U.S. President Barack Obama assumes that the Palestinian issue is a root cause of Middle East turbulence, the crown jewel of Arab policy-making, and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He maintains that the resolution of the Palestinian issue would moderate the Middle East, facilitating the formation of a U.S.-Arab coalition against Iran. On Sept. 21, 2011, he proclaimed at the U.N. General Assembly: “There is one issue that stands as … a test for American foreign policy and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Is it?
Irrespective of the Palestinian issue, 2011 has catapulted the anti-Western transnational Muslim Brotherhood – the big brother of Hamas terrorists – to political prominence in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and soon in Syria, Jordan, and other Arab countries. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamic parties, is a derivative of the 1,400-year-old supremacy of Islam in the educational, social and political sectors in every Arab country.
Regardless of Israel’s policies and existence, Iran is pursuing nuclear capabilities and confronting the U.S., NATO, and Saudi Arabia, in order to advance its megalomaniac aspirations in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, the Muslim world, Latin America, and the world at-large.
Independent of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, 2011 has exposed the Middle East as the role model of intra-Arab/Muslim violence, volatility, shifty regimes, policies and alliances, instability, uncertainty, unpredictability, corruption, hate education, treachery, non-compliance, and intra-Muslim/Arab fragmentation along tribal, ethnic, religious, ideological and geographic lines.
Notwithstanding the Palestinian issue, the Saudi-Yemen border region, Bahrain, and the Persian Gulf are boiling; intra-Muslim terrorism proliferates; post-Mubarak Egypt trends toward Turkey’s or Iran’s anti-Western path; Syria and Lebanon constitute domestic, intra-Muslim and intra-Arab battlegrounds; Turkey switched from NATO-oriented to Islam-oriented policies, aspiring to reclaim Islamic hegemony, courting Russia and Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; Russia and China penetrate deeper into the Middle East; and U.S.-evacuated Iraq could become an active volcano, whose fallout could consume Jordan, Kuwait and the Gulf region.
Contrary to conventional Western wisdom, the Palestinian issue has not preoccupied Arab policy-making. Persian Gulf regimes are traumatized by Iran’s nuclear threat, the raging Arab Street, and by the seismic potential of the turmoil in Iraq. Egypt is absorbed with tectonic domestic developments, causing a 10-20 year economic and social setback. Jordan is alarmed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s surge and by the growing discontent among its Bedouin power base in Southern Jordan. Turkey is consumed with its drive for intra-Muslim hegemony. Morocco is imperiled by the ripple effects of the Tunisian, Libyan, and Egyptian turmoil. And the 1,400 years of Islamic terrorism is surging. Could the less than 100-year-old Palestinian issue be the core cause of the 1,400-year-old Middle East reality?
Arab leaders are concerned about potential Palestinian-driven subversion, which caused the expulsion of Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and their PLO associates from Egypt in the late 1950s, from Syria in 1966, from Jordan in 1970, from Lebanon in 1982 and 1983, and from Kuwait in 1991. It is clear that Arab leaders marshal their rhetoric, but not their resources, on behalf of the Palestinians. For example, during the October 2010 Arab Summit, Arab leaders pledged $500 million to the Palestinians, but only seven percent was delivered. More than $2 billion was pledged by the Arabs in support of the First and Second Palestinian Intifada against Israel, but less than $500 million reached the Palestinians. Western financial aid to the Palestinian Authority dramatically exceeds aid from Arab oil-producing countries.
Contrary to Western political correctness, the Palestinian issue is not the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The 1948-1949 War was not fought by the Arabs because, or for, the Palestinians. That explains why Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, which occupied Gaza, Samaria, Judea, east Jerusalem, and Hama respectively, did not transfer the area to the Palestinians. The 1967 Six-Day War preempted an Egyptian-orchestrated Arab offensive to destroy Israel, aiming to facilitate Egypt’s subordination of Jordan and Saudi Arabia and domination of the Middle East. The 1982 PLO-Israel War, which was fought in Lebanon but was against the PLO, was Israel’s first war not fought against an Arab country. Arabs are willing to sacrifice rhetoric, but not lives or money, on the altar of the Palestinian issue. Likewise, the 1987-1992 and the 2000-2002, First and Second Palestinian Intifadas, as well as the 2009 Hamas-Israel war in Gaza, were never transformed into Arab-Israeli wars.
Thus, the red carpet, which welcomes Palestinian leaders in the West, is transformed into a shabby rug when they land in Arab capitals. What do Arabs know about the Palestinians that the West has yet to learn?
Originally published at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1434
About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.
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