by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Chuck Hagel established himself as a Palestine Firster on October 27, 2009, speaking at “J Street’s” 1st national conference: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central, not peripheral, to US vital security interests in combating terrorism, preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, stability in the Middle East and US and global energy security.”
In contrast with the worldview of Hagel and other Palestine Firsters, none of the tectonic developments on the stormy Arab Street derives from the Palestinian issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict or Israel’s policies or existence.
For instance, Iran is developing nuclear capabilities in order to intimidate the US into a diminished global and regional power-projection, which would facilitate the alteration of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean into an Iranian basin.Egypt has shifted from a pro-US military dictatorship to an increasingly anti-US, pro-Iran Islamic despotism, dominated by the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, which aspires to spread its own version of Islam in the Muslim world and beyond.Iraq aligns itself with Iran, serving as the most critical route of military and civilian supplies to the Assad regime, while disintegrating into Shite, Sunni and Kurdish sections, constituting an arena for domestic and regional terrorism. Libya has switched from a decreasingly anti-US Qaddafi dictatorship to a tumultuous break-up along tribal, ethnic, geographic, ideological and religious lines, replete with increasingly anti-US Islamic-driven terrorism. InYemen, the departure of the relatively-stable tyrant, Ali Abdullah Saleh, paved the road to further disintegration and intensified terrorism, targeting domestic leaders, the Saudi regime and other US interests.Syria has been violently split into rival fiefdoms with over 50,000 fatalities since March 2011, serving as a battleground for domestic, intra-Muslim, intra-Arab and global rivalries.
Irrespective of the Palestinian issue, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Algeria experience boiling seismic undercurrents, exacerbating the 1,400 year oldintra-Muslim instability, unpredictability and violence, as well as anti-US sentiments.
Moreover, the Palestinian issue is not the crown-jewel of Arab policy-makers. For example, all Arab League Foreign Ministers were supposed to visit the Palestinian Authority (PA) to celebrate the November, 2012 UN vote for Palestinian non-member statehood. However, only the Egyptian Foreign Minister and the Arab League Secretary General arrived. A March, 2012 Arab League Summit committed $100MN to the PA; nothing has been delivered. Arab leaders have repeatedly reneged on their financial pledges to the PA, marshaling their rhetoric, but not their blood or funds, on behalf of Palestinians. Thus, the October, 2010 Arab Summit pledged $500 million to the Palestinian; only 7% was delivered. Arab nations pledged more than $2 billion in support of the first and second Palestinian Intifada against Israel; less than $500 million reached the Palestinians. The October, 2000 Arab Summit committed itself to $1 billion in aid to the PLO, but delivered only $200 million.During the 1980s, Arab financial support of the PLO was less than 10% of the Arab financial support of the anti-Soviet Muslims in Afghanistan. No Arab support was accorded to the Palestinians during the 1982 Israel-PLO war in Lebanon, or during the recent Israeli operations against Palestinian terrorism in Judea and Samaria (“Operation Defensive Shield”) and Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead” and “Operation Pillar of Defense”). Arab governments provide dramatically less financial assistance to the PA and UNRWA than the US or Europe.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 fail to comprehend?!
In contrast to the Palestine Firsters, Arab societies minimize assistance to Palestinians, as evidenced in the reluctance of Jordan – as well as Lebanon and Egypt – to absorb Palestinian refugees from Syria, while welcoming over 100,000 Syrian refugees. Jordan and other Arab countries are aware of thesubversive and corrupt Palestinian track record. Currently, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorizes Syrians on behalf of Assad. In 2007, the Palestinian Fatah al-Islam assaulted Lebanese officials and soldiers. In 1991 and 2003, Palestinians fought alongside Saddam Hussein. In 1990, Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas collaborated with Iraq’s plunder and destruction of Kuwait, which provided a home to 300,000 Palestinians. During the 1970s and 1980s, Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas fueled Lebanon’s civil wars. In 1970, Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas terrorized Jordan, attempting to topple King Hussein, who had hosted them since 1968. During the 1950s they led the Palestinian cell of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, and were forced for flee for subversion. Palestinian subversion triggered Arab retaliation, which produced more Palestinians killed, arrested and expelled by Arabs than by Israel.
The dwindling club of pro-US Arab leaders are currently traumatized by the lethal Iranian nuclear threat, the raging Arab Winter, emboldened Islamic terrorism and the potentially erupting Iraqi, Syrian and Muslim Brotherhood lava, which may consume Jordan, Morocco and the Gulf States.
However, while the Middle East is burning – irrespective of the Palestinian issue – Chuck Hagel and the Palestine Firsters are playing the Palestinian fiddle, sacrificing and inflaming Middle East reality on the altar of oversimplification and wishful-thinking.
Israeli Ambassor (ret.) Yoram Ettinger’s article reflects an Israeli-American perspective. His artlice was first published in Israel Hayom on January 11, 2013.