First published by TRT World on 17/2/2019
The Middle East’s tectonic plates shifted in Warsaw and the aftershocks could be felt for decades to come.
The American Administration summoned representatives of 60 states to the Polish capital of Warsaw dubbed strangely ‘Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East’. However, the agenda of the summit did not deliver the title on the tin. It was more about raising the stakes against Iran and to introduce talk of war. It was also a shameless attempt by the Americans to remove the table under which many Arab states had been developing relations with Israel. Now it was out in the open. They had somehow convinced the naive Arab capitals that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. In other words, it is Iran that that is now your enemy, not Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made this clear in his remarks saying “You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran.” Speaking to reporters after the sessions were over he said that “it is indisputable that Iran’s aggression brought Arab states and Israel together.”
The Americans were doing their best to create photo opportunities to normalise Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presence amongst Arabs he detests. Netanyahu considers Arab Israelis as a fifth column and warned Jewish Israelis at the last Israeli elections that the Arabs were “voting in their droves”. When passing its racist Nation State Law, Israel gave Jews the right to self-determination but not Palestinian Arabs.
The Americans ‘forced’ Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani to sit next to Netanyahu. Yemen, devastated by a war it did not choose is hardly in a position to say no to the Americans or for that matter the Saudis, while their President operates out of Riyadh. The Saudis were in the room, despite news emerging that King Salman had taken back the Palestine file from his son the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, who was noticeably absent from Salman’s recent meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Other Arab states in the same room as Netanyahu were Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
What the normalising Arab states fail to understand is Netanyahu will always see them as inferior to Jews. He will bite his and Zionism’s collective tongue because of their business, which like Trump, he wants. If it weren’t for that, he would not be seen in the same room.
The Palestinian people’s Arab brethren had no objection to sharing a platform with their tormentor in chief; even knowing the Palestinian leadership had stayed away. “Palestine will not provide cover to warmongering or legitimise efforts to market an Israeli-centric fake solution that normalises Arab-Israeli relations at the expense of Palestinian rights,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian politician, said ahead of the summit.
The reality is that Arab countries have thrown the Palestinians under the bus. In a leaked video Bahrain Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told fellow delegates: “We grew up talking about the Palestine-Israel dispute as the most important issue,”
“But then, at a later stage, we saw a bigger challenge, more toxic – in fact the most toxic in our modern history – which came from the Islamic Republic.
“If it wasn’t for the toxic money, guns and foot soldiers of the Islamic Republic, I think that we would have been much closer today in solving this issue with Israel.” This must have been music to Netanyahu’s ears. He must have pinched himself.
At the same time, sitting at his desk in Washington, US President Donald Trump must have wished the same Arab representatives were in the US Congress. They would be far easier to hand him the money he wants for his wall with Mexico than his democratically elected Congress. After all, the $5 billion he wants is peanuts for any of the Gulf States, never mind almost all of them.
Perhaps Netanyahu is the luckier of the two leaders. In Warsaw, the Arab states, many of whom represent monarchies, inadvertently crowned Palestinians’ tormentor Netanyahu, king of the Middle East. It won’t be long now before the Israeli flag flies over Arab capitals, while the normalising regimes live under the delusion that Netanyahu will send Israeli jets to protect their thrones in the unlikely event, Iran strikes their capitals.
The US President’s ‘deal of the century’ was conspicuous by its absence from the Warsaw summit. That is except for confirmation from US special envoy Jared Kushner that US President Donald Trump’s ‘peace plan’ “won’t be based on past international understanding such as the 2002 Saudi initiative, which the international community and the Palestinians have long touted as the basis of a two-state solution.”
“I think it was a great initiative, in 2002 when it was done, but it hasn’t produced peace, so if that was the framework under which something would be accomplished then I think that would have been accomplished a long time ago, and then I wouldn’t be doing the duty I’m doing right now to try to bring the people together,” Kushner reportedly said behind closed doors at the Warsaw summit. His words were leaked to the Israeli media.
This begs the question of the Arabs, Whatever happened to the Arab Peace Initiative? The now 17 year-old deal, based on Israel returning occupied Palestinian and other Arab land for full normalisation has been quietly dropped. Instead, normalisation with Israel is in full swing, while Israel continues to occupy Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian land while facing no pressure to withdraw. It is also moving to annex the West Bank and to seek American recognition of its ‘sovereignty’ over the Syrian Golan Heights.
With the Israeli elections now only weeks away, Netanyahu must have sat back in his seat on the plane home feeling like a king and thinking the photo ops with Arab ministers would help his campaign. However, as he looked down from his aeroplane window, he would have again have seen a land where the Palestinian Arabs make up the majority of those that inhabit historic Palestine.
While he controls every aspect of their lives but denies them their inalienable rights, he will not bring peace to now minority Jewish Israelis. The path to peace is not through normalising with the Arabs. It is through accepting the existence of the Palestinians in their historic homeland, treating them as equals and welcoming those refugees, that wish to return to their homes in peace, with open arms.