For a long time, the Palestinian cause was a central concern for governments in the Arab world. However, over the years, the importance of the issue in the region seems to have dropped from the top of their list of priorities.
Two reasons could be behind this change. First, many of these Arab countries have been dealing with domestic challenges and regional tensions that have shifted their focus from Palestine. Moreover, their long-existing divisions and lack of unity play a significant role not just in wasting their resources, but also in preventing them from showing a unified position on the importance of the Palestinian cause.
This is not a new thing and it should not surprise anyone as it has been apparent for quite some time. What is new, however, is the absence of the ill-written official statements that condemn any breach of Palestinian rights, while reaffirming their historic position on the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. This absence is blatantly apparent in the reaction to the announcement of President Donald Trump’s Peace Plan for the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”
Arab countries have re-prioritized the Palestinian cause because of fear of upsetting Washington as well as the seeming willingness of some of them to strengthen their ties with Israel.
Perhaps the rationale behind it is the second reason Arab countries have re-prioritized the Palestinian cause: the Arab governments’ apparent fear of upsetting Washington as well as the seeming willingness of some of them to strengthen their ties with Israel.
In addition to the presence of the ambassadors to the United States from Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE – who reportedly said in a statement that the plan “offers an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a U.S.-led international framework”—as Trump was unveiling his plan, similar favorable reactions were seen from the region.
One of them was from Saudi Arabia. Its Foreign Ministry expressed support for the plan, but during a call from King Salman to President Mahmoud Abbas, the king reportedly reaffirmed Riyadh’s firm position on the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people since the era of King Abdulaziz until today.
These may sound contradictory, if not outright hypocritical. However, one way to look at it is that one statement is aimed to please Trump and the other the King’s citizens inside the Kingdom.
It is worth noting that even within the kingdom, King Salman and his son, Mohammed bin Salman – who is the de facto ruler of the kingdom, seem to have different approaches to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has worked closely with the Trump administration on its Middle East policy, but his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has been one of the Palestinians’ most steadfast supporters, creating frictions over policy in Riyadh.”
Another reaction was from Egypt, which had issued a statement making it clear that it appreciated the “continuous efforts exerted by the U.S. administration to achieve a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian issue, thereby contributing to the stability and security of the Middle East, ending the Palestinian–Israeli conflict.”
The Egyptian pronouncement also recognized “the importance of considering the U.S. administration’s initiative from the perspective of the importance of achieving the resolution of the Palestinian issue, thus restoring to the Palestinian people their full legitimate rights through the establishment of a sovereign independent state in the Palestinian-occupied territories in accordance with international legitimacy and resolutions.”
Indeed, there were declarations from other countries in the region too that expressed their appreciation or welcoming of the plan.
Regardless of whether these countries really believe in the statements they released or not, it suggests that they have turned their back to the Palestinians.
Regardless of whether these countries really believe in the statements they released or not, it suggests that they have turned their back to the Palestinians. Their new apparent priorities are what undoubtedly gave Trump the confidence to release the plan without fear of strong opposition from the Arab world.
Arguably, this confidence had increased after Trump’s move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. At the time, Nikki Haley, then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reportedly said that the embassy move was one instance “where they said the sky would fall.” However, Haley retorted, the embassy was moved and “the sky is still up there.”
Such muted Arab response indicates that the days of Saudi King Faisal standing up to Washington and threatening to cut oil if the United States supported Israel against the Arabs are gone. Most of the Arab countries now appear to prioritize not letting any issue impact their relations with Washington, even if that is at the expense of Palestine.
Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied, called the plan the “Injustice of the Century.”
Of course, after the release of the plan, a few countries have shown that they still stick to their traditional principles. One of them is Tunisia, whose president, Kais Saied, called the plan the “Injustice of the Century.”
Another country is Jordan, which, despite not attacking the plan directly, its Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, reportedly said that the only path to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on land captured by Israel in the 1967 war and with East Jerusalem as its capital. He also warned against the “dangerous consequences of unilateral Israeli measures . . . that aim to impose new realities on the ground.”
The Arab League did show a unified position in rejecting the peace plan, but that was expected. Some countries, seemingly, have only rejected the plan to save face and avoid being criticized. That is because practically, their rejection of the plan contradicts their actions.
For instance, only hours after the Arab League’s meeting, the transitional leader of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a move that was described by the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as a “stab in the back.”
Palestinians today are not only under Israeli occupation but also facing some Arab regimes’ duplicity and betrayal.
It’s clear today that Palestinians are not only under Israeli occupation, but also facing some Arab regimes’ duplicity and betrayal. Without their approval, even if implicit, Israel and the U.S. would have found it difficult to go ahead with their plan. It is these regimes’ response that is giving the Netanyahu-Trump alliance the green light to do whatever they want.
It’s now important for Palestinians, more than at any other time, to unite as they are dealing with the challenges of Israeli occupation pretty much on their own.