Yoram Ettinger

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative”
November 17, 2020, https://bit.ly/3nByyYq

According to a November 12, 2020 OpEd by Nabil Amr, a confidant of Mahmoud Abbas, published by the leading Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat : “Ballots with Biden’s name would have filled the boxes if placed in Ramallah…. [The Palestinian Authority] bets are that Biden’s victory [will] resume ties with the US Administration, pumping money into the Palestinian Authority’s virtually empty coffers, reopening the PLO’s Washington Office and the US Consulate in Jerusalem, tasked with dealing with Palestinian affairs…. The new Administration will also go back to talking about the two-state solution and repudiate unilateral actions like annexation…. Trump’s Administration took a totally different path….”

However, the “Palestine Firsters” among the future policy makers in Washington, DC, are infatuated with the Palestinian cause, assuming that the Palestinian issue is central to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the overall Arab agenda.  They have ignored the fact that Arabs viewed Palestinians as the role model for intra-Arab terrorism, subversion and ingratitude, a low level (and negative) priority on their agenda.

The “Palestine Firsters” should study the two hour October 5, 2020 TV interview by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a senior member of the Saudi royal family and a former head of the Saudi intelligence services and national security council:

“It is not surprising to see how quick are Palestinian leaders [criticizing the Israel-UAE peace accord] to use terms like ‘treason,’ betrayal’ and ‘backstabbing.’  These are their ways in dealing with each other…. They always bet on the losing side.  In the 1930s, [the top Palestinian leader] Amin al-Husseini was betting on the Nazis in Germany…. [Following WW2, the Palestinians embraced the USSR]…. [In 1970], Arafat’s headquarters were in Jordan, and he decided that it was time to liberate not Palestine, but Jordan [through a bloody civil war]…. They had only been in Lebanon a few years when they began to behave as they did in Jordan, and Lebanon became the new target.  It led to a [1975-1982] civil war…. No one can forget the image of Arafat as he visited Saddam Hussein in 1990, after the occupation of Kuwait [which was the most generous Arab host of the Palestinians]…. We saw Arafat in Baghdad, embracing Saddam, and laughing and joking with him…. We saw [Palestinian] youth in Nablus dancing joyfully in celebration of [Saddam’s] missile attack on Riyadh, holding pictures of Saddam…. We are at a stage in which rather than…serve the Palestinian cause, we have to pay attention to our national security and interests…. We are surrounded by a stormy sea [Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and Turkey’s Erdogan]…. We do not allow [Palestinian] liars and those who are disloyal to impose their tradition on us…. The Palestinian leaders have come to regard Tehran and Ankara higher than they regard Riyadh, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Oman and Egypt….”

Contrary to the “Palestine Firsters'” state of mind, Saudi cooperation with Israel – commercially, militarily and diplomatically – has expanded unprecedentedly, notwithstanding Palestinian condemnations, pressure and threats.  Moreover, Saudi Arabia has been a chief engine behind the UAE’s, Bahrain’s and Sudan’s peace accords with Israel, which have bypassed the Palestinian issue, focusing on “what’s in it for the Arabs” in their cooperation with Israel.

The “Palestine Firsters'” litany of peace initiatives were crashed against the rocks of Middle East reality, due to their erroneous assumptions that the Palestinian issue was a core cause of Middle East turbulence, the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the Arabs favored the establishment of a Palestinian state.

They sacrificed Middle East reality on the altar of a supposed Palestinian centrality. On the other hand, overcoming the temptation of such an overly simplistic assessment of the Palestinian issue yielded the successful conclusion of Israel’s peace treaties with Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan).

Thus, the farther are peace initiatives from the trap (veto) of the Palestinian issue, the closer they are to expanding the number of Israel-Arab peace treaties.

Moreover, the more relevant is the peace initiative to the particular Arab interest – where the threats of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and Turkey, and the need to diversify the oil-based economy, dwarf the Palestinian issue – the stronger the incentive for the Arabs to conclude peace treaties with Israel.

The Palestinian track record has led all pro-US, moderate Arab regimes to conclude that the proposed Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, while Israel’s track record has played a key role in minimizing Middle East turbulence.

On October 2, 2020, Ambassador Dennis Ross – a veteran “Palestine Firster” – was asked by an i24News interviewer: “For years you were working on the assumption that peace between Israel and the Palestinians was the key, the only key, to peace between Israel and Arab countries.  A few weeks ago, this assumption was shattered by the signing of peace treaties between Israel and the UAE and Israeli and Bahrain.  Have you been wrong all these years?!”

Most “Palestine Firsters” would agree that Israel’s posture of deterrence is a bulwark against Iran’s Ayatollahs and Sunni Islamic terrorism, bolstering the stability of the highly vulnerable and relatively-moderate pro-Western Arab regimes, and therefore, incentivizing Arabs to conclude peace treaties with Israel.

However, such an assessment, on the one hand, and the urging of Israel to retreat to a 9-15-mile waistline between the Mediterranean and the over-powering mountains of Judea and Samaria – which would obliterate Israel’s posture of deterrence – on the other hand, constitutes a classic oxymoron.