Socialist Worker

Arab rulers risk revolt by betraying Palestine

A summit last week exposed rulers’ disdain for Palestinians—but solidarity could block their plans, writes Nick Clark

Issue No. 2642

Representatives of Oman and the United Arab Emirates at the Middle East security summit in Warsaw

Representatives of Oman and the United Arab Emirates at the Middle East security summit in Warsaw (Pic: US Department of State/creative commons)


Arab leaders would like to sacrifice Palestinians to make alliances with Israel, as a Middle East “security” conference showed last week.

Officially, countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman refuse to deal with Israel.

Mass sympathy for Palestinians—who have suffered persecution and violent occupation since Israel was founded—has stood in the way of normalising the relationships.

But the regimes of the Gulf Arab states have been quietly cooperating with Israel against their shared rival Iran. Now US president Donald Trump is pushing for that relationship to come out into the open.

The US relies on states such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to prop up its dominance in the Middle East. But the growing power of Iran and the spread of its military threatens US control.

So Trump wants to bring US allies together to confront Iran on the US’s behalf. That was the main message of the US at the summit in Poland last week.

Growing

For Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu it was an opportunity to show off his growing ties with Gulf Arab states.

For several months Israeli and Arab rulers have made calculated gestures and held public meetings designed to show their thawing relationship.

In the run-up to elections in April, Netanyahu wants to present himself as the man who ended Israel’s isolation in the Middle East.

That’s why he personally attended last week’s summit, while most other states were represented by foreign ministers. He described the summit’s opening dinner, where he sat alongside Arab officials, as a “historic turning point”.

But Arab rulers have to be much more cautious. Openly declaring ties with Israel risks provoking outrage and revolt.

As one Israeli security analyst said, “The Arab street is still nowhere near where the elites are regarding Israel, and too strong an embrace could draw fire.”

A proposed “peace deal” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is meant to help overcome this.

The only problem is that the PA rejects it entirely—and rightly so.

The plan won’t be public until after the Israeli election.

But previously leaked details suggest that its vision for a Palestinian state involves the PA handing over yet more land to Israel.

The Israeli military would also keep “security control” over the land that’s left.

Soldiers

That means Israeli soldiers staying on Palestinian land.

Far from ending the occupation the plan would rebrand it as statehood and make it permanent.

That’s why the PA boycotted the summit, with Palestinian foreign minister Riad Maliki describing it as “a plot against the Palestinian cause”.

Officials from Russia, Turkey and Iran held a “rival” summit in the Russian ski resort of Sochi.

None of those at either summit are interested in improving life for ordinary people in the Middle East. They are looking out for their own interests.

It’s reported that Saudi Arabia won’t back the US plan unless it gives more “concessions” to the Palestinians. What the Gulf regimes really fear is that agreeing to another humiliation for Palestinians will spark revolt against them.

Whatever plans the warmongers and dictators cook up, resistance by ordinary people across the Middle East stands in their way.


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