The Palestinians looked on glumly at the Arab League meeting in Jeddah this May. They knew they were no longer the cynosure of Arab eyes. Those eyes instead were focused on Syria’s Assad, and the kiss-and-make-up greetings to him by everyone in the room, save for the Emir of Qatar, who left early so he could avoid either greeting, or listening to, Bashar al-Assad. In the kissing department, pride of place must surely go to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, standing on tiptoe to plant kisses on both of Assad’s receptive cheeks. Syrians in the diaspora that Assad’s ruthlessness created were enraged at the spectacle; they will neither forgive nor forget how the Arab states chose to re-legitimize the mass murdering Assad, all in order to bring him back “into the Arab fold,” that is, to pull him out of the orbit of Iran.
Zelensky, a surprise guest, was given attention. But not the Palestinians. More on their disappointment can be found here: “Palestine’s fate, Syria’s return: Key topics at Arab League summit,” by Daoud Kuttab, The Media Line, May 19, 2023:
Palestinian leaders and activists are wary of expecting too much from the summit. Jamal Dajani, who served as director of communications for former Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, said that decisions made at previous summits have failed to materialize.
All kinds of statements in support of the Palestinians have been made in the past at these Arab League meetings, but nothing ever comes of them. The Arabs are clearly tired of the Palestinians. It was Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the most powerful Arab leader, who several years ago exasperatedly told an endlessly complaining Mahmoud Abbas to “take whatever deal the Americans off er you.” That was certainly not what Abbas wanted to hear, and since then their relations have been distinctly chilly. The Saudi Crown Prince has other things on his mind, including his trillion-dollar NEOM project, building megacities in the desert for businesses and tourism, ending the Yemen civil war, and promoting a quasi-rapprochement with the formerly mortal enemy of the Saudis, Iran. The Palestinians now come way down on his To-Do List, as they have for other Arabs.
“I have low expectations, based on the previous summits. However, if one thing needs to happen besides Arab unity, it’s a unanimous vote to put an end to normalization with the apartheid regime of Israel,” Dajani told The Media Line….
Jamal Dajani can dream away about an “unanimous vote to put an end to normalizing ties with Israel,” but it will never happen. This shows how far from reality these Palestinians are; they seem not to realize that not one of the four Arab states that since 2020 agreed to normalize ties with Israel and join the Abraham Accords will vote to end them. They have proven far too beneficial, with just one Arab member of the Accords, the UAE, having already entered into trade deals with the Jewish state worth more than $2 billion, for any of those states to want to undo what they have done. Bahrain has also made deals with Israel, including a security cooperation agreement. Bahraini and Israeli ships have conducted naval drills together. As for Morocco , as a predominantly agricultural country, it stands to benefit most from Israel’s advanced techniques in drip irrigation, desalination, waste water management, in all of which areas Israel is a world leader. Only Sudan, politically unstable – and now riven by a civil war – has yet to profit from its Israeli ties, but two months ago the Sudanese government agreed to “move forward” with strengthening its ties to Israel; everything has now been put on hold during the civil war that suddenly broke out, but once peace is again achieved in Sudan, there is reason to hope that the country’s ties with Israel will finally be attended to, and deepened.
Arab League meetings end in various hollow expressions of unity that never come to pass, and this one will be no different. There is no reason to think that this Arab League meeting will be able to patch up the longstanding enmity between Morocco and Algeria over the latter’s support for the independence of the Sahrawi people in that part of the western Sahara that Morocco claims as its sovereign territory. Nor will the Arab League be able to bring the temporary peace in Libya since 2020 — between the forces of General Haftar in the east and the Government of National Accord in the West – to a permanent conclusion. And the Arab League will similarly fail to end the revolt by Shi’a Houthis in Yemen against the national government run by the Sunnis; that kind of peacemaking will require a bilateral agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Palestinian Foreign Ministry Director General Ahmad Deek told The Media Line that a number of issues relating to the Palestinians need to be addressed. He said that May 15 should be marked as a day to commemorate the Nakba, the exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their homes by armed Zionist groups or Israeli soldiers during the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War. Those who deny the Nakba “must be condemned,” he said.
So what does Ahmad Deek, Director-General of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, hope for? Not much: just the announcement by the 22 Arab states of a so-called “Nakba Day,” to commemorate the “catastrophe” that occurred in 1948 when five Arab armies failed to wipe out the Jews of Israel – a sad day for the Arabs and Muslims. Sure, why not? The Arab League states should be happy to proclaim “Nakba Day” as long as it doesn’t cost them anything, and it won’t. Nor it will achieve anything for the “Palestinians,” who keep waiting for others to squeeze Israel back within the 1949 armistice lines, and to hand the Palestinians their own state on a platter, from which they plan to someday launch their attack to wipe out the dimidiated Jewish state.
Deek raised the “urgent need to activate the Arab financial safety net for Palestine” and said that decisions made at previous summits needed to be revisited, including discussions about mechanisms for implementing them.
The “financial safety net for Palestine”? Of course, for Palestinian leaders it’s always about the money. The Palestinians have been horrified at the severe cuts in aid from the rich Arabs since 2018, and want the Arab oil states to go back to the free spending days when billions, not millions, were handed to the grasping Palestinians. But the Arab donors — the deep-pocketed oil states — have gotten tired of sending money to the Palestinians, seeing how much of that aid is diverted into the bank accounts of the leaders. Just two leaders of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, managed to each acquire fortunes of $2.5 billion. Mahmoud Abbas has, with his two sons Tarek and Yasser, accumulated a family fortune of $400 million. And under that top echelon, hundreds of other Hamas and Fatah loyalists have been allowed to help themselves to a million here, and a few million there. Six hundred Hamas members live in luxurious villas in Gaza, in the midst of so much misery. The corruption is colossal. And the Arab donors are tired of funding the crooks at the top of the Palestinian pyramid. If they are going to send money to any Arab entity, it will now be to the government of Syria, to help in the rebuilding of a country now in ruins.
Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi told The Media Line that above all, the Palestinian focus is on the Arab League holding Israel accountable.
“We would like to see a clear Arab position holding Israel accountable for its violations as an occupier, its cold-blooded murder and settlement, and attempts to change the status quo in Al-Aqsa. Arabs should also be active in supporting Palestinian Christian presence in Jerusalem,” Hidmi said.
What “violations” as an “occupier” is Israel guilty of? Not a single Israeli has been in Gaza since 2005 – does Israel “occupy” Gaza? According to the Mandate for Palestine, all of the West Bank was supposed to be included in the future Jewish state, so how can that territory now be described as “occupied” by Israel? Its only “occupier” has been Jordan, between 1949 and 1967. When Israel won the West Bank in the Six-Day War, it did not assert a new right, but was finally in a position to exercise its preexisting right to that territory. When Fadi Hidmi talks about Israel’s “cold-blooded murder” of Palestinians, he has things backwards. It is Palestinian terrorists who for decades have been committing the “cold-blooded murders” of thousands of Israelis – 1,663 were killed just since the Oslo Accords — and are financially rewarded for doing so through the “Pay-For-Slay” program, while Israel only attempts to protect its people against such attacks. As for the mention of Israel’s “settlement,” meaning the settlements Jews have established in Judea and Samaria (which Jordan renamed “the West Bank” in 1950), again the world needs to be reminded that all the land “from the river to the sea,” was intended by the League of Nations to be part of the future Jewish state.
Al-Hidmi talks about the need to preserve the “status quo” on the Temple Mount. The suggestion is that Israel is changing that “status quo.” But it is not. While Muslims can pray at Al-Aqsa at any time of day or night, Jews continue to be forbidden to pray either openly, or even silently, when they visit the Temple Mount. They are still prevented from bringing Jewish prayerbooks, prayer shawls, or tefillin with them when they are on the Mount. It is the Palestinians who want to change the status quo by preventing the Jews even from visiting the Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. And their chosen method has been violence, when Palestinian rioters, having stored rocks and fireworks inside Al-Aqsa, hurl them at Jewish visitors on the Mount and at the Israeli police who are there to protect them.
With Europe’s support, Saudi Arabia will reintroduce the Arab Peace Initiative, a plan to end the Arab-Israeli conflict that was first proposed at the 2002 Arab League summit. Rantawi said that the clauses of the proposal have already been violated by the US-mediated Abraham Accords process, during which four Arab countries normalized their relations with Israel….
The Saudi “Peace Initiative” is dead in the water. Israel will never agree to be squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines, leaving it with a nine-mile-wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea. It’s not even clear if the Saudis really believe in their own plan, or if they are just going through the rhetorical motions to make the Palestinians shut up. The Crown Prince has much more important matters on his mind.
The Gulf states have in recent years stopped almost entirely their once-substantial contributions to the Palestinian Authority. They continue to donate to UNRWA, but the sums are derisory. Saudi Arabia, for example, which took in $340 billion in 2022, and had a budget surplus of $28 billion, gave UNRWA $27 million that year, or one one-thousandth of that surplus. Clearly, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs are tired of the Palestinian hands that are always extended in the eleemosynary position, especially since they know how much of that aid is taken for themselves by the grasping Palestinian leaders. I don’t think there is any way for the Palestinians to convince the quondam donors to turn on the tap of aid again. They had their moment in the sun. Now others will take their place on the Arab agenda. The dogs bark, the caravan moves on.