Profiteering from the Palestinian cause
It has been half a century since the 1967 six-day war against Israel and Arabs still refuse to refer to it by its appropriate name — a defeat that stripped bare their naked truth.
Nothing really has changed in half a century except that Egypt regained its occupied territories from Israel thanks to an exceptional man named Anwar Sadat. The Golan Heights in Syria, the West Bank in Jordan and East Jerusalem are still under Israeli occupation.
For its part, Jordan could have regained its territories and even found a compromise regarding Jerusalem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242 were it not for a mindless resolution taken by the 1974 Arab summit in Rabat. It was resolved then to consider the “Palestinian Liberation Organisation as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.
That single resolution robbed Jordan of all its arguments to negotiate the liberation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The man behind it was former Algerian president Houari Boumediene, a man with no vision whatsoever and bent on taking revenge on the late Jordanian King Hussein.
Boumediene underestimated the importance of Jordan in the region. He could not see that if the Palestinian cause was alive, and still is today, it was thanks to the existence of a real Palestinian identity and people and thanks to King Hussein, who in 1970 refused Israel’s “alternative country” solution for the Palestinians. By burying this entire evil scheme, Jordan did the greatest service to the Palestinian cause.
In 1967, Lebanon was the only country in the Middle East that demonstrated a real awareness of its size and importance. It did not join in the war against Israel despite the tremendous pressure put on then president Charles Helou. He was a weak president but a wise one. He was perfectly cognisant of the balance of power in the region. His decision robbed Israel of the chance to grab Lebanese territories.
Jordan was not so lucky. Even though King Hussein knew the war would be lost, he had to join in as his kingdom was in jeopardy because of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser bears the responsibility of falling into the war trap, having been dragged to it by the Ba’ath regime in Syria represented by the then Syrian minister of Defence Hafez Assad and the other Alawite strongman Salah Jadid. Assad had other objectives besides regaining the Golan Heights. He wanted to use the Palestinian guerrillas to lay hands on Lebanon under the pretext of protecting it from Palestinian domination.
Half a century after the 1967 defeat, Iraq has vanished. In the region, Iraq served as a buffer protecting the Arab world from invasion by Iran. French president François Mitterrand described the border between Iraq and Iran as “a border between two great civilisations”, the Arab civilisation and the Persian civilisation. With the fall of Iraq, the balance of power in the region was gone and Iran has extended its influence to Syria, Lebanon and even Yemen. The Arabs are still searching for ways to regain the lost balance.
The other major change since the defeat of 1967 is the fact that two countries have signed peace agreements with Israel. They are Egypt and Jordan. Jordan signed the agreement only after the two main protagonists in the conflict, the Palestinians and Israel, had signed the Oslo agreement.
What has not changed since the ’67 defeat is that there are certain parties who continue to use Palestine and the Palestinians for their own dogmatic purposes. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union fed the Palestinians all sorts of fantasies to block any US-brokered agreement with Israel. During the Camp David negotiations in 1978, one of the agreements prepared then concerned Palestine. It fell through. At that time, there were very few Israeli colonies in the West Bank.
For the past quarter of a century, Iran did its best to make it possible for the Israeli right wing to claim that “there is no credible Palestinian side to negotiate with”. It is not the recent Iran-sponsored conference for Palestine in Tehran that is going to change that. Iran knows quite well that Israel relishes every opportunity in which its very existence is threatened in bombastic speeches describing it as “a cancer” in the region and Iran maliciously obliges.
Turkey also tried its hand at the Palestinian game card. Not long ago, a Turkish-sponsored attempt to break from the sea the blockade imposed on Gaza. It failed miserably when then Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan adopted a hard-line policy on the subject.
After half a century, the Middle East has changed a lot but the practice of profiteering from the Palestinian cause has not. It is very unfortunate that the Palestinian cause is slowly losing real leaders courageous enough to take fateful decisions, while Hamas and many other Palestinian organisations have turned out to be infiltrated to a large extent by Iran.