Okay, I don’t have much time here, it’s recycling night — and the New York Times seems to revel in recycling really tired Israeli PR lines. Today, it’s Ephraim Karsh trotting out a mish-mash of misrepresentations and tar-balls of wishful thinking to make the case that the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians, and now that they’re on their own, they’re more likely to surrender to Israel’s terms at the peace table.
The evidence for this claim, first and foremost, is an unscientific survey by an Arab news organization that found that ” a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. Uh, Ephraim, buddy — you may not know this, but the percentage of Palestinians that have no interest in those peace talks is probably higher. Nobody outside the Netanyahu-AIPAC echo chamber believes anything will come of such talks as long as the U.S. declines to force the issue with Israel. That’s hardly the same thing as saying the Arabs have tired of the Palestinians; on the contrary, most surveys of Arab opinion find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains their primary foreign policy concern. Arabs tiring of the Palestinians is wishful thinking.
Then we’re treated to a familiar and not particularly controversial account of the cynicism of the Arab regimes in dealing with the Palestinians, culminating in the current moment when he says they’ve abandoned the Palestinians to their fate — and that this is a good thing. “For if the Arab regimes’ self-serving interventionism has denied Palestinians the right to determine their own fate, then the best, indeed only, hope of peace between Arabs and Israelis lies in rejecting the spurious link between this particular issue and other regional and global problems.
The sooner the Palestinians recognize that their cause is theirs alone, the sooner they are likely to make peace with the existence of the State of Israel and to understand the need for a negotiated settlement.”
Actually, it was Yasser Arafat’s PLO that established Palestinian independence from the Arab regimes. And Israel has periodically cooperated with those regimes, in Jordan and Egypt, to suppress Palestinian self-determination. When Karsh speaks of the “need for a negotiated settlement” he’s being disingenuous. The Palestinian leadership has been pursuing such a settlement since the late 1980s; but Israel is demanding that the Palestinians accept terms for such a settlement that are neither just nor tolerable. And when he talks of the “spurious link” between resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other regional and global problems, he reveals his ideological underwear — even the U.S. military acknowledges that American support for Israel in the context of its treatment of the Palestinians is perhaps the most important determinant of Muslim attitudes towards the United States.
Israel and the United States are hand in glove with Arab efforts to deny the Palestinians the right to determine their own fate which Karsh so cynically touts, most visibly in their refusal to accept the verdict of the Palestinian electorate in 2006 that chose Hamas as its government (in Gaza and the West Bank), and instead set about suppressing Palestinian democratic institution, turning President Mahmoud Abbas into just another Arab autocrat with no democratic mandate and more dependent on the U.S. than on his own people. Indeed, the morbid truth, now, is that Abbas was forced to go to the Arab League for a mandate to join Obama’s peace process; he couldn’t be sure of getting the go-ahead even from his own Fatah Party, never mind from any Palestinian elected body.
There is, indeed, a regional shift underway, though: The Arab regimes on which the U.S. and Israel have relied to maintain regional stability and legitimize their endless peace process are not just tiring of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; they’re tiring, period. Spent. Their lack of legitimacy in the eyes of their own populations, exacerbated every time they’re shown to be either complicit or powerless as Israel pounds or throttles the Palestinians or its other Arab neighbors, has finally caught up with them. Soon Mubarak, longtime guarantor of the peace process, will expire, and Egypt will be in turmoil. The Saudis face succession dramas of their own. And the Arab populations, in whose hearts the cause of Palestine — rather than that of a bankrupt “peace process” — burns brightly are beginning to assert their own independence, from a regional order that has favored the U.S. and Israel for the past four decades.
Frankly, Karsh, the events of the past year over Gaza alone should have been enough to demonstrate that it’s not the Palestinians who’re on their own in the Middle East.