Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Palestinian issue and the pitfalls of erroneous assumptions - by Yoram Ettinger

...Erroneous Western assumptions that the Arab-Israeli conflict was triggered by the Palestinian issue have led to erroneous policies. It's time for the "Palestine Firsters" to disengage from oversimplification and re-engage with the complex reality of the Middle East.

Yoram Ettinger..
The Ettinger Report..
19 February '16..

Common sense suggests that simplistic and erroneous assumptions produce simplistic and erroneous policies, as has been the case with all U.S. initiatives on the Palestinian issue. This is because the U.S. foreign policy establishment has been erroneously perceiving the Palestinian issue to be the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hence there was the initial U.S. opposition to the 1977 Israel-Egypt peace initiative and the attempt to inject the Palestinian issue into it on the eve of the 1979 signing ceremony; the 1987 U.S. recognition of the PLO, which rewarded and strengthened a role model of international terrorism; the passive U.S. role in the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace initiative; the U.S. endorsement of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat for the Nobel Peace Prize and the embrace of the self-destructive 1993 Oslo Accords; the failure to punish the Palestinian Authority for its hate-education and other systematic violations of the Oslo Accords; and the resounding failure of U.S. President Barack Obama's initiatives highlighting the Palestinian issue.

Contrary to the U.S. foreign policy establishment's worldview, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war was not launched by Arab countries on behalf of Palestinian aspirations. The Arabs launched the war in order to advance their own -- not the Palestinians' -- interests through the occupation of the strategic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the Palestinians blame Arab leaders for what they term "the 1948 debacle."

Moreover, the objective of the 1948 war was to prevent the establishment of an "infidel" Jewish entity on land that Muslims believe was divinely endowed to the "believers" (Waqf). Thus, during the October 1947 Pan-Arab Summit, then Arab League Secretary General Abdul Rahman Azzam stated: "The establishment of a Jewish state would lead to a war of extermination and momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades. ... This war will be distinguished by three serious matters: ... the shortest road to paradise … an opportunity for vast plunder … avenging the martyrdom of Palestinian Arabs."

Jordan joined the 1948 war to expand its territory from the east bank of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean as a step toward dominating the Arab world. Egypt harbored similar ambitions and sought to foil Jordan's ambitious strategy. Egypt deployed some of its soldiers to the Jerusalem region to check the Jordanian military moves. Iraq aspired to control the 585-mile-long Iraq-Haifa oil pipeline, which extended from the oil fields in Kirkuk/Mosul through Jordan to the refineries in Haifa. Syria, for its part, considered the war an opportunity to conquer some southern sections of "Greater Syria."

At the end of the 1948 war, Iraq occupied Samaria (the northern West Bank), but transferred it to Jordan, not to the Palestinians. Jordan occupied Judea (the southern West Bank) and in April 1950 annexed both areas (naming them the West Bank) to the Hashemite kingdom on the east bank of the Jordan River. The kingdom prohibited Palestinian activities and punished or expelled Palestinian activists. Egypt conquered the Gaza Strip and imposed a nightly curfew (which was terminated when Israel gained control of Gaza in 1967). Egypt prohibited Palestinian national activities and expelled Palestinian leaders. Syria occupied and annexed the al-Hama area in the Golan Heights.

In 1948, the Arab League formed the "All Palestine Government" as a department within the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, and dissolved it in 1959.

Independent of the Palestinian issue, the 1956 Sinai Campaign was triggered by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's megalomaniacal aspirations to rule the Arab world. Nasser concluded a major arms deal with Czechoslovakia and formed a joint Egypt-Syria-Jordan military command against his Arab rivals and Israel. He nationalized the British- and French-owned Suez Canal, supported the Algerian uprising against France, blockaded Israel's southern port of Eilat, and unleashed Gaza-based terrorism against Israel, aiming to occupy parts of the Negev in southern Israel.

Irrespective of the Palestinian issue, the 1967 Six-Day War was launched by Israel in response to: Egypt's blockade of Eilat, the oil port of Israel; Egyptian deployment of troops in Sinai, in violation of the 1957 Sinai demilitarization agreement; the Egypt-Syria-Jordan Military Pact vowing Israel's destruction; the Syrian shelling of Israeli communities below the Golan Heights; and the Jordanian shelling of Jerusalem.

Unrelated to the Palestinian issue, the 1967-1970 War of Attrition was conducted along the Suez Canal, as an extension of the 1967 war.

Regardless of the Palestinian issue, and consistent with the goal to advance their national interests and eradicate the "infidel" Jewish state, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq initiated the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Arabs have systematically and traditionally provided a lot of rhetoric, but have supplied minimal financial resources and shed no blood for the Palestinians. The 1982 Lebanon War -- which pre-empted a massive PLO assault on northern Israel -- was the first war with no Arab military involvement. The war erupted on June 6, 1982, but the Arab League convened an emergency session only in September, after the PLO had already been expelled from Beirut. Moreover, the Arab oil-producing countries -- at a time when they controlled the oil market -- refused to flex any oil muscle on behalf of the PLO.

Similarly, the 1987-1992 First Intifada and the 2000-2003 Second Intifada by Palestinians were not transformed into any Arab-Israeli war. There was no Arab military involvement. There was no financial walk, only talk. In fact, U.S. and West European financial aid to the Palestinians dramatically exceeded the Arab contribution.

Israel's 2008, 2012 and 2014 wars against Gaza-based Palestinian terrorism were not top priorities for Arab leaders, most of whom blamed Hamas for the eruption of the 2014 war.

Erroneous Western assumptions that the Arab-Israeli conflict was triggered by the Palestinian issue have led to erroneous policies. It's time for the "Palestine Firsters" to disengage from oversimplification and re-engage with the complex reality of the Middle East.

Also published in Israel Hayom, 19 February '16


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