Palestinian cause is a thing of the past

A total break with the traditional Arab alliance around the Palestinian cause.


The Gulf countries believe that the Palestinian cause is a thing of the past

January 31, 2020 (Sputnik News Service) – Since the announcement of Donald Trump’s peace plan, a deafening silence has resounded in the Middle East. With few exceptions, very few countries have voiced their disagreement with the deal, all of which they find unfavorable to the Palestinians. Why? Sputnik France asked Christian Chesnot, a journalist specializing in the Middle East, the question.

There was a time when the leaders of the Arab world were upwind and spoke almost with one voice when it came to the Palestinian question. These days seem to be over. Since then, the geostrategic balance in the region has undergone such a metamorphosis that it is today difficult to clearly account for the position of certain countries of the region vis-à-vis Palestine and Israel.

On January 27, Gulf countries such as Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates dispatched officials to present Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. The United Arab Emirates even publicly viewed the plan as “serious” and said it “was an important starting point for a return to negotiations”. A total break with the traditional Arab alliance around the Palestinian cause.

Why this flip-flop? Christian Chesnot, journalist specializing in the Middle East, author with Georges Malbrunot of the book Our very dear emirs, published by Michel Lafon editions in 2016, gives us some reading keys in order to better understand a system of alliance in full metamorphosis.

Sputnik France: Very few Arab countries are heard commenting on Donald Trump’s “peace plan”. Why this silence?

Christian Chesnot: “There is still a country that has reacted a lot, it is Jordan. They are on the front line, especially because the Israelis are going to seize the Jordan Valley, and because they have welcomed many Palestinians in the past. For the rest, this silence can be explained in different ways.

In Egypt, General Sissi is very close to the Israelis. The two countries have signed a security agreement to fight Daesh in the Sinai desert. In addition, Egypt has also just signed a contract to import Israeli gas.

Then there are the Gulf countries, including powers like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, who have long advocated normalization of relations with Israel. This is explained by the fact that the Gulf countries and Israel have a common enemy, called Iran, and that in the name of this struggle, there is a legitimate alliance. There is also a proximity of the Emirati and Saudi leaders to President Trump, which facilitates this rapprochement.”

Sputnik International: Are the days of unconditional Arab solidarity with the Palestinian cause over?

Christian Chesnot: “There have always been two levels of solidarity. On the one hand, there are the Arab leaders, who have a variable geometry of solidarity, and who have often instrumentalized the Palestinian cause according to their interests. On the other hand, there are the peoples, who are always in solidarity with the Palestinians, and who do not understand that we can reach such a disastrous agreement for the Palestinians.”

Sputnik France: Do the leaders, whose solidarity is of variable geometry, not fear a form of popular pressure that could endanger them?

Christian Chesnot: “Not in the Gulf countries, anyway. Simply because there is no public opinion. There is a very strong welfare state and no political parties, no free press … It is therefore not in these countries that we will see popular movements in support of the Palestinians. In Egypt, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Syria, in Iraq, there, it may be possible, but these countries, both the peoples and the leaders have other more immediate concerns. Even if this treaty clearly aims to bury the Palestinians’ defeat.”

Sputnik France: What was the role of these Gulf countries in the development of this peace plan? Senior officials from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates attended the presentation of this plan …

Christian Chesnot: “The Gulf countries were behind the scenes during the negotiations. We have seen Jared Kushner [High Advisor to the President of the United States and “mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, editor’s note] often travel to Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and other Gulf countries. It is win-win, they can normalize their relations with Israel and can therefore strengthen the camp hostile to Iran. Also, they believe that the Palestinian cause is a bit of the past and that the Palestinians failed to seize certain opportunities at certain key moments.

Afterwards, we can ask ourselves the question: is this a judicious calculation? It should be remembered that Saudi Arabia is the guardian of Muslim holy places and that this country plays an important role in the Muslim world, and Jerusalem is still the third holy place of Islam. In the short term, they will certainly be happy, but in the medium or long term, there could be a flashback that can cost them dearly.”

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