I've documented this idea back to 1877.
In fact, until the Arab Spring, the "Arab Street" pretty much did whatever the leaders told it to do. They controlled the media and they controlled the mood of the country.
Then, things changed. The Arab Street is striking fear not in the hearts of Westerners, but of the very leaders who used to cynically use the idea for their own selfish purposes.
Two events occurred in the last couple of days to show that in the PA, the "street" actually already controls the government and the leaders.
The first one is that Mahmoud Abbas postponed a meeting with dovish Israeli leaders:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled a pre-Rosh Hashana toast with more than 30 ministers and Knesset members that was set for Tuesday because he came under pressure from the anti-normalization movement in Ramallah.Is Abbas a leader or a follower? Clearly, he is more beholden to special interest anti-Israel groups in his own party than to keeping mere promises made to Israelis. He is afraid of "the street" and how he would look if he breaks the unwritten rules that they make up.
Abbas invited the Knesset’s Caucus on Ending the Israeli- Arab Conflict to his headquarters in Ramallah after a Palestinian delegation was greeted by 30 MKs and ministers and a Palestinian flag at the Knesset on July 31. That meeting emphasized the need to have a show of force in Ramallah to boost the nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
But the anti-normalization movement, which is strong inside Abbas’s Fatah party, criticized him for meeting such a high-profile Israeli delegation so soon after the IDF killed Palestinians in recent incidents in Jenin and Kalandiya. They also did not like it that he was hosting a toast in honor of the Jewish New Year.
The second story is that the Jerusalem Arab schools that were considering using an Israeli curriculum (story here) have caved to critics, and rejected the idea of changing the schoolbooks from those filled with anti-Israel lies to those that actually tell the truth (although, admittedly, with some pro-Israel spin.) The publicity was too much - they are in real fear for their lives if they go ahead with the planned curriculum change.
See also the two Forbes articles I linked to on Friday, showing how even modern, high-tech, enlightened Palestinian Arab entrepreneurs are in mortal fear of having their names associated with anything Israeli - even though they happily work with Israelis every day. Again, they are terrified of the Arab street finding out they cooperate with the country that even an independent Palestinian Arab state would need to cooperate with to have a chance of surviving.
Yes, the "diplomacy of fear" has now morphed into becoming the greatest single weapon against Arab progress and peace. Until Palestinian Arabs confront it and say, plainly, that the only way forward is by cooperating with Israel, this hateful thought process will only grow.
This is yet another reason why peace is impossible. And it is yet another problem that no one in the West even considers as they pontificate about "peace plans."