by Efraim Karsh
IT has long been conventional wisdom that the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a prerequisite to peace and stability in the
What, then, are we to make of a recent survey for the Al Arabiya television network finding that a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks? "This is an alarming indicator," lamented Saleh Qallab, a columnist for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. "The Arabs, people and regimes alike, have always been as interested in the peace process, its developments and particulars, as they were committed to the Palestinian cause itself."
But the truth is that Arab policies since the mid-1930s suggest otherwise. While the "
For example, it was common knowledge that the May 1948 pan-Arab invasion of the nascent state of
From 1948 to 1967, when
Not surprisingly, the Arab states have never hesitated to sacrifice Palestinians on a grand scale whenever it suited their needs. In 1970, when his throne came under threat from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the affable and thoroughly Westernized King Hussein of Jordan ordered the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, an event known as "Black September."
Six years later, Lebanese Christian militias, backed by the Syrian Army, massacred some 3,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in the
Worse, in the mid-'80s, when the P.L.O. — officially designated by the Arab League as the "sole representative of the Palestinian people" — tried to re-establish its military presence in Lebanon, it was unceremoniously expelled by President Hafez al-Assad of Syria.
This history of Arab leaders manipulating the Palestinian cause for their own ends while ignoring the fate of the Palestinians goes on and on. Saddam Hussein, in an effort to ennoble his predatory designs, claimed that he wouldn't consider ending his August 1990 invasion of
Shortly after the Persian Gulf War, Kuwaitis then set about punishing the P.L.O. for its support of Hussein — cutting off financial sponsorship, expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers and slaughtering thousands. Their retribution was so severe that Arafat was forced to acknowledge that "what
Against this backdrop, it is a positive sign that so many Arabs have apparently grown so apathetic about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 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.
Efraim Karsh is a professor of Middle East and
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