Arab nations leaving Palestinians to face Israel alone
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Arab nations leaving Palestinians to face Israel alone

January 12, 2002

The Arab "client regimes" bear much of the responsibility for what has so tragically happened to the peoples of the Middle East region, most especially to the Palestinian people. Together with Israel and the U.S. it is these regimes that pushed and pushed for the miserable "Oslo Peace Process" in the first place, in the wake of the even more terrible "Gulf War" that has decimated Iraq and brought American and Western forces to occupy the region even more directly than previously. ARAB NATIONS LEAVING PALESTINIANS TO FACE ISRAEL ALONE

By DAVID HIRST Special to The Japan Times

BEIRUT, 10 January 2001 -- There has always been a vital Arab dimension to the Palestinian struggle. For a long period, in fact, the Arabs bore the brunt of the struggle, waging four, mainly disastrous, wars, in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, with little or no Palestinian participation in them.

Only after despairing of impossible military solutions did the Arabs -- or their dominant players at least -- turn in the 1970s to diplomacy. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon each sought a peace for themselves. But at the same time, they could not envisage such an all-embracing Arab-Israel settlement without a specifically Israeli-Palestinian one at its heart, one that went some way to gratify the Palestinians' national aspirations and redress the injustice done to them, which was the root cause of a seemingly implacable conflict.

Ultimately, a consensus was to form around the idea of an historic compromise under which the Palestinians should set up a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza, the 22 percent of original Palestine that, until the Zionist colonization, had been almost entirely theirs, ceding the other 78 percent to Israel.

So it was that the first great breakthrough in the new peace-seeking strategy, the 1978 Camp David treaty between Egypt and Israel, was composed of two distinct parts; the second was the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East," by virtue of which Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, styling himself "custodian" of the occupied territories, undertook to negotiate the establishment of a provisional self-governing Palestinian authority that -- or so he made out -- would turn into a sovereign state. The project failed because of Israeli intransigence, Egyptian weakness and the hostility of Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Organization.

In due course, however, Arafat himself negotiated a deal, the Oslo Accord, which in essence emulated Camp David. It was a quantum leap in moderation that took the Arabs by surprise, but basically it had been they who drove him to it. They therefore had a vital stake in making Oslo work, not only on moral grounds, but because if it did not the eventual resumption of violent struggle in Palestine would inevitably draw them back into the fray.

Oslo led swiftly to the Jordan-Israeli peace treaty. The conviction grew that, with Syria and Lebanon destined to follow suit, Middle East peace was now irreversible.

The conviction was based primarily on the assumption that Israel, having emerged victorious from an existential struggle, would make the necessary, reciprocal contribution toward that historic compromise, an infinitely less onerous one than that required of the defeated Palestinians.

But the assumption has so far proved wrong, and now, in the person of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel is led by the very epitome of nonreciprocity; a conquistador who, far from responding in kind to conciliation, treats it as weakness to grasp yet more.

He and much of the Israeli right have no interest in a historic compromise that detracts from their maximalist aim, which is to secure and perpetuate Zionist control over the "Land of Israel" in its entirety. He systematically opposed every stage of the peace process from Camp David to Oslo and its subsidiary agreements, for the compromises these embodied, or at least portended, would "redivide" that land.

His aim now is not simply the suppression of Palestinian violence, but the whole notion of Palestinian self-determination on any portion of Palestinian territory, to destroy any legitimate, representative Palestinian institution capable of bringing it about.

"From the day he took power," said veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avneri, his agenda has been to erase the Oslo Accords and dismantle the Palestine Authority and its armed forces. He believes that ultimately the Palestinians will flee, as they did in 1948, or agree to be herded into a few isolated "Bantustans."

True, Sharon has said that he is not opposed to something that might call itself a Palestine state. But the one he has in mind territorially would be confined to a mere 40 percent of the 22 percent of original Palestine, and, even then, only arise in the context of one of those interim arrangements under which the Israelis would be free to press ahead with settlements and all those "facts on the ground," remorselessly stripping it of any meaning.

The Arafat who turned down the "generous offer" that Sharon's predecessor, Ehud Barak, made to him at the Camp David summit in 2000 cannot give any consideration to a mockery such as that. So long as Sharon remains in power, therefore, the peace process is as good as dead.

Arafat knows it, but under personal, political and military siege and desperate to preserve some semblance of possible progress, he pretends that it is still alive.

So do the Arab governments. They surely know that all Sharon wants of them is that acquiescence in the Palestinians' unconditional surrender, which would be final betrayal of all their obligations to the cause; that the only way to deal with a man whose only language is force is to use, or threaten, some kind of force in return. But they also know that they don't possess it.

It is not because of any intrinsically peace-loving disposition that they all -- including a Syria that has yet to conclude a peace treaty -- speak of peace as their "strategic option" but because, since the peace process began, Israel has yet further increased its military superiority over all Arab armies combined, in conventional let alone nuclear terms.

They know, too, that their reliance on diplomacy, and the good offices of a congenitally pro-Israeli United States, will now be even less rewarding than it was before; since its victory in Afghanistan, the U.S. feels less inclination to appease its traditional allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to whose misrule it ascribes the growth of Islamic terror; less need, either, for there was little sign that, during the Afghan campaign, that these were seriously imperiled by the profoundly anti-American Arab "street."

Despite what, in most Arab eyes, is the bankruptcy of their peace-seeking strategy, none of the regimes seems ready to alter it, to heed those who insist that they must find the means of inflicting real pain on Israel and America -- instead of just endlessly lamenting the misdeeds of one and the partisanship of the other, pleading with them to mend their ways and issuing futile warnings about the disasters that will surely engulf everyone if they don't. They seem to be afraid of any kind of challenge or escalation, political or economic let alone military, that would risk Israeli reprisal and American wrath, or, while pleasing their publics, arouse its expectations for more.

There has lately been such a reduction of violence in the territories now that U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni is back in the region in attempt to turn the lull into a permanent ceasefire. But unless the U.S. imposes restraints on Sharon as well as the Palestinians and offers serious hope of a political breakthrough, the violence is almost certain to resume, furnishing Sharon with renewed opportunity to finish his task of subjugating the Palestinians with as much force as he can politically risk.

One of the risks has always been that of finally galvanizing the Arabs into a serious re-engagement on the Palestinians' behalf. Ironically some of those who think that possible pin their expectations on Sharon himself. For the grandiose geopolitical schemer and gambler, now engaged in his last great adventure, is notoriously apt to overplay his hand. He did so in 1982, when, in an earlier attempt to destroy Arafat, he dragged his country into the "mud" of Lebanon. The Arabs' very weakness and passivity might lead him into temptation again.

"What would happen," asks Abdul Wahab al-Effendi, "if this (Lebanese) disaster were to be repeated on a massive scale, which is certain to happen if peace is not concluded quickly? The Arab world is unlikely to remain backward and divided forever."

But perhaps it is the pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, displaying no illusions about the depth of Arab decadence and inertia, that is the more realistic, with the histrionic, but typical, cynicism of its forecast: "The Arab states that have established diplomatic ties with the Jewish state wouldn't sever them even if it were to exterminate the entire Palestinian people and Israeli tanks were to demolish al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock.

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January 2002


Standing Ovation at U Chicago for MER Publisher Mark Bruzonsky Keynote Address. Full text at http://www.MiddleEast.Org/uchicago.htm
(January 31, 2002)
Standing Ovation at University of Chicago for MER Publisher Mark Bruzonsky Keynote Address. Full text at http://www.MiddleEast.Org/uchicago.htm

University of Chicago Speech by MER Publisher Mark Bruzonsky
(January 31, 2002)
Available at:

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(January 23, 2002)
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(January 22, 2002)
From down under these two articles from the Sydney Morning Herald today, a newspaper with unusually thoughtful converage of world affairs. In Saudi Arabia there is a trembling now and a rush to try to distance themselves form the Americans one way or another.

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Arab nations leaving Palestinians to face Israel alone
(January 12, 2002)
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(January 5, 2002)
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Both India and Kashmiri Fighters Issue New Threats
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Israel and U.S. Get Ready To Finally Topple Iraqi Regime
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It's the CIA, Mossad, and the military that are in charge now; preparing to enforce a Pax Americana Israelica throughout the Middle East region.

The Terribly Bloody Year In Kashmir
(January 2, 2002)
The Kashmir crisis is at the heart of the clash which may or may not yet erupt into nuclear confrontation on the sub-continent. For additional information about the Kashmir crisis use the new search capabilities and check the MER archives.

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