Palestine is the foremost issue for Arabs

Palestine is the foremost issue for Arabs

When the Arab armies were defeated in the war with Israel in 1948, they justified that defeat by attributing it to a host of factors. These included the continuing control of the British in some Arab countries as well as the outdated weapons used by the Arabs in the war in addition to the lack of coordination and discipline of Arab armies. Moreover, the Arab armies had to fight with Zionist militias, which were well trained by Western military advisors.

After the defeat of the Arab armies in the 1948 war, the Arabs vowed to take revenge and started preparations for the next war in order to teach the enemy a bitter lesson. But the setback came in 1967 when Israel launched a surprise war on three Arab countries: Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In spite of the verbal skirmishes that preceded the war, as well as warnings from the major powers to both sides not to start the war, the war started. These warnings fooled the Arab states, while Israel did not pay any attention to them. On the morning of 5 June 1967, they hit Arab planes on the ground and destroyed airports in those three countries.

In the 1973 war or the 10th of Ramadan war, the Egyptian army was able to cross the Suez Canal and teach the Israelis a lesson that they would never forget. The Egyptian army managed to destroy the Bar-Lev Line and destroyed the invincible image of the Jewish army. The United States created an air bridge to compensate Israel for its losses in the war. As a result of Israel’s refusal to comply with the ceasefire called by the UN Security Council, it managed to make some gains on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. But the Arab situation was better than what it was before the Ramadan war.

However, Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat surprised the Arabs and Israelis with his decision to visit Jerusalem and address the Israeli Knesset, apparently in pursuit of peace. The Israelis welcomed the visit, while the Arabs denounced Sadat’s decision and boycotted him. They decided to transfer the headquarters of the Arab League from Cairo to Tunis. They considered Sadat’s act as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The signing of a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel was a blow to Arab solidarity.

Jordan followed Egypt in leaving the circle of those states that were keen on the Palestinian cause. And then it was the turn of the Oslo Agreement, which turned out to be a trap for the Palestinians under the pretext of negotiations between the two parties, which have not achieved anything for the Palestinians, while it enabled Israel to begin Judaizing Jerusalem, constructing settlements in the West Bank and building the so-called Apartheid Wall that dismembered the West Bank.

The Palestinian issue has been on the conscience of the Arab states, represented by their governments and peoples. Although Egypt and Jordan formally signed peace agreements with Israel, the people in both countries refused to normalize relations. They were and still are adhering to the principle that the Palestinian people should have their full rights, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent and viable state with Jerusalem as its capital. They do not favor either normalizing ties with Israel or with the Israelis.

However, of late, there have been some cynical voices that call for normalization of relations with the Israeli enemy. They speak of Israel as if the Jewish state were not enemy that kills Palestinian people, drives them out of their homes by confiscating their land to build settlements in blatant contravention of international laws, practices an Apartheid system against the Palestinian people, in addition to putting Gaza under siege and turning it into a large prison. All of this is being done in front of the eyes of the world without any initiatives by any countries, especially Western ones, and that has enabled Israel and its sponsors to turn a blind eye to the crimes being perpetrated against the Palestinian people.

The United States of America recently took initiatives to convene a conference in Warsaw, attended by a large number of countries, including some Arab countries, and it was said that the so-called “Deal of the Century” that US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law are framing, was one of the main topics discussed by the conference. However, it was certain that this conference would be another failure mainly because of the fact that the real stakeholders of the Palestinian cause had boycotted the conference and declared that any role for the United States in resolving the issue will be unacceptable for them. This was after President Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transferred the embassy of his country to Jerusalem in clear and explicit violation of international laws and UN resolutions.

The Arab governments and peoples are still firm in their commitment to abide by the peace proposal presented by Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah to the Arab summit held in Beirut in 2002. The summit adopted this proposal as the Arab Peace Initiative that stipulates the establishment of an internationally recognized Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland, and Israel’s withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights.

This shall be in return for recognition of Israel and normalization of relations with it by the Arab states. Since the Arabs have accepted this initiative and have committed to implementing it, it is not appropriate for any Arab country or Arab individual to deny what is contained therein, otherwise the curse of history and of the future generations would fall on them.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at