Leveraging Friction: Using Israel’s tensions with normalization countries to engage them in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, Israeli governments have successfully isolated the normalization process from events in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. This separation has assisted the development of the process but, at the same time, impeded its potential to expand and deepen. In the last few months, the Netanyahu-Smotrich government has pursued policy efforts to challenge the status quo in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), increasing the risk of Israeli-Palestinian escalation. These steps changed the normalization countries’ attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinian issue. Their attempt to minimize involvement in the Palestinian issue has been replaced by a strong stance against Israeli government policy, and increased involvement, especially by the United Arab Emirates, in the Palestinian arena. Moreover, normalization countries appear to be reconsidering their policy of normalization vis-à-vis Israel and the value of further developing relations with it if the government continues its current line of escalation. The mainstream political right has branded the normalization process a historic success story. Its popularity among the general public, particularly moderate right-wing voters, turns normalization countries into significant leverage points to stop Israeli annexation and escalation activities. The threat of downgrading relations could incentivize the Israeli government to refrain from violating the status quo in the OPT. Subsequentlythe specific involvement of the normalization countries in halting the escalation trends may serve as a basis for expanding their overall political involvement in the Palestinian issue, as separate countries or as part of international coalitions. Paradoxically, this Israeli right-wing government and its escalatory policies create an opportunity to finally leverage the normalization process to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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