Illustration (l. to r.): King Abdullah II of Jordan by World Bank Photo Collection (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt by Kremlin.ru (CC BY 4.0) via Wikimedia, and King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia by US Department of State (Public Domain) via Wikimedia
While Iraq delivers staunchly pro-Palestinian talk, a 2017 Iraqi law has reversed Saddam Hussein’s pro-Palestinian policy, depriving Palestinians (including those born in Iraq) of free education, healthcare, travel documents, and employment in state institutions.
While Jordan calls for sweeping Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, and while the Hashemite regime has absorbed over one million Syrian refugees, Amman stopped (since 2012) admitting Palestinian refugees from Syria. Furthermore, the significantly enhanced trilateral Jordan-U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation has become a major artery of the Hashemite regime’s national and homeland security.
While Egypt urges Israel to satisfy Palestinian demands, Egypt-Israel strategic cooperation, especially (but not only) in the area of counter-terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza, has surged unprecedentedly.
While there is no progress on the Israel-Palestinian front, Saudi Arabia and all other pro-U.S. Arab Gulf States have substantially expanded military and commercial cooperation with Israel. Riyadh has never considered the Palestinian issue a top geo-strategic priority — except its generous talk, but no walk — as demonstrated from 1979-1989 by its $1 billion annual aid to the anti-Soviet Islamic campaign in Afghanistan, compared with $100 million annual aid to the PLO. Also, while UNRWA highlighted a “$50 million landmark contribution by Saudi Arabia” on behalf of Palestinian refugees, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put it in realistic perspective by purchasing a 440 foot long yacht for $588 million and a Leonardo da Vinci painting for $450 million.
Once again, Middle East reality defies Western conventional wisdom.
Moreover, contrary to Western conventional wisdom, Palestinians benefit much more from Western support than from the support extended — and usually avoided — by Arabs.
Arab leaders have always showered Palestinians with an abundance of positive talk, but never with positive walk, as highlighted in the aftermath of the 1948-49 Arab-Israel War, when Jordan and Egypt occupied Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza. Rather than transferring these areas to Palestinian control, Jordan and Egypt aggressively squelched Palestinian political and educational activities there.
Furthermore, Arab regimes have not flexed their military or economic muscles during Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, such as the 1982 Israel-PLO war in Lebanon, the First and Second Intifada (1987-1992 and 2000-2005 respectively), and the three Israel-Hamas wars in Gaza (2009, 2012 and 2014). In fact, notwithstanding their public rhetoric, most Arab policy-makers consider the Palestinians in general — and Hamas in particular — as clear and present threats to regional stability and their own regimes, and wish that Israel would deal with Palestinian terrorism more decisively.
In 2018, the Palestinian issue was relegated further down the scale of Arab priorities, against the backdrop of the intensifying lethal threats — to each pro-U.S. Arab regime — posed by the imperialistic, megalomaniacal Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Sunni terrorist derivatives (e.g., ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas), and Erdogan’s Turkey. These threats, which have placed a sharp machete at the throat of every Arab regime, have been unrelated to the Palestinian issue.
In 2018, there were hundreds of televised reports from Gaza that were top-heavy on the Israeli military response to Palestinian terrorists, who fly fire-kites and explosive-balloons into Israeli communities. However, there have been minimal reports on Arab solidarity with the Palestinians. Arab regimes and the Arab street have been preoccupied with the domestic and regional tectonic, destabilizing ripple effects of the Arab Tsunami (superficially addressed as the “Arab Spring”), which have been leveraged by Islamic Sunni terrorists, as well as by Iran’s Ayatollahs in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, and the oil-rich and Shi’ite-populated Al-Hassa and Al-Qatif regions of Saudi Arabia.
The Arab preoccupation with do-or-die threats and challenges — not with the Palestinian issue — has been reflected in the non-realization of Arab financial assistance to the Palestinian cause, which has been announced in bombastic forums, but has subsequently all but evaporated.
Most significantly, while the Palestinian/PLO track record has been replete with anti-Arab terrorism and anti-Arab subversion and the training of international terrorist organizations, Israel has been increasingly perceived — by the pro-U.S. Arab countries — as the most effective life insurance agent in the region. Hence, the unprecedented enhancement of their geo-strategic and economic cooperation with Israel.
Will Western policy-makers, academia, and media learn proper lessons from past critical errors in assessing Middle East developments, or will they persist in repeating — rather than avoiding — past mistakes, which would entail a severe financial and national security cost?
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is the director of The Ettinger Report: Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative Click here to read more of this author’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.