August 11, 2011

The Palestinian Fiddle by Yoram Ettinger

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Palestinian issue is not a
primary Middle East concern.

Pro-Western oil-producing Persian Gulf leaders are traumatized by the
lethal Iranian nuclear threat, by a raging Arab Street of their own
and by a potential Iraqi "earthquake" in the aftermath of the US
evacuation. The pro-Western Hashemite regime is threatened by
intensified discontent among its Bedouin power base; the Muslim
Brotherhood hosted an anti-Western Arab
conference in Cairo on July 24-25, 2011; Strategically-critical Turkey
is becoming more-Islamic and less-western; the pro-Western Moroccan
monarchy is imperiled by the ripple effects of the Tunisian, Libyan
and Egyptian turmoil; Islamic terrorism is gaining ground; Russia,
China and North Korea are expanding their penetration into the Middle
East and the US posture of
deterrence is eroding substantially.

However, while the Middle East is burning - irrespective of the
Palestinian issue, of the Arab-Israeli conflict or Israel's policies
and existence - the American and the European foreign policy
establishments are playing the Palestinian fiddle.  Their track record
features the support of Khomeini and the betrayal of the Shah, the
embrace of Saddam as a constructive force, the
crowning of Arafat as a messenger of peace, the hailing of Bashar
Assad as a moderate leader, the legitimization of Qadaffi as a
reformed ruler and the idolizing of Mubarak as an Egyptian Rock of
Gibraltar. They are convinced that the Palestinian issue is a root
cause of Middle East turbulence and the crown jewel of Arab
policy-making. Therefore, they assume that the resolution of the
Palestinian issue - by pressuring Israel to yield Judea and Samaria to
the Palestinians - would moderate the Middle East, would subside
anti-Western terrorism, would appease the Arabs, would enhance Western
ties with Arab countries and would  facilitate a Western-Arab
coalition against Iran.

But, such foreign policy assumptions are invalidated by the real
Middle East, which highlights the root causes of regional turbulence:
inherent fragmentation, instability, unpredictability, volatility,
violence, terrorism, hate education and tenuous policies, commitments
and alliances. None of these 1,400 year old root causes is related to
the less than 100 year old Palestinian issue.

Arab leaders have never considered the Palestinian issue their prime
concern, but an intra-Arab tool and a pawn against Israel. They are
aware of the subversive and treacherous history of the Arafat-Abu
Mazen wing of the Palestinians, which was therefore expelled from
Egypt in the late 1950s, from Syria in 1966, from Jordan in 1970, from
Lebanon in 1982 and from Kuwait in 1991.

Thus, Arab leaders marshal their rhetoric, but not their resources, on
behalf of Palestinians. For example, during the October 2010 Arab
Summit in Libya, Arab leaders pledged $500MN to the Palestinian - only
seven percent was ever delivered. More than $2 billion were pledged by
the Arabs in support of the first and second Palestinian Intifada
against Israel, but less than $500 million reached the Palestinians.
During the 1980s, Arab financial support of the PLO was less than 10%
of Arab financial  support of the anti-Soviet Muslims in Afghanistan.

Arab regimes did not actively support the PLO during its 1982 war (in
Lebanon) against Israeli and they did not flex a  significant muscle
on behalf of the Palestinians during the 2008 war in Gaza. In fact,
this has been the Arab attitude toward the Palestinian issue since
1948, irrespective of the identity of the Palestinian leader: Haj Amin
al-Husseini, Shukeiri, Hammuda, Arafat, Abu Mazen or Haniyeh.

The Red Carpet, which welcomes Palestinian leaders in the West, is
transformed into a shabby rug upon landing in Arab capitals. What do
Arab regimes know about the Palestinian issue that Western policy
makers do not know or understand?!

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative"
Israel Hayom Newsletter, August 2, 2011

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