The hastened normalization with Israel by the Arabs will only weaken the Palestinian negotiator and cause Israel even more reluctance in its potential decision to withdraw from the rest of the occupied territories.
Within the matter of a week, the rosary beads have been scattered. Pakistan, known for its severe stance against Israel has announced normalization with it. The Tunisian president has invited Ariel Sharon to his country for a conference. Moreover, there are reports that King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt will visit Tel Aviv and we are fully aware of the political indications of these two Arab leaders who refused to visit Israel before withdrawal of the occupied territories.
Some observers argue that normalization with Israel will compel it to withdraw, as improving ties with Arabs will give Israel more security and confidence that is needed for a complete withdrawal of the remaining occupied territories. On the other hand however, and perhaps more realistic and valid, is the opinion that hastened and individual normalization (instead of a coordinated Arab policy towards the issue) with Arabs will harden Israel”s position.
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is a significant development; however, it is important to distinguish its case to that of the West Bank, as there was continuous and intense pressure on Israel to withdraw from Gaza. Such pressures are not practiced in the West Bank. The number and security of settlers in Gaza was endangered. In the West Bank however, the project to link the biggest settlement to Jerusalem is underway which will then be followed by the imposition of the de facto situation and withdrawal will only take place in limited and valueless areas.
This race for normalization with Israel will weaken the Arab peace initiative, which is based on recognition for withdrawal. If the Israelis feel that the Arabs are eager to normalize, they will not fulfill their commitments. What we will soon be observing is not an Israeli withdrawal but rather an Arab retreat towards Israel of no avail.