By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
In 1948, the US State Department’s conventional “wisdom” contended that the reestablishment of a Jewish state would damage US interests, since the Jewish state would be aligned with the USSR, undermine US-Arab relations, intensify regional instability, and would be militarily devastated by its Arab neighbors, thus causing a second Jewish Holocaust in less than ten years.
However, conventional “wisdom” was trounced on the rocks of Middle East reality, as it was when: the State Department appeased Egyptian President Nasser (1950s); facilitated the toppling of the Shah of Iran by the Ayatollas (1977-78); embraced Saddam Hussein, and inadvertently encouraged his August 1989 invasion of Kuwait; proclaimed Arafat as a messenger of peace (1993); welcomed the Arab Tsunami as the Arab Spring, a transition toward democracy (2011); supported the anti-US Muslim Brotherhood offensive against the pro-US Egyptian President Mubarak, and turned a cold shoulder toward the pro-US President al-Sisi (2011-2017); toppled the Kaddafi regime, thus transforming Libya into a major platform of Islamic terrorism (2011), etc.
In 2017, conventional “wisdom” maintains that the Palestinian issue is the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a core cause of Middle East turbulence and a crown-jewel of Arab policy-making. It assumes that the US can reset the Middle East by applying its own values of common-sense, peace and democracy. Moreover, conventional “wisdom” contends that the proposed Palestinian state constitutes an integral part of the Israel-Arab peace process, reducing regional instability, and therefore advances US national security interests.
But, a reality-check of the proposed Palestinian state and its impact upon US national security, drastically contradicts conventional “wisdom,” when assessed against the backdrop of the 14-centuries-old volcanic actuality of the Middle East, the Jordan-Palestinian inherent clash of a zero-sum-game, the systematic track record of the Arab walk – not talk - toward the Palestinians, and the track record of the Palestinians since the 1920s.
For instance, all attempts to introduce democracy and peace to the Arab Middle East have been defeated by deeply-rooted intra-Arab violent intolerance, fragmentation, instability, unpredictability and the tenuous nature of all Arab regimes, policies and agreements, irrespective of Israel and the Palestinian issue. Hence, the failure of all US and international initiatives to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue, which exposes the unbridgeable gap between Western and Arab state of minds, further radicalizing Arab expectations and actions, and undermines US interests.
Furthermore, while the US – rightly so – invests billions of dollars to bolster Jordan’s Hashemite regime, a Palestinian state would intensify a lethal threat to the highly vulnerable, pro-US Hashemite regime. It would trigger destabilizing ripple effects into pro-US Saudi Arabia and all other pro-US Arab Gulf states, providing a robust tailwind to Islamic terrorism. Potentially, it could advance the Ayatollahs’ goal of dominating the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, much of the Indian Ocean and the military and energy critical waterways of Hurmuz and Bab el-Mandeb. It could produce an Iran-controlled bloc from Iran, through Iraq and Jordan to 10 miles from the Mediterranean.
In October 1994, during the Israel-Jordan peace treaty ceremony, top Jordanian military and intelligence officers cautioned their Israeli colleagues: “Don’t allow the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, because it would doom the Hashemite regime east of the River; and, be aware that agreements signed with the Palestinians in the morning are violated by night time.”
The pro-US Hashemite regime is aware of the zero-sum-game relations between itself and the Palestinian Authority/PLO, as demonstrated by the latter’s strategic goal to control the whole of British Mandate Palestine on both sides of the Jordan River. The Palestinian Authority and the PLO claim to represent all Palestinians, including those in Jordan, who constitute the largest Palestinian community and the majority of Jordanians. Hence, the pre-1948 clashes between King Abdullah (who was murdered by a Palestinian in 1951) and the Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al-Husayni, the 1970-71 Jordan-PLO war of “Black September,” which expelled the PLO from Jordan, the 1985-87 clashes in Jordan, and the permanent, severe constraints on Palestinian political activities in Jordan.
The Hashemite concern about the clear and present danger posed by a potential Palestinian entity reflects the overall Arab attitude – Arab walk, not talk - resulting from the Palestinian track record of treachery, subversion and terrorism in Arab countries. In the mid-1950s, Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat fled Egypt due to their subversion and terrorism. In 1966, they escaped from Syria because of their terrorism. In 1970-71, they were brutally expelled from Jordan (e.g., 10,000 Palestinians killed), following a series of attempts to topple the Hashemite regime. During 1970-75 they plundered Southern Lebanon, attempting to topple the central government in Beirut, which asked Syria to deploy its military and avert the wrath of the PLO. In 1990, three PLO battalions participated in Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, which was assisted by Palestinian intelligence from within Kuwait. In retaliation, Kuwait expelled almost 300,000 Palestinians following its liberation by the USA. 200,000 Palestinians fled Syria following the dramatic decline in the stature of Assad, whom they supported. 50,000 Palestinians fled Iraq following the downfall of their patron, Saddam Hussein.
Representing the Arab view which does not consider the Palestinian issue a prime positive concern, the January 25, 2017 edition of the prestigious Saudi weekly, Asharq al-Awsat, stated: “Due to the destruction and displacement that has affected the Middle East in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian cause is no longer central. We do not forget how extremists succeeded in exploiting the Palestinian tragedy to serve unscrupulous regimes….”
Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” none of the traumatic developments which ignited the Arab Tsunami in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, etc., is related – directly or indirectly - to the Palestinian issue, which is not the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict (e.g., Egypt and Jordan occupied Gaza, Judea and Samaria during 1949-1967, but did not transfer them to the Palestinians).
Moreover, the adverse impact of the proposed Palestinian state on US interests in the Arab-Tsunami-plagued Middle East, is clearly chronicled by the Palestinian track record since the waves of anti-Jewish and anti-Arab Palestinian terrorism during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s; their WW2 alliance with Nazi Germany; their post-World War alliance with the rogue Soviet Bloc; their 1970s-1980s training camps for Asian, African, European and Latin American terrorists; their warm ties with the Ayatollahs and North Korea; their close ties with Russia and China, which would upgrade the latter anti-US power-projection in the region (e.g., port facilities in Gaza and land-base rights in a newly-established state). Most importantly, Palestinian hate-education and incitement in K-12, mosques, media and public events reflect its anti-US worldview most authentically, and will be reflected geo-strategically in the Middle East and diplomatically in the UN.
A Palestinian state in the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria would reduce Israel into a 9-15 mile sliver below these mountains, transforming Israel from a unique national security producer/asset for the US tax-payer – extending the strategic hand of the US - into a national security consumer/burden on the US tax-payer, denying the US an effective beachhead in a critical area, economically and militarily.
Should the US be expected to cut off its nose to spite its face?!