President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the Mideast had a number of purposes. It was aimed at strengthening the alliance with Sunni Arab states in order to create a front to defeat ISIS and to counterbalance the destabilizing, subversive power of Iran.
Following this logic, Trump cut a deal to supply sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia valued at $110 billion, with the potential to increase to $350 billion in a 10 year period.
Although some Israeli ministers expressed concern over the possibility of undermining Israel’s qualitative military edge over the Arabs, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not stand in the way of such mega deal. The reason is because Israel believes in a new alliance with Sunni Arab states against Iran. Netanyahu also believes that such an alliance of convenience could pave the way for a comprehensive peace.
In this trip Trump also intended to revive direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. This is because the Arab countries also want this. The president is additionally confident of his mastery of the “art of the deal.”
Trump may well be an outstanding dealmaker but the Palestinian leadership is in such state of disarray that no Palestinian state will last more than a few months. Ironically, the status-quo of the hated occupation is lifesaving for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as well as his associates. Without “the occupation,” there would be no security in the West Bank. This prevents a Hamas coup similar to the one occurring in the occupied-free Gaza.
Likewise, foreign donations to the Palestinian Authority (PA) give the occupation a more delicious flavor, one not matched by the responsibility of having to run a chaotic Palestinian state. It is here where Arabs need to reciprocate Trump. Traditionally, the Arab world has not been supportive of a Palestinian/Israeli peace.
Early on in the process the Arabs (Egypt in particular) withdrew from multilateral talks, a regional process parallel to the bilateral talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Above all else, these talks were supposed to facilitate and guarantee the peace process.
The Arabs abandoned this process given their concerns that Israel’s military and technological superiority could turn Israel into a hegemonic power. A situational configuration in which the Arabs would wind up playing a subordinate role in the region.
This explains why most Arab countries did not respond to President Clinton’s appeal to persuade Arafat to accept or to look positively as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offers of peace. It also explains why they did not respond to, or view favorably, Clinton’s parameters — which further expanded Israeli concessions.
Indeed Clinton called all the Arab leaders and asked them to provide cover for Arafat’s concessions. Only Tunisia and Jordan complied with Clinton’s request.
To make negotiations and the inclusion of the Arabs successful Trump must press the Arabs to assume responsibility.
The revival of the Jordanian/Palestinian confederacy is important. The idea of a confederation is to provide the Palestinians with what they need. A sort of economic viability, political sovereignty, control of the means of violence, and an orderly life for Palestinians. Involvement by Palestinians in West Bank politics, with Jordanians involved in East Bank politics — with freedom of movement and work occurring concurrently —would still be extant.
That, I assume, would secure Jordanian and Palestinian political sovereignty and (as such) it would secure co-existence between the two without any of them — especially Jordan — feeling threatened by such an arrangement. Likewise, as scholar Asher Susser has pointed out, many Jordanians and Palestinians have strong bonds and family ties.
Many people doubt that the Jordanians would agree to this kind of arrangement. However, interestingly enough, a year ago, a former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali visited the West Bank proposing again a confederation that would have a “joint legislature and joint government with equal representation whereby the upper authority will have three main missions — security, economy, and foreign affairs-and the rest will be the jurisdiction of the joint government.”
Chaos in the West Bank is definitely a threat to Jordan. Majali rightly observed that the Palestinians were not “fully qualified to assume their responsibilities, in wake of the failures of Arab countries to support them.”
This is why the Arabs must make a commitment to support negotiations and also back them. Multilateral talks must be revived. The Arabs must stop the wars of propaganda, while being fully vested in guaranteeing peace with Israel.
The old ways are no longer viable.
Published by Newsmax.com on Tuesday May 30th, 2017.