The Palestinian cause is a backdrop to new US-Russia rivalry

The hidden game Washington is playing with Moscow in the Palestinian arena is like sports in which results are decided by scoring points, not by goals.
Sunday 17/02/2019
Exploiting the vacuum. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) talks during a meeting with representatives of Palestinian groups and movements in Moscow, February 12.   (Reuters)
Exploiting the vacuum. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) talks during a meeting with representatives of Palestinian groups and movements in Moscow, February 12. (Reuters)

One of the problems plaguing the Palestinian cause is that it is often used as a playing card in the intrigues and manoeuvrings of local, regional and international forces.

A Middle East tour by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt confirm that Washington is adamant on moving forward with its deal for settling the Palestinian issue.

The stops for both White House officials were selected to allow them to convince their interlocutors and offer generous economic support that would contribute to alleviating the humanitarian pressure in the Gaza Strip and to create political hope in the area.

Reducing the tour’s objectives to just its economic aspects does not imply the absence of other dimensions because the logic of obtaining aid in the first place requires political sacrifices and limiting the Palestinian issue to its material components without regard to its content and its foundations is rejected by many Arab countries.

The way the US administration is proceeding suggests that it is not willing to forgo its role in the Palestinian scene and that it would reconsider plan contents that were leaked about what’s become referred to as US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”

The American push on the Palestinian issue is not totally disconnected from a push in the same file by Russia. Palestinian factions were invited to meet in Moscow to discuss reconciliation and ways to overcome the current obstacles.

Moscow’s invitation was well received by most Palestinian forces, led by the Palestinian Authority, which, let’s not forget, entered a delicate stage of disagreement with the US administration.

The permanent conflicts and tensions in the Middle East have given Moscow opportunity to increase its presence, interactions and political repositioning in the region while Washington’s capabilities seemed to be declining. There have been signs of confusion in the US moves and in its visions and practices, including in its handling of the Palestinian question.

Naturally, Russia coveted control of an important part of the Palestinian card.

Even though Israel does not believe in safeguarding its interests through a moderate approach to all issues, it did respond positively to Russian initiatives out of tactical considerations at least. Israeli interests intersect with Moscow’s in Syria, for example, and therefore Israel was very careful to avoid direct clashes with Russia there.

This situation worries the US administration and prompted it to move quickly by sending positive signals to the Palestinians so as not to completely lose control of the Palestinian card.

The United States, Russia and other countries are aware of the complexity of the Palestinian issue and of the difficulty of reaching a compromise on a shared vision for a comprehensive solution, especially while the region is facing tremendous challenges from various sources at different levels.

This is probably why each major player in the region wants to tie the Palestinian issue to other regional issues, incentives and awards that might encourage reluctant sides to respond to the proposals.

Russian interest in the Palestinian cause has taken different forms in past decades and has left a good impression, contrary to the stubbornly pro-Israeli American tendencies. The United States is bothered by any international vacuum in the Middle East that might give Moscow an opportunity to expand in the region. Washington is trying to retake the lead on the peace process.

The problem is that this economic and political US racket is not going to end Washington’s reluctance to put forward its famous deal nor will it convince the Palestinians and Arab countries to support its hidden agenda. It won’t help to restore confidence in the Trump administration after all the steps it took to confirm its stubborn support for Israel.

All the moves made by Washington in the Middle East and even those to be made in the future clearly announce that it will not abandon the Palestinian cause. This is an important message for those who considered appealing to the Russian sponsor to adjust the prevailing imbalance.

The United States still has the tools to prevent the successful outcome of any endeavour by any force looking to achieving a breakthrough in the Palestinian question without involving Uncle Sam. This is exactly the kind of behaviour that much smaller forces than the United States resort to when they want to stop progress on any question if they do not get what they want.

The hidden game Washington is playing with Moscow in the Palestinian arena is like sports in which results are decided by scoring points, not by goals. This kind of game can last forever.

Thus, the Palestinian cause will remain frozen until further notice but that has never been a problem for local, regional and international stakeholders in the Palestinian question.

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