Arab League 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Arab League states have announced their support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for a complete halt of all settlement activity in order to resume negotiations. This decision is not all support for Abbas, as freezing the settlement activities has recently been an Arab states’ demand rather than a Palestinian one.
Recently, King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed the United Nations and said the settlements posed a major threat to the peace talks, and could actually lead to a major war.
This sentiment has been promoted heavily by the government-controlled Arab media.
This is not the first time Arab states have rushed to create mythological obstacles to peace; they have a history of obstructing their Palestinian brothers’ quest for their own state.This goes back to 1947, when the Arab League rejected UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which would have created an Arab state and a Jewish state side by side.
Abbas’ predecessor Yasser Arafat, despite his dogmatism, still came under excessive anti-peace pressure even from Arab countries allegedly most supportive of peace. After his death, some of Arafat’s advisers claimed Arab interference played a role in his lack of resilience on issues like Jerusalem and the “right or return.”
Therefore, Arab leaders’ ranting about Israeli settlements is the most recent episode of an old trick – playing both ends (the Israelis and the Palestinians) against the middle. Once those leaders have labeled any issues as a “red line” or a “sacred Arab right,” it becomes difficult for the Palestinian Authority to negotiate freely over any of them.
Some Arab countries have been playing this game very well, and are
putting pressure on the Palestinian leaders to make extreme demands for
Israeli concessions and thus bring peace talks to failure every time.
Arab states’ influence does not stop with Abbas, as they have a level of
influence in America that collectively outpowers the Israeli lobby.
With the above dynamics in action, it seems that many Arab states do not
desire the Palestinians to reach a peace agreement; which prompts the
questions about what motivates them.
SEVERAL ARAB countries have, in fact, gained political prominence
because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The no-peace-no-war paradox
has formed a political lifeline for many of those countries, and
therefore it would be irrational to believe they would want the cause of
their significance to end, even if only for a while, let alone in “a
permanently lasting peace.”
This explains why Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been very
supportive of the peace process, as those countries have a genuine
political presence in the region. Therefore achieving peace would just
add to their political prominence. This may not be the case for many
other Arab countries, and therefore the way they approach the peace
process is much different.
Another reason peace may not be in the best interest of some Arab
countries is the fact that all Arab countries hosting Palestinians still
label them as refugees, even where they make up the majority, and
therefore those countries receive substantial international aid for
“hosting” their “refugee citizens.” Progress in peace talks will
eventually solve the issue of Palestinians living in Arab countries, and
would end the economic privileges the so-called host countries are
In addition, Arab countries neighboring Israel realize that a future
Palestinian state must naturally seek a demographic and a geographic
outlet, which poses a threat for those countries’ political regimes, as
some fear that the dominating Palestinian influence would crush their
Arab states lobbying against peace talks and pushing the Palestinians to
adopt extreme positions are jeopardizing the region’s stability and
therefore the world. Arab states alleging friendship to Israel and the
US must officially acknowledge that peace requires sacrifice from all
parties, including Arab states, especially on issues such as the
Palestinians living in Arab countries, settlements and notions about
Jerusalem. If they are not willing to do that, then they can at least
stop distorting peace efforts with their lavish propaganda.
An Arab proverb goes: “God save me from my friends, then from my enemies.”
As talks are progressing, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority
should be very careful while listening to their Arab “friends.”The writer, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, is a researcher at the University of Bedfordshire.