By B. Z. Khasru
The latest Arab-Israeli collusion has doomed the prospect of an independent Palestine, and the Middle East is undergoing political changes that will have profound long-term consequences for the region in particular and Asia in general.
The paramount question, however, is: What will happen to Palestinians living in the Israeli occupied territories?
Two possibilities are on the horizon: A one-state solution, which calls for merging the territories with Israel, and the other is to give Jordan parts of the West Bank and remodel the kingdom as a Palestinian nation.
Meanwhile, the so-called Abraham Accords have paved the way for the rise of a virtual Empire of Israel. This mini superpower will keep the region under its thumb for decades to come, if not for centuries. It will lead a camouflaged regional military outfit to solidify its control and help the West fight Iran, Russia and China.
Israel recently signed the U.S.-brokered pacts with the United Arab Emirates to win diplomatic recognition. For decades, the Arabs shunned Israel because of its refusal to allow a Palestinian state on the lands it captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Not any more.
Following its deals with the UAE, the Jewish state also made similar treaties with Bahrain and the Sudan. Combined, they have planted the seed of a U.S.-backed, Israeli-led undeclared military bloc.
The Arab nations that perceive the Islamic Republic of Iran as their enemy number one will be part of the alliance. Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival for the Muslim world’s leadership, will keep away from it for now because Riyadh fears backlash from fellow Islamic nations. So, the Saudis will secretly work with Israel through their sidekicks — the UAE and Bahrain.
The emerging pro-Western axis is a dream come true for both Israel and America; they have long sought a regime change in theocratic Iran, the only remaining Muslim nation that can pose somewhat of a challenge to the Jewish state’s hegemony.
What Next For Palestinians
Under the likely scenario, Israel will split the occupied West Bank with Jordan. The hapless Palestinians will be made citizens of the expanded Jordan. Gaza will be merged with Egypt. Neither Jordan nor Egypt wants the Palestinian areas, but they will succumb to Israel’s diktat.
Israel and America will find it convenient to rebrand Jordan as the de facto Palestinian homeland because some 70 percent of the ten million Jordanians are of Palestinian descent. The will bury the one-state solution, which calls for making the five million Palestinians in the occupied territories citizens of Israel, a nation of nine million Jews and Arabs.
The one-state solution, however, won’t fly because Israel wants the Palestinian lands — not the Palestinians. Also, the Israelis don’t have an ounce of compassion left in their hearts to hug their defeated enemies, nor do they see any benefit in having millions of extra Muslims in the Jewish nation. The old argument that Israel must make peace with the Arabs to ensure its long-term security is now mute.
The death of the Palestinian aspirations, once espoused by the United Nations and the United States as well, reflects helplessness of the despondent Muslims, who have been under constant assault since the 9/11 attacks on America by some misguided citizens of Saudi Arabia.
New Asian Military Bloc
The new coalition will primarily target Iran. But Washington will use it against Turkey and Russia, too. Despite Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s occasional anti-West outbursts, NATO member Turkey will not face immediate fire and fury.
The U.S.-Arab-Israeli entente, along with the Indo-Pacific pact, which includes India, Australia and Japan, will boost America’s efforts to contain China. Israel, with its strong military ties with India, will extend its sphere to aid the U.S. military in Asia.
Israel has long been America’s proxy and the West’s outpost in the Middle East to control the Arabs. The West distrusts the Arabs — and the Muslims — because they humiliated Christians by building a vast Islamic empire in Europe. This historical hostility is still very much alive and flares up from time to time.
The enmity remained somewhat latent when the West was busy fighting communism. With the Soviet Union gone, Europe and America rediscovered Islam as the new bogeyman and the clash of civilizations ensued. China’s rise has forced America to shift its focus from Islam, but anti-Muslim sentiments continue to vitiate many minds in non-Muslim lands.
Camp David Accords Fallout
The recent Arab-Israeli treaties came decades after Egypt and Jordan embraced Israel. Under the U.S. sponsorship, Egypt signed the Camp David accords in 1978, fulfilling America’s goal to fracture the Arab alliance, sideline the Palestinians, weaken the Soviet Union and secure Israel. Jordan, Israel’s poodle for decades, followed suit in 1994.
Since then, the Palestinians have lost ground to Israel, literally, and the Arabs have lost clout. After the fall of the Soviet Union, which backed the Arabs, misery befell the Palestinians. Left with no option, the Palestinians finally decided to kiss and make up with America in an attempt to play second fiddle to Israel, but without success.
With Egypt neutered, Iraq ruined, and Libya back to the dark age, the Arabs are down and out. Israel and America see eye-to-eye on Iran, but they differ on how to tackle Tehran. Israel wants immediate tough action, but America prefers to give diplomacy a chance, a policy likely to return under the coming U.S. administration.
Despite Iran’s triumph in Syria, Tehran got a big blow in Lebanon. A Tehran-backed Lebanese militia, which once mangled Israel, is under pressure. Lebanon, with its economy in tatters, needs aid from the West. This turn of events has empowered the West to reassert its influence in Lebanon and blunt Iran’s edge.
Arab Quarrel Kills Hopes
Unlike Jewish leaders, Arab rulers have a history of putting personal gains over national interests. Their squabbling for leadership, often with outside assistance, frustrated Arab aspirations. Now being economically down, diplomatically marginalized and militarily impotent, Arab nations view a rising Iran as their greatest enemy and Israel as well as America as saviors.
The Arab-Persian rivalry, which dates back centuries, resurfaced in the 1980s after Tehran challenged Riyadh’s hold over the Muslim world. Iran and Saudi Arabia have been fighting indirectly in Yemen and Bahrain, so an alliance with Israel is more important to the Arabs than helping the Palestinians.
The Saudis are the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites. They are aware of the convulsions among the Muslims caused by the Palestinian plight. No other issue riles up the Muslims as much as the Palestinian issue. So Riyadh has shunned formal ties with Israel to hide its role in creating the anti-Iran coalition.
The Muslims have become timid since the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Despite their deep anguish at the misery of the Palestinians, they dare not speak out because they are afraid they may be branded as terrorism sympathizers.
The recent pacts signal Arab capitulation. The Palestinians are widely seen by the Muslims as victims of the Israeli occupation. Because the Arabs dumped them, the demoralized Muslims could look to Iran and Turkey — two non-Arab Muslim nations — for leadership.
The Arab rulers, especially Saudi Arabia, worry about it. Saudi influence on the Muslims has plunged with the petrodollar’s decline. Hardly any Muslim outside the Arabian Peninsula consider Iran as an enemy of Islam. The fact that the Arabs have turned their backs on the Palestinians only to score a strategic victory against Iran will not go down well in the Muslim world.
Ottoman Sultan Saved Palestine
To cushion the blow, the UAE sought to put the deals in a positive light. It said that Israel has agreed to put off its planned annexation of Palestinian lands in exchange for the diplomatic recognition. In fact, the UAE action has plunged the Palestinians into a dark pit from which there is no escape.
America enticed Bahrain, the UAE and the Sudan to befriend Israel because this was President Donald Trump’s way to win over America’s highly powerful Jews. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a wealthy Jew from New York, cajoled the Arabs into making the deals.
Under newly elected President Joe Biden, the Israeli bulldozer will move haltingly, but not completely stop. The American Jews are just too powerful for any administration to favor the Palestinians over Israel.
By winning Arab recognition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has achieved what Theodor Herzl failed to do. In 1901, the Zionist leader offered an economically weak Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid 150 million pounds in gold for the land of Palestine. Abdulhamid rebuffed:
“Even if you gave me as much gold as the entire world, let alone the 150 million English pounds in gold, I would not accept this at all. I have served the Islamic milla and the Ummah of Muhammad for more than thirty years, and never did I blacken the pages of the Muslims — my fathers and ancestors, the Ottoman sultans and caliphs.”
Saddam Hussein’s Last Words
Emotions run very high in the Muslim nations when it comes to Palestine also because Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest site. “Palestine is Arab,” shouted Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein just moments before his execution by hanging in 2006.
The Syrian proxy war has made it clear that a Tehran-Moscow coalition can give the West a run for its money. Iran and Russia aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad route the rebels backed by America and Europe. Now, a grumpy Turkey is warming up to the loose anti-Western camp, which smells like a mini Warsaw Pact.
For now, America stands to gain from the Israel-Arab rapprochement. U.S. plans to sell more arms in Asia are gathering pace. The UAE is in talks to buy F-35s advanced fighter jets. Russia, meanwhile, will equip Iran with S400 missiles, escalating the arms race in Asia. India is already buying arms from U.S., Russia and Israel.
The new reality in the Middle East is a catastrophe the like of which has never been felt by the Muslims since the Ottoman Empire fell a century ago. This is a fiasco that will bring miseries for them perhaps for another century, if not longer.
B.Z. Khasru is author of “Bangladesh Liberation War, How India, U.S., China and the USSR Shaped the Outcome.” His new book, “One Eleven Minus Two, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s War on Yunus and America,” will be published shortly by Rupa & Co., New Delhi.