Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Palestine, decline and mutation of an Arab rallying cry

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Analysis. Here lies the Palestinian cause, victim of the miscalculations of the leaders of Ramallah, the disaffection of the Arab regimes and the weariness of the Western capitals. This is the subliminal discourse that the American administration has had since the presentation of its plan to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in late January. The Palestinians and their supporters are said to have lost an historic battle. The reflex of solidarity with this people in exile and under occupation, cement of the Arab world for almost seventy years, would have become an anachronistic fetish.

The relative weakness of the reactions aroused by this plan, yet aligned with the positions of the Israeli right, poses a question. The presence of three Arab ambassadors in the White House when the document was unveiled, as well as the inability of the European Union (EU) to adopt a resolution openly criticizing it, signal a decline in Palestinian gains on the international scene.

To those preparing the epitaph for this cause, its defenders praise its ability to rebound. Given for dead on several occasions – after the Nakba – the 1948 exodus -, after the 1967 Arab defeat in the Six-Day War, after the departure of the fedayeen from Lebanon in 1982, and after the liberation war from Kuwait in 1991, which Yasser Arafat had chosen not to support – the Palestinian movement has succeeded every time. As if crossing the desert was part of his political DNA.

A still embryonic convergence

This argument, historically correct, neglects the tectonic movements which shake the Middle East, such as the displacement of its center of political gravity towards the Arabian Peninsula. However, because of their fear of Iranian expansionism, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, feel a growing need to get closer to Israel, which also fears the rise in power of Tehran.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Arab countries, reunited in Cairo, put their differences over Palestine muted

This convergence, still embryonic, but called to deepen, is fueled by three other factors: the memory in these countries of the historical error committed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1991, which did not never really been repaired; the rise of a new generation of leaders, embodied by Mohammed Ben Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, who do not share the prejudices of their elders vis-à-vis the Hebrew State; and an unspoken form of fascination for Israeli technological modernity.

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