21, 2011, President Obama proclaimed at the UN 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."
President Obama assumes that the Palestinian issue is a root cause of
Mid-East turbulence, the crown jewel of Arab policy-making and the crux
of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Is it?
Is the Palestinian issue the root cause of Mid-East Turbulence?
of the Palestinian issue, 2011 has catapulted the anti-Western Muslim
Brotherhood - the Big Brother of Hamas terrorists - to political
prominence in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco and soon in Jordan and other
Arab countries. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamic
parties, is a derivative of a 1,400 year old supremacy of Islam in the
educational, social and political sectors in every Arab country.
of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, imperialistic and radical Muslim
Iran - the West's staunchest enemy - could shortly become a nuclear
power; a nightmare for Persian Gulf, Middle East and global regimes.
Unless preempted militarily, a nuclear Teheran would fuel global
turbulence to unprecedented heights.
Regardless of Israel's own
policies and existence, 2011 has exposed the Mid-East as the role model
of intra-Arab/Muslim violence, volatility, shifty one-bullet and
one-revolution regimes, tenuous policies and alliances, instability,
uncertainty, unpredictability, corruption, hate education, treachery,
non-compliance with agreements, and intra-Muslim/Arab fragmentation
along tribal, ethnic, religious, ideological and geographic lines.
from the Palestinian issue, the US is evacuating Iraq and will evacuate
Afghanistan. The evacuation of Iraq, without bringing terrorism to
submission - along with a hesitant US policy towards Iran and North
Korea - is perceived by rivals and enemies of the US as a lack of
endurance and an extension of the evacuation/retreat from Lebanon
(1958), Vietnam (1973), Lebanon (1983) and Somalia (1993). It undermines
the US posture of deterrence and pumps adrenalin into the veins of
terrorists. Therefore, the evacuation will fuel turmoil in Iraq and
Afghanistan, advance Iran's posture and jolt Jordan, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait and other Gulf States. It may entice Islamic terrorists to chase
the evacuating US military all the way to the US mainland.
to the Palestinian issue, the Saudi-Yemen border is boiling;
intra-Muslim terrorism proliferates; post-Mubarak Egypt could follow the
anti-US Turkish or even Iranian path; the Sudan and the Horn of Africa
are saturated with conflicts; the Islamization of Turkey's policy
fosters regional radicalization, and Lebanon remains an arena for
violent domestic and intra-Arab conflicts. These, and many other
conflicts, hemorrhage the region, facilitating Russian, Chinese and
North Korean penetration of the region, while leveraging the US
withdrawal. None of the above is impacted by the lack of an
Notwithstanding the Arab-Israeli
conflict, Libya and Iran were transformed in 1969 and 1979 respectively,
via revolutions, from pro-US to anti-US regimes. In 1980 and in 1990,
Iraq abrogated peace accords, invading Iran and Kuwait. In 1990, pro-US
King Hussein collaborated with Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. In 2002,
pro-USA Turkey switched over from NATO-oriented to Islam-oriented
policy, courting Russia and Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and additional
rivals and enemies of the West. In 2003, a radical regime was trounced
in Baghdad, but in 2011 Baghdad could become an active volcano,
spreading lava throughout the region. Welcome to the real Mid-East,
whose major shifty and violent developments are not driven, even
remotely, by the Palestinian issue.
Is the Palestinian Issue the crown jewel of Arab Policy-Making?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Palestinian issue is not a primary Arab concern.
oil-producing Persian Gulf leaders are traumatized by, and preoccupied
with, the lethal Iranian nuclear threat, by the raging Arab Street, and
by a potential Iraqi "earthquake" in the aftermath of the US evacuation.
The pro-Western Hashemite regime is alarmed by the Muslim Brotherhood
surge in the Middle East, possibly also in neighboring Syria, and by the
growing discontent among its Bedouin power base in Southern Jordan.
Strategically-critical Turkey is becoming more Islam-driven and less
western-oriented; 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 expand their
penetration into the Middle East and the US posture of deterrence is
However, while the Middle East is burning -
irrespective of the Palestinian issue, President Obama is highlighting
the Palestinian issue. But, his Palestinian policy is invalidated by the
real Mid-East, which highlights 1,400 year old roots of
intra-Arab/Muslim turbulence. Could the less than 100 year old
Arab-Israeli conflict be the core cause of the 1,400 year old Islamic
reality in the Mid-East?!
Arab leaders have never considered the
Palestinian issue their prime concern, but a tool in intra-Arab
political and military battles and a pawn against Israel. They are
concerned about a potential Palestinian-driven domestic upheaval
("Lebanonization") as was caused by the PLO in Lebanon. They consider
the Arafat-Mahmoud Abbas wing of the Palestinians a source of treachery
and subversion. Unlike Western policy-makers, they accord significant
weight to the expulsion of Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat and other PLO leaders -
for subversion and treachery - from Egypt in the late 1950s, from Syria
in 1966, from Jordan in 1970, from Lebanon in 1982/3 and from Kuwait in
1991. The latter expulsion was triggered by Mahmoud Abbas' and Arafat's
collaboration with Saddam Hussein's invasion and plunder of Kuwait,
which offered the PLO a unique safe haven, economically, politically,
socially and diplomatically.
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, Saudi financial support of the PLO
was 10% of Riad's financial support of the anti-Soviet Muslims in
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, Mahmoud Abbas
The Red Carpet, which welcomes Palestinian leaders in
the West, is transformed into a shabby rug when they land in Arab
Is the Palestinian issue the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflct?
policy-makers have contended that the Palestinian issue is the crux of
the Arab-Israeli conflict, which supposedly is a key axis of regional
Mid-East geo-politics. Therefore, they assume, that the resolution of
the Palestinian issue - via the establishment of a Palestinian State -
would resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, thus moderating the Mid-East.
The 1948/9 War was not fought by the Arabs because, or
for, the Palestinians. Therefore, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria, which
occupied Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Hama respectively, did not transfer
the area to the Palestinians.
The 1956 (Sinai) War was triggered
by Egyptian-sponsored Palestinian terrorism, aiming to advance Egyptian
claims to the Negev, by the Egyptian-French-British conflict over the
Suez Canal and by Egyptian support of anti-French elements in North
Africa and possibly by the Egyptian agitation in the Arabian Peninsula.
1967 (Six Day) War erupted in response to Egypt's blockade of Israel's
southern (oil and commerce) waterway, Egypt's violation of the Sinai
demilitarization and the Egypt-Syria-Jordan military axis, aimed at
The 1969-70 War of attrition along the Suez Canal took place irrespective of the Palestinian issue.
1973 War (the most recent Arab-Israel war) was initiated by Egypt,
Syria, Jordan and Iraq, independent of the Palestinian issue.
1982 PLO-Israel War in Lebanon (pre-empting a grand scale PLO assault on
northern Israel) was not transformed into an Arab-Israeli war. Arabs
shed much rhetoric - not blood - on behalf of Palestinian.
1987-1992 First Palestinian Intifada (terrorism) was not transformed
into an Arab-Israeli war. No Arab military-financial support; only
The 1994-2011 Oslo-triggered Palestinian terrorism has
not been transformed into an Arab-Israeli war. Western financial aid to
the Palestinian Authority dramatically exceeds Arab aid!
Arab-Israeli conflict was not triggered by the Palestinian issue. The
Palestinian issue has not been the "crown Jewel" of Arab policy-making. A
Palestinian State would undermine vital Western interests and values:
exacerbating global terrorism, dooming the Hashemite and Persian Gulf
moderate regimes, promoting radical regimes, providing a Mediterranean
platform to Iran, Russia and China and rewarding the oppressors of
Palestinian Christians and the role model of hate education.
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Dispatch from Jerusalem," February 2012 "Bridges for Peace"