Bibi hopes to lead Israeli-Arab-US alliance against Iran


February 17, 2017
Sarah Benton

Articles from 1) Daoud Kuttab, Al Monitor; 2) MEE; plus Notes and Links on Arab Quartet


Arab foreign ministers meet at the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2016. Photo by Asmaa Waguih/ Reuters

Why Arab leaders cannot replace legitimate Palestinian ones

The Trump-Netanyahu love fest that was broadcast around the world doesn’t bode well for Palestinians or for any possible peaceful breakthrough.

By Daoud Kuttab, Al Monitor/ Palestine Pulse
February 16, 2017

A number of experts on Arab affairs believe that efforts to delegitimize the Palestinian leadership are bound to run into a wall of Arab opposition. Oraib Rantawi, the director of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies, told Al-Monitor that no Arab leader today will bypass the legitimate Palestinian leadership. “This issue was settled at the 1974 Arab Summit when the PLO was declared as the representative of the Palestinian people.”

Rantawi added that although the Arab world is in disarray, Arab leaders will not take on the issue of Palestine by themselves. “While some Arab countries have not been totally happy with the current Palestinian leadership, no one will take the risk of falling into the trap of bypassing the legitimate Palestinian government and presidency.”

 

 

 

 

 

Muhammad Dahlan in Abu Dhabi, UAE, October 2016. The Arab Quartet is pressing for his reinstatement as a Palestinian leader. Photo by Jack Jabbour/Reuters

In this context, the Arab quartet (Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) reportedly expressed in December its dissatisfaction that the Palestinian leadership refused the quartet’s entreaty to include Mohammed Dahlan within the leadership structure.

An Arab Summit, planned for March in the Jordanian capital, Amman, might address the Palestinian issue, although Rantawi said he does not think it will be high on the agenda. “While Arab countries are careful not to anger the Trump administration, the issue is not that urgent and likely won’t require a strong position,” he said.

Nabil Khatib, a veteran Arab journalist based in Dubai, told Al-Monitor that Arab leaders are committed to basic essentials needed for any realistic resolution: “Arabs are committed to the representation of the PLO as per the 1974 Rabat Summit decision, and along with 57 Islamic countries, to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”

Khatib, who specializes in Middle East affairs, said that pressures and proposals involving Arab leaders regarding the peace process always fail. “These proposals have never worked, and I believe they will not work this time.”

Taj Abdel Haq, a leading columnist from the UAE and editor of Eremnews, believes that while the Palestinian cause has shifted in order of their priorities, the Gulf countries will not circumvent the political rights of Palestinians. “Gulf countries will not accept the perpetuation of the occupation of Jerusalem and will insist on the principles enshrined in the UN resolutions,” he told Al-Monitor

Both US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the idea of reaching out to the Arab leadership to break the current negotiations deadlock. In a joint press conference Feb. 15 in Washington, Netanyahu called the current situation a historic opportunity. “We can seize a historic opportunity because for the first time in my lifetime and in the lifetime of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly as an ally.”

For his part, Trump has included regional Arab leaders in his future plans. “Our administration is committed to working with Israel and our common allies in the region toward greater security and stability,” he said at the conference.

The actual Israeli position on the Palestinian conflict witnessed a major retraction. The narrative and requirements of Netanyahu for peace have changed following Trump’s inauguration. Netanyahu, who used to insist on negotiations without conditions, suddenly has new conditions. He refrained from calling for direct talks or repeating his lip service support of the two-state solution. In the press conference, held even before the White House summit commenced, Netanyahu said he wants Israel to continue ruling the Palestinian people, denying them political rights, while at the same time insisting that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

So even if Palestinians become Zionists and pay homage to Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, Palestinians will still have to live with perpetual Israeli control. In the press conference, Netanyahu’s conditions included that “Israel must retain security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River” in any future solution.

This idea of the minority Israelis in the occupied territories ruling the majority Palestinians is called apartheid and is considered a war crime according to international humanitarian law. Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti responded to this idea by stating in a press release, following the Feb. 15 White House meetings, “Palestinians are unwilling to live as slaves to the occupiers in an apartheid racist system.”

Former US peace envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk has indicated that a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could include Arab leaders. The new approach, detailed in a December 2016 Indyk piece on the Brookings Institution site, is called the “outside-in approach.” According to Indyk, this approach would include a key role for Arab leaders. It “would involve Trump convening the leaders of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the EU and the UN) and the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) in a summit meeting to announce a set of agreed principles that would serve as the terms of reference for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to achieve a two-state solution.”

Arab commentators, however, dismissed this approach as well. Rantawi noted that the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative stipulates clearly that Arabs and Muslim leaders will only normalize relations with Israel once it agrees to withdraw from the areas occupied in 1967. “Arab leaders are too weak today to meet with Israel and normalize relations with it without a commitment by Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders,” said Rantawi, noting that Arabs will not be able to make more concessions than Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.


Is it true love? President Trump and PM Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The Trump-Netanyahu love fest that was broadcast around the world doesn’t bode well for Palestinians or for any possible peaceful breakthrough. It reveals a clear rejection of the ABCs of peacemaking. Instead of building on experiences of previous administrations and learning from their mistakes, we are forced once again to provide the new resident of the White House with basic education about the requirements for peace in the Middle East. They include: respecting the parties to the conflict, providing a plan that ensures an end to the occupation, a reversal of illegal settlements and allowing Palestinians the right to determine their own future on their own land alongside the State of Israel.

If this two-state solution is unacceptable, then a one-state solution where all citizens have equal rights irrespective of religion is also acceptable. Palestinians, however, are unwilling to live under an oppressive and apartheid regime.



March 2016, Jordan’s King Abdullah (R) welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman at the Royal Palace in Amman (AFP) 

Arab States Considering Alliance With Israel To Curb Iranian Influence

Trump said the plan would potentially have an enormous impact on the balance of power in the Middle East, which is currently seeing a regional rivalry and proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

By
February 16, 2017

The Trump administration is in discussions about the formation of a regional Arab security alliance with Israel as a counterbalance to Iran’s influence in the Middle East, according to Arab officials.

The alliance would include Egypt and Jordan, both of whom recognize and have peace treaties with Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, neither of whom recognize Israel but are known to have covertly shared intelligence in the past.

“They’ve been asking diplomatic missions in Washington if we’d be willing to join this force that has an Israeli component,” one Arab diplomat said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Israel’s role would likely be intelligence sharing, not training or boots on the ground. They’d provide intelligence and targets. That’s what the Israelis are good at.”

Speaking during a Wednesday joint news conference with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said the plan would potentially have an enormous impact on the balance of power in the Middle East, which is currently seeing a regional rivalry and proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“It is something that is very different, hasn’t been discussed before,” said Trump.

“And it’s actually a much bigger deal – much more important deal in a sense. It would take in many, many countries and would cover a very large territory.”

Netanyahu, who has previously boasted of the cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states, also praised the idea.

“I believe that the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach from involving our newfound Arab partners,” he said.

The effect of the agreement would be similar to the NATO alliance’s mutual defence policy, where there is a collective responsibility to respond if one member is attacked.

Such an alliance would prove controversial as, aside from the Gulf states not officially recognizing Israel, the populations of those countries are resolutely pro-Palestinian.

However, another Arab official told the WSJ that the Trump administration could use the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation – which the Egyptian government has already implemented – as an incentive for Egypt to join the alliance.

The officials added that the Trump administration had approached Egypt to host a combined force, but that Saudi Arabia was also keen to join. Any alliance would effectively expand upon the Saudi-led coalition that is currently waging a campaign of air strikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Though Trump has repeatedly said his government would be the most pro-Israel ever, he has recently stepped back from a promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move which would be illegal under international law.

According to the officials, this may be another concession to the Arab states in order to incentivize the creation of the regional alliance.

Major General Ahmed Asiri, a military adviser to Saudi Arabia’s defence ministry, refused to comment on the proposal to the WSJ.

“With Israel, we don’t have official relations,” he said.

However, he added that the “the Israelis are facing the same Iranian threat, exactly like us.”


NOTES AND LINKS

In an Observer.com (US) article, Who Are the Arab Leaders Bibi Regularly Chats With?, June 1st, 2016 Micah Halpern wrote that intelligence chiefs briefed that Netanyahu talks regularly with the Saudi crown prince, who doubles as the defence minister, and the leader of the United Arab Emirates, the President of Egypt and the King of Jordan.

These four in fact make up the Arab Quartet which, we infer, Netanyahu thinks provides the ‘historic opportunity’ to bring about peace negotiations.

In a UAE website the four are said to be the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Arab Quartet was formed on 10th January, 2016, by virtue of the Arab League Council’s resolution No. 7,988 (to do with Iran).

On the same day Arab League ministers back Saudi Arabia and condemn Iran [BBC] following the failure of Iranian police to defend the Saudi Arabian embassy which was attacked by a mob.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017