“WHAT injury have Arabs done to the Jews of Europe? It is the Christian Germans who stole their homes and lives. Let the Germans pay.” Thus spoke Abdel Aziz to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the first-ever meeting between a Saudi king and an American president on board US destroyer Quincy in the Suez Canal on Feb 14, 1945, as World War II drew to a close.
That was mid-20th century. Today, in the third decade of the 21st, we have to look for an Arab leader audacious enough to utter these words to his Western interlocutors as Israel marches from one diplomatic triumph to another to prove one point categorically — it is not necessary for the Palestinian issue to be resolved for Israel to live in peace with the Arab world.
Has Israel reciprocated the Arab peace drive, deceptively titled Abraham Accords? The answer is: why should the Middle East’s superpower respond? Is Israel militarily and technologically zero, as the Arabs are?
One cannot fail to detect Israel’s contempt for Arab potentates.
Last year in November, there was drama when Benjamin Netanyahu, then prime minister, welcomed with a loud “assalam-o-alaikum” the UAE’s first passenger flight to land in Tel Aviv and asked the passengers to “come again and again.” Undoubtedly, the flight and the opening of embassies constituted a priceless diplomatic victory for Israel, helped in no small measure, by the Trump administration’s keenness to exert what has been called “maximum pressure” on Tehran.
On July 14 last, the UAE opened its embassy in Tel Aviv — in Tel Aviv, ie what could the Palestinians have done if the Emirates in its infinite wisdom had followed Donald Trump and established the embassy in occupied Jerusalem? Back in the Gulf there was another colourful event when Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid cut the tape to inaugurate his country’s embassy in Abu Dhabi to give the UAE the dubious honour of being the first Gulf country to have an Israeli diplomatic mission on its soil. An Israeli consulate was later inaugurated in Dubai.
All along, one cannot fail to detect Israel’s contempt for Arab potentates as they vie with each other like the 19th-century Afro-Asian vassals who kowtowed to petty officials of the European colonial powers to stay on their tottering thrones. Obviously, the Zionists have taken Arab consent for granted, for Israeli leaders do not even for courtesy’s sake temporise or resort to standard diplomatic hypocrisy. Until a few years ago, Israeli leaders used to pay lip service to the two-state solution and were taciturn about Jewish settlements. Now, so confident is the Israeli leadership about the Gulf sheikhdoms’ compliant attitude that it doesn’t anymore bother about diplomatic doublespeak.
In August, during his meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made himself clear on two points: one, he would continue to build more settlements and, two, there was no question of a Palestinian state in the territories Israel occupied in 1967. To walk the talk, Israel then floated tenders for building 1,000 new settlements on the West Bank and occupied eastern Jerusalem. This provoked even the Biden administration into defying America’s powerful Israel lobby and declaring that the settlement expansion in occupied West Bank harmed peace prospects between Israelis and Palestinians. No such statement came from what can be called Israel’s Arab allies.
However, the finest opportunity for Israel to cock a snook at its Arab friends came in May last when in an 11-day blitz it pulverised Gaza, razed residential and commercial high-rises, including one housing media offices (Al Jazeera’s among them). Some 250 people were killed including 39 women and 66 children. On average, Israel dropped 125 bombs in 25 minutes. Yet, astonishing as it sounds, the Gaza slaughter had no restraining effect on the Arab states’ collaborative policy as is evident from the joint naval exercise by Israel, America and two Gulf states, Bahrain and the UAE, in the Red Sea last month. The aim of the five-day naval exercise, according to an Israeli naval spokesman, was to counter Iran’s “power projection” in the Gulf region.
If Arabs have written off Palestine, someone else hasn’t. Ironic as it sounds it took a German to tell the truth, for on her last visit to Israel as chancellor Angela Merkel reminded her guests not to “lose sight” of the need for establishing a Palestinian state.
Speaking to an Israeli think tank, Merkel said the UAE’s diplomatic initiative did not erase the need for Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. “We must not lose sight of the right of the Palestinians to have a chance to live. Therefore, one should under no circumstances, even as it becomes more and more difficult because of the settlements, lose sight of the issue of a two-state solution.”
Will some Arab support the German?
The writer is Dawn’s external ombudsman and an author.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2021