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The Myth of Palestinian Centrality

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

Palestinian youth aims slingshot at Israeli security forces in Jerusalem clash (archive)

A myth of Palestinian centrality has dominated Western policy, but contrasts with reality, in the Middle East.”Ž

In 2015, following in the footsteps of Presidents Hosni Mubarak and Anwar Sadat, Egyptian “ŽPresident Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi does not subordinate Egypt’s national security ties with Israel to “ŽEgypt’s ties with the Palestinians. “Ž

El-Sissi — just like his two predecessors — considers the transnational “ŽMuslim Brotherhood and Palestinian terrorism mutual threats to Israel, Egypt, “ŽJordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states, which have never regarded the “ŽPalestinian issue as a top priority, and have denied the Palestinian Authority their “Žfinancial generosity. Notwithstanding Palestinian opposition, strategic “Žcooperation between Israel and Egypt, as well as between Israel and Jordan and “Žother moderate Arab regimes, has surged to an unprecedented level. “Ž

In 2014, el-Sissi and most pro-US Arab regimes — which have never embraced the “Žmyth of Palestinian centrality — supported Israel’s war on Palestinian terrorism in “ŽGaza, which also haunts Egyptian and Jordanian homeland security. “Ž

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In 1977, Egyptian President Sadat embraced Israeli Prime Minister Begin’s peace “Žinitiative, in spite of stormy Palestinian opposition, and in defiance of President Jimmy “ŽCarter’s initial objection to direct negotiation between Jerusalem and Cairo. “ŽCarter promoted the concept of an international conference, centering on the “ŽPalestinian issue, which he assumed was the chief axis of the Arab-Israeli conflict. “ŽHe pressured Begin to highlight the Palestinian issue, but received no effective “Žsupport from Sadat.”Ž

Israel-Arab relations, in general, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular, have “Žnever revolved around the Palestinian axis, irrespective of Western conventional “Žwisdom and political correctness, which have been shaped by Arab talk rather “Žthan Arab walk, by oversimplification and wishful thinking rather than Middle “ŽEastern reality. “Ž

The 1948-49 war was launched by Arab countries, against the newly born Jewish state, at the expense — and not on behalf — of a Palestinian cause, exposing the “Žmyth of Palestinian centrality. Thus, Iraq leveraged the war to advance its goal of “Žintra-Arab hegemony and control the oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Haifa; Jordan “Žjoined the assault on Israel to expand all the way to the Mediterranean; Egypt was “Žmore interested in foiling Jordan’s expansionist plans than the annihilation of the “ŽJewish state; and Syria aspired to advance its vision of Greater Syria. “Ž

The 1948 war was not a war of, for, or (mostly) by Palestinian Arabs. According “Žto Professor Efraim Karsh, a leading Middle East expert from London’s Kings College, “Ž”Ž”The 1948 pan-Arab invasion of Israel was a classic scramble for territory and not “Ža battle for Palestinian national rights. As the first secretary-general of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Azzam, admitted, the goal of Jordan was to swallow up the “Žcentral hill regions of Palestine. … The Egyptians would get the Negev. The Galilee “Žwould go to Syria, except that the coastal part as far as Acre would be added to “ŽLebanon.””Ž

Upon the conclusion of the war, Iraq occupied Samaria (the northern West Bank), “Žbut transferred the area to Jordan, not to the Palestinian Arabs. Jordan occupied “ŽJudea (the southern West Bank) and annexed Judea and Samaria to the East Bank “Žof the Jordan River. Egypt occupied Gaza and did not transfer it to the Palestinian “ŽArabs. Just like Jordan, Egypt prohibited Palestinian national activities and “Žexpelled Palestinian activists. In 1959, Egypt and the Arab League dissolved the “Žineffective provisional Palestinian (“All Palestine”) government, which was “Žestablished by them in 1949. “Ž

The 1956 Sinai war was also not triggered by the Palestinian issue. It was a “Žderivative of Egyptian-sponsored terrorism (activated by Palestinian Arabs in “ŽGaza), aimed at undermining Israel’s sovereignty in the Negev; Egypt’s “Žnationalization of the British and French-owned Suez Canal; and Egypt’s support “Žfor anti-French elements in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.”Ž

The 1967 Six-Day War erupted as a result of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s “Žaggression, aimed at advancing his pan-Arab megalomaniac aspirations, which “Žwere unrelated to the Palestinian issue: Egypt’s blockade of oil “Žand commerce to Israel via the Red Sea; Egypt’s violation of the 1957 Sinai Peninsula “Ždemilitarization agreement; and the Egypt-Syria-Jordan military pact. “Ž

The 1969-70 Egypt-Israel War of Attrition along the Suez Canal took place “Žirrespective of the Palestinian issue. And the 1973 Yom Kippur War (the most recent Arab-“ŽIsrael war) was initiated by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, independent of the “ŽPalestinian issue.”Ž

Since 1973, there have been a number of wars between Israel and Palestinian “ŽArabs, but none evolved into an Arab-Israeli war. Arabs have been aware of the “Žsubversive/terrorist track record of Palestinian Arabs, and therefore have “Žshowered them with rhetoric, not resources, and certainly not on the battlefield.”Ž

For example, the 1982 Israel war on PLO terrorism in Lebanon was launched on “ŽJune 5, but the Arab League did not convene until September, following the PLO “Žexpulsion from Beirut. The 1987-1992 and the 2000-2003 waves of Palestinian “Žterrorism were quelled by Israel’s defense forces with no Arab intervention, as “Žwere Israel’s wars on Palestinian terrorism in Gaza (2008, 2012 and 2014). “Ž

Unlike Arab policymakers, Western policymakers and public opinion molders are “Žpreoccupied with the Palestinian issue, misperceiving it as the root cause of “ŽMiddle East turbulence, the crown jewel of Arab policymaking and the crux of “Žthe Arab-Israeli conflict. “Ž

This Western-formulated myth of Palestinian centrality has led to an “Žoversimplification of Middle East complexities, corrupting Western policy, “Žundermining vital Western interests, exacerbating problems rather than “Žadvancing solutions, intensifying terrorism, and diverting attention away from major “Žobstacles to peace, thus creating another major obstacle to peace.”Ž

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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