The Palestinian cause still matters
When Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the eve of the Warsaw conference that Riyadh “permanently stands by Palestine and its people’s right to an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he was making a point that needed to be made.
Despite the Saudi initiative, which was the backbone of the only still-valid Arab peace plan, Palestinian and Arab leaders have had their share of policy miscalculations that have delayed settlement of the Palestinians’ problem. Washington’s unhurried attitude and Israel’s short-sighted hubris further complicate the search for a fair and lasting solution.
The timing of King Salman’s remarks shows that, regardless of other unfolding challenges, the Palestinian issue remains a crucial part of any framework for peace and security in the region.
Meeting the challenges posed by terrorist and extremist groups as well as addressing the threat that Iran represents to peace and security do not contradict the need for a fair settlement of the Palestinian problem. Just the opposite.
A solution to the Palestinian issue would take away a propaganda asset from political opportunists and demagogues of all shades with imperial designs, such as Iran and Turkey. It would deprive radical entities and terrorist groups of a convenient narrative with which they too often try to mobilise support and justify violence.
When al-Shabab, a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, carried out a murderous attack in Kenya in January, it referred to US policy on Jerusalem to justify its misdeeds.
“The mujahideen carried out this operation… [as] a response to the witless remarks of US President Donald Trump and his declaration of al-Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel,” al-Shabab said, referring to the Nairobi attack, which killed at least 21 people.
The terrorists echoed the words of Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of central al-Qaeda. In September, he raised the Jerusalem issue to promote his conspiratorial view of the world. “When Trump insists on moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem as an open show of American recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel, his decision does not emerge from a vacuum; rather it is a clear-cut articulation of this Judeo-Christian bias,” Zawahiri said.
The words of al-Qaeda leaders do not carry credibility. These terrorist leaders are the last to be entitled to speak on behalf of the Palestinians or for peace and justice. The same applies to extremists of all hues. However, as long as the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians to statehood and dignity remain unfulfilled, so will the conditions for comprehensive peace and security in the region.