The tectonic reality of the Middle East, in general, and the intensifying lethal threats to every Arab regime, in particular, compelled the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain to convene in Amman, Jordan during January 30-31, 2019. They discussed the top priorities on their national security agenda: the clear and present threats of Iran’s Ayatollahs (whose subversive/terroristic/military involvement is expanding beyond Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia), the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. No Palestinian representative was invited, nor was there a discussion of the Palestinian issue, which has always ranked at the bottom of inter-Arab priorities.
In fact, these six countries, in addition to Oman, respect Israel’s posture of deterrence (which would be abandoned if Israel were to retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria), and therefore they perceive Israel as the most effective “life insurance agent” in the region. In addition, they consider Israel a source of essential and advanced irrigation, agricultural, health, medical, telecommunications and cyber technologies and systems. Consequently, their defense, intelligence and commercial ties with Israel have expanded unprecedentedly.
In 2019, the pro-US Arab countries have realized that the well-documented Palestinian track record (e.g., intra-Arab betrayal, subversion and terrorism, collaboration with international terrorism, Saddam Hussein, the USSR, No. Korea and Nazi Germany) would produce a Palestinian state, which would exacerbate regional instability. A Palestinian state would provide a tailwind to Iran’s Ayatollahs, ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood terrorism, escalating the deadly threats to their own regimes, while advancing the national security interests of Russia, China and Turkey’s Erdogan, at the expense of vital US national security and homeland security interests.
Similarly, in 1977-79 and 1994, Egypt’s President Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein were well-aware of the disruptive features of the Palestinian issue. Therefore, they did not succumb to the US State Department pressure to subordinate their own national security interest, and their peace treaties with Israel, to the promotion of the Palestinian issue.
Middle East policy, in general, and peace initiatives, in particular, must adhere to Middle East reality, as violently unpredictable, complicated and frustrating as it is. They must overcome the well-intentioned temptation of oversimplification, wishful-thinking, misperceptions and short-term gratification, which doomed to failure all previous US, European and international peace initiatives.
In defiance of Middle East reality, Western policy-makers and public opinion shapers tend to interpret the systematic torrent of philo-Palestinian Arab rhetoric as a reflection of the supposed centrality of the Palestinian issue on the Arab agenda. Therefore, they tend to erroneously conclude that the resolution of the Palestinian issue is a prerequisite to the reduction of Middle East turbulence.
Most Westerners fail to examine Arab rhetoric against Middle Eastern Arab reality, which documents the absence of military and/or substantial Arab financial commitment to the Palestinians (dramatically less than the 1979-1989 Saudi support of the anti-USSR Muslim rebels in Afghanistan). In fact, the geo-strategic Arab silence on the Palestinian issue has been deafening, as was demonstrated by the Arab inaction during the large-scale Palestinian-Israeli military confrontations in Gaza (2014, 2012 and 2009), in Judea & Samaria (2000-2005 and 1987-1992) and Lebanon (1982).
Furthermore, none of the Arab wars against Israel (1948-49, 1956, 1967 and 1973) evolved around the Palestinian issue. For example, Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence was concluded with Iraqi, Jordanian and Egyptian occupation of Samaria, Judea (West Bank) and Gaza, respectively; but they did not transfer these areas to the Palestinians, and prohibited any Palestinian national activity there.
While the Arab talk has portrayed the Palestinian issue as if it were a pivotal, unifying Arab priority, the inter-Arab crown-jewel, the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a core cause of regional turbulence, the Arab walk has demonstrated deep Arab suspicion of the Palestinian leadership and the marginalization of the Palestinian issue, compared to the top geo-strategic Middle East priorities, including clear and present lethal threats such as the Ayatollahs’ machete at the throat of each pro-US Arab regime.
In 2019, Arab regimes shower Palestinians with supportive talk – because “on words one does not pay custom” – but they do not forget, nor do they forgive the Palestinians’ 1990 betrayal of Kuwait (assisting Saddam Hussein’s destruction of Kuwait, which was their most generous host); triggering civil wars and fueling domestic terrorism in Lebanon during 1970-1982; provoking the 1970 civil war in Jordan in an attempt to topple the Hashemite regime; and subverting and terrorizing Syria in 1966 and Egypt in 1955.
Well-intentioned US Presidents, advisors and other formulators of Middle East policy and peace initiatives should heed the well-documented Middle East reality, not Western-driven impulses and norms. They should learn from the systematic failure of all past US and international peace initiatives by avoiding – not repeating – the litany of past errors.