan, I saw a potential paradigm shift within it, as it demanded recognition of a right to exist, the right to exist of the Jewish state of Israel. With Bahrain we see this in the sense of adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.”
“I also spoke about this aspect of recognition with Thani Al-Shirawi in the UAE, where he highlighted his personal responsibility to combat antisemitism, to acknowledge it and the commitment to combat it as part of this fundamental shift taking place. This form of recognition is the potential for a paradigm shift throughout the region. The UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan light the path forward for normalization and relations in additional areas, including regarding the Palestinian-Israel conflict. The people’s peace, the sense that people waited for this for so long, the shift from “three no” to “three yes” is a foundation that lights the way forward with any country or peoples, including Palestinians. If there is an acceptance of the “three yeses” then it lights the way forward to accept the process and that is the sense of warmth, that excitement we feel.”
Double-standards no more
“One more thing important to these agreements is that they expose the double standards that exist, which once exposed cannot be ignored. The negative responses of various countries and organizations expose these double standards, whether Iran, Turkey or Hezbollah or the Palestinian leadership (and we need to differentiate the leadership from the people), and the same with Iran, again differentiating from the leadership and the people.
If we ignore the double standards we enable a culture of impunity toward terror regimes and armies. Yet, if we expose the double standards, contrasting the responses of our democratic friends in Europe, then there is a the possibility and opportunity to utilize this process in order to showcase the lack of understanding and misunderstanding of these regimes.”
Islam and the Abraham Accords
“Lastly, is Islam and the fact that this is the Abraham Accords and Islam can take back the narrative, the power of moderation. That places responsibility on moderates and they must step up and take responsibility and show those that are not moderates. That is the excitement I feel. I think where we arrived with radicalization, the ability to separate the three Abrahamic faiths from radicalization is the way forward for the whole world. The implications for the world where radical forces have gotten more attention and air time and exposure, and to shift away and showcase the power of moderation and placing responsibility on moderates is important.
At this moment I feel tremendous responsibility that moderates should lean in and take back the narrative.”
Cotler-Wunsh says the agreement makes her feel excited.
“The pivot from the three ‘nos’ to the three yeses and recognition of Israel’s right to exist as Jewish and democratic has long term ramifications in Israel. Those who view Israel’s legitimacy as only democratic or only Jewish demonstrates the imperative to renew the covenant around being Jewish and democratic. One of the first laws I submitted in the Knesset was a basic law of Declaration of Independence to address the internal challenges, with the diaspora and the shared covenant. This standing in the international arena and the IHRA is important and can’t be called into question that Israel exists and this is meaningful.”
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