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Arab cause or Muslim?

Byline: M A NIAZI ,

Do Palestinians or Kashmiris deserve freedom?

AT PENPOINT

The decision of the UAE to recognize Israel is just the tip of the iceberg, and Israel has announced (before it happened) that Bahrain and Oman would soon follow suit. Once that happens, only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar would be left of the Gulf Arabs who would not have recognized Israel. The UAE 'achievement', making Israel refrain from annexing those portions of the West Bank it had announced it would, was exposed for the fig leaf it was, when the evening after the announcement, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the annexation had been postponed, not cancelled. Even if he had not said so, the fact remains that the West Bank remains under Israeli occupation, and thus liable to annexation any time.

One of the great achievements of the 1979 Camp David Accords was that Egypt did recognize Israel, but got back the Sinai Peninsula. This time around, the UAE did not get anything, though admittedly it had not lost any territory to Israel in this, it resembled Jordan, which recognized Israel in 1994. Jordan did not get any territory, even though as a result of the 1967 War it had lost the West Bank, which it now agreed would form part of a future Palestinian state.

That leaves only Syria as the only Arab country which lost territory in 1967 (the Golan Heights) which has still to make a peace agreement with Israel. However, Syria is not in the forefront of opposition to Israel; Iran is. At the same time, it should not be ignored that this opposition has not been reflected in operations against Israel. Israel has repeatedly launched airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, and while undeclared, remains the only nuclear power (albeit undeclared) in the Middle East. Iran's nuclear programme is opposed virulently by Israel, and one of the reasons why US President Donald Trump reneged on the Iran nuclear deal was because Israel was so vigorously against it that Netanyahu addressed US Congress despite then President Barack Obama's opposition, so as to denounce the deal.

That the deal has come just before the US Presidential election has caused comment. It not only burnishes Trump's credentials among Jews, it also justifies the role of son-in-law Jared Kushner as the Administration's chief Middle East negotiator. Kushner, who is an Orthodox Jew, has worked closely with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed, a position which means he is almost certainly the likeliest next President of the UAE, on a solution to the region's various problems, and had come up with the plan to throw money at the Palestinians in exchange for their accepting the Zionist entity as a legitimate state. It was virtually a non-starter, being ignored by Palestinians more than opposed.

The argument that Arabs do not care about Kashmir, so Pakistanis should not care about Palestine would only be valid if the Arab governments recognizing Israel are representative of their peoples. That Palestinian paladin, Yasser Arafat, ultimately recognized Israel in the Oslo Accords. His Israeli partner, Yitzhak Rabin, was killed for his pains. That alone should be warning enough about how Israelis feel

Kushner is also in close contact with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, and it should be assumed that UAE did what it did with Saudi approval. Both Crown Princes are unlikely to face smooth successions, and assume it is useful to have the USA on their side when the crunch time comes. For the Saudi Crown Prince, that might be quite soon, for King Salman bin Abdul Aziz was only recently in hospital. The UAE succession is probably a little way off, but the Emir of Abu Dhabi, and the President of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed, is 71, but it now has to be included in calculations.

Muhammad bin Salman, in particular, seems to be betting on the old US alliance with Saudi Arabia, which goes back to the meeting of Saudi King Faisal with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the US warship USS Quincy in 1945. It thus preceded the creation of Israel. The Saudis had remained neutral in World War II, but did agree to guarantee the USA's oil supplies.

The UAE's decision to recognize Israel should remove the grievance felt by many at the Arab countries' refusal to back the Kashmir cause. With this decision, the UAE has abandoned Arab unity. There has been much soul-searching among Pakistanis because while the country has regarded Palestine as a Muslim cause, and thus supported it, the Arabs have regarded it as an Arab cause, and have not supported Kashmir, not regarding that Muslim cause as anything to do with them.

The UAE has not got into the kind of bind that Turkey has. It has threatened to break diplomatic relations with the UAE, conveniently ignoring the fact that one of the last remnants of its secularism is its own diplomatic ties with Israel. The calculation for most countries has become complicated: Pakistan's own decision on whether to recognize or not does not depend on just its affiliation with the Arab states. It also depends on how far Israel's relations with India go. The Kashmir issue takes center stage once again, because India has been following in Kashmir the Israeli playbook in Palestine.

Back in 1948, the UN considered both the Kashmir and Palestinian questions. Pakistan was obviously at the forefront of the Kashmir issue, but it also took a lead role in the Palestinian issue as it realized that the Arab diplomats were not necessarily up to the task. Before Partition, the Quaid-e-Azam carefully monitored developments in Palestine, which was to become Israel. It was a Mandated Territory due for Independence just as India was. The Quaid wanted Pakistan created in one, and Israel prevented in the other, and in that connection, was in constant contact with the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Amin Al-Husseini.

The Arabs were also not up to the task of running their new states, lacking education and grooming, and suddenly having all of that oil wealth to handle. While Pakistanis became increasingly useful over the years, there were the Palestinians initially; some of whom even manned their diplomatic services. Not only were they refugees, they were relatively better educated.

Pakistan has toyed with the idea of recognition. The decision has been to wait for the Arab countries to do so first. The advantage has always been a cozying up to the USA. The USA's pressure had been there for recognition, and not just Turkey, but Iran under the Shah, did so, leaving Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia as non-Arab Muslim countries which do not recognize Israel. Pakistan has not backed the Palestinian cause only because of the Arabs, but also because it has been popular among the population as a Muslim cause. Recognizing Israel has not only to pass the hurdle of Arab countries, but also of domestic public opinion.

The argument that Arabs do not care about Kashmir, so Pakistanis should not care about Palestine would only be valid if the Arab governments recognizing Israel are representative of their peoples. That Palestinian paladin, Yasser Arafat, ultimately recognized Israel in the Oslo Accords. His Israeli partner, Yitzhak Rabin, was killed for his pains. That alone should be warning enough about how Israelis feel.
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Author:M A NIAZI ,
Publication:Pakistan Today (Lahore, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 20, 2020
Words:1301
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