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Guest Column

The Palestinian Issue -- Not a Top Arab Priority
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
May 25, 2014 - 12:17:44 AM

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The Palestinian issue has benefitted from the Arab/Muslim talk, but -- due to the Palestinian record of intra Arab subversion - has never been supported by the Arab/Muslim walk. Arab/Muslim policy-makers have never considered the Palestinian issue a strategic interest, but rather a tactical instrument to advance intra-Arab/Muslim interests and to annihilate the Jewish state.

Irrespective of the Arab talk, Palestine has been a geographic - not a national - term/area, as evidenced by the lack of distinct, cohesive national character of its Arab inhabitants. This lack of cohesion has been intensified by the violent internal fragmentation along cultural (e.g., Bedouins vs. rural vs. urban sectors), geographic (e.g., mountain vs coastal Arabs, southern vs. northern, Hebron vs. Bethlehem, Nablus vs. Ramallah, Nablus vs. Hebron), ethnic, ideological, political (e.g., pro and anti Jordan), historical, tribal/clannish identity. Such turbulent fragmentation was fueled by the multitude of Arab/Muslim migration waves from Bosnia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Lebanon.

Thus, the establishment of a Palestinian state/autonomy was not on the agenda of the non-Arab Muslim Ottoman Empire, which ruled the area from 1517 through 1917. The Ottomans linked the area -- defined by most Arabs as a region within Southern Syria or the Levant - to the Damascus and Beirut provinces.

The British Empire, which dominated the Middle East from 1917 until the end of the Second World War, did not contemplate a Palestinian Arab state, while establishing a series of Arab countries throughout the Middle East. Moreover, the November 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration dedicated Palestine, including Jordan, to the Jewish Homeland. The April 25, 1920 San Remo Resolution, formulated by the principal Allied Powers, formalized the Balfour Declaration-based British Mandate for Palestine, which was ratified on August 12, 1922 by the League of Nations, eventually transferring 77% of Palestine (Jordan) to the Arabs. The US House and Senate approved it unanimously on June 30, 1922. In 1945, the Mandate for Palestine was integrated into the UN Charter via Auschwitz-like crematoriums, in the Dothan Valley, adjacent to Nablus in Samaria. In fact, Mahmoud Abbas recently expressed his admiration for Al Husseini as a hero-martyr. Abbas appointed the current Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who continues Al Husseini's anti-Jewish hate-education.

The limited role of the Palestinian issue was highlighted during the 1948/49 Arab-Israel War. Jordan launched the war in order to eliminate the Jewish state, expand to the Mediterranean and advance the goal to dominate Greater Syria. Egypt and Saudi Arabia entered the war despite their inadequate military infrastructure, in order to abort Jordan's imperialistic strategy. Iraq joined the war, aiming to control the oil pipeline from Iraq to Haifa. Syria assumed that the destruction of the Jewish state would facilitate the reassertion of Greater Syria. On September 20, 1948, the Arab League recognized the Arab government of the whole of Palestine, but ignored it, declaring it null and void in 1951/52, causing the UN to refuse Palestinian participation in the General Assembly proceedings.

None of the Arab countries fought on behalf of -- or due to -- Palestinian Arab aspirations. Therefore, they did not share with the Palestinian Arabs the spoils of war. Iraq occupied Samaria and transferred it to Jordan, which occupied Judea. In April 1950, Jordan annexed Judea & Samaria to the east bank of the Jordan River, naming it the West Bank. Egypt occupied Gaza and -- just like Jordan -- did not allow Palestinian nationalistic activities. None of the ensuing Arab-Israeli wars (1956, 1967, 1969/70 and 1973) were Palestinian-driven. Furthermore, the Israel-Palestinian/PLO wars of 1982 (in Lebanon), 1987-1991 (the first Intifada) and 2000-2004 (the second Intifada) and the Israel Palestinian/Hamas wars of 2009 and 2012 (in Gaza) did not engage the Arab states militarily or financially.

During the October 1994 Israel-Jordan peace signing ceremony, top Jordanian military leaders told their Israeli counterparts that "a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would doom the Hashemite Kingdom east of the river."

The Arab League and the UN went along and did not raise the issue of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza until 1967, when it was employed as a means to undermine the survival of the Jewish state.

In fact, the Palestinian issue has never been a chief axis of US-Israel relations. Therefore, while the two Administrations have never agreed on the Palestinian issue, their strategic cooperation has surged dramatically due to joint interests, mutual threats and shared values, which significantly transcend the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, ignoring the aforementioned reality, Western policy-makers consider the Palestinian issue the crown jewel of Arab policy-making, the core cause of Middle Eastern developments and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Thus, an erroneous underlying, Palestinian-driven assumption has produced an erroneous policy, radicalizing Arab and Palestinian expectations, fueling terrorism and inherent Middle Eastern instability, distancing the parties from peace and bringing them closer to war; thus, undermining Western national security and vital economic interests.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Israel Hayom" newsletter, May 23, 2014


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