By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
An Arab colloquialism, frequently employed by Arab policy-makers in order to mislead foreign movers and shakers (including American Secretaries of State) suggests that "on words one does not pay customs."
For instance, on October 16, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry stated: "I was just in Cairo, where a terrific $5.4bn was raised in order to help rebuild Gaza." In fact, $5.4bn was not raised; it was verbally pledged against the backdrop of a litany of unfulfilled Arab pledges to help the PLO, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
While Secretary Kerry assumes that Arab leaders walk-the-talk when it comes to the Palestinian issue, a July, 2014 study by the Congressional Research Service states: "Routinely, [Arabs] make generous pledges of aid to the Palestinians, but at times fulfill them only in part and after significant delay…. According to Reuters, 'a high of $1.8bn in foreign aid from Arab countries in 2008 plunged to $600mn in 2012, with Gulf countries scaling back their giving…." The study indicates that since 2008, the US foreign aid to the Palestinians has averaged $400mn annually, more than the oil-rich Saudi Arabia ($260mn in 2013, $100mn in 2012 and $180mn in 2011), the United Arab Emirates ($50mn in 2013) and Kuwait ($50mn in 2013).
The Qatari Al Jazeera reported that "Palestinian officials are skeptical of Arab aid pledges, as few Arab countries carried through on promises last year…. "
On December 26, 2012, Nabil Elaraby, the Secretary General of the Arab League, divulged that "Arab countries pledged a $100mn monthly safety net to the Palestinian Authority at the March, 2012 Baghdad Arab Summit, but none of it has been realized yet."
According to the official site of the US Department of State, Secretary Kerry stated at the October 16, 2014 Department of State reception in honor of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday: "As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, there was not an [Arab] leader I met who did not raise with me, spontaneously, the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt they had to respond to. And, people need to understand the connection of that…."
Professor Efraim Karsh, the founding Head of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Center at King's College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, highlights - in a July 2014 publication, "The Myth of Palestinian Centrality" - the wide gap between the lavish Arab talk and the scant Arab walk when it comes to the Palestinian issue.
While Secretary Kerry assumes that the Palestinian issue is a crown jewel of Arab policy making and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Prof. Karsh writes: "pan-Arabism does not consider the Palestinians a distinct people deserving statehood, but rather an integral part of a wider Arab framework…. In the words of Hamas leader, Mahmud Zahar, 'In the past there was no independent Palestinian state….' The 1948 pan-Arab invasion of Israel was more of a classic imperialist scramble for territory, than a fight for Palestinian national rights. The first Secretary General of the Arab league, Abdel Rahman Azzam, admitted that Transjordan 'was to swallow up the central hill regions of Palestine; the Egyptians would get the Negev; the Galilee would go to Syria….'"
In fact, the 1948/9 war was not fought by Arab countries because of – or for – the Palestinians. Therefore, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Syria occupied Judea, Samaria, Gaza and parts of the Golan Heights, but did not transfer it to the Palestinians. Moreover, none of the Arab wars against Israel (1948/9, 1956, 1967, 1069/70, 1973) was conducted on behalf of Palestinians. And, Arabs never flexed any military muscle during Israel's wars against Palestinian terrorism (1982/3, 1988-91, 2000-2003, February 2008, December 2008, March 2012, October 2012 and July 2014). Arabs have always showered Palestinians with rhetoric, but never with resources. Why?
Since the 1950s and 1966, when Mahmud Abbas and Arafat fled Egypt and Syria due to subversion and terrorism, Arab leaders have perceived Palestinians as a source of violent unrest. Prof. Karsh notes that the PLO has a treacherous track record, stabbing its Arab hosts in the back, triggering ferocious civil wars and causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Jordan (1970), Lebanon (1970-1976, 1983, 2007), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (2003) and currently in Syria. No Arab country came to the rescue of those Palestinians.
Irrespective of the Arab talk, the roots of the anger and agitation on the tectonic Arab Street are 1,400 year old; unrelated to the 66 year old Israel and its policies.
Regardless of the Arab talk, the cause of recruitment to – and the vision of - ISIS are derivatives of the 7th century birth of Islam; not of the 21st century Palestinian issue.
Notwithstanding the Arab talk, the failure to consolidate an effective coalition against ISIS reflects the fourteen century old violent, unpredictable, fragmented, anti-Western nature of the hate-education-based Arab World; not Israel's determination to sustain secure boundaries in the most violently treacherous neighborhood in the world, the Middle East.
Secretary Kerry should avoid repeating the critical error committed by Senator Kerry, who allowed the Hafiz and Bashar Assad talk to cloud their walk, convincing himself that the ruthless Syrian dictators were constructive and peaceful leaders, worthy of Israel's trust and Israel's giveaway of the Golan Heights.