Arab Rulers Have Spent Decades Undermining Palestinian National Aspirations

“The Palestinians,” Gamal Abdel Nasser told a Western reporter in the years before the Six-Day War, “are useful to the Arab states as they are. We will always see that they do not become too powerful. Can you imagine yet another nation on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean!” As Roie Yellinek and Assaf Malach demonstrate, this attitude is typical of Arab leaders, who—despite many protestations to the contrary—have over the decades consistently worked against the creation of a Palestinian state. The rulers of Syria and Jordan in this regard proved little different than Nasser:

In the decade-and-a-half following [Syrian] independence in 1946, the unambiguous [official] line advocated the unification of Greater Syria comprising the territory of present-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel, under Damascus’s reign. (Transjordan’s King Abdullah also strove for the creation of this entity under his own rule). Even the pan-Arab Baath party, which seized power in a military coup in 1963 and which espoused the vision of a unified “Arab nation” from “the [Persian] Gulf to the [Atlantic] Ocean,” continued to view Palestine as an integral part of “southern Syria.” This view was especially strong during the 30-year reign (1970-2000) of Hafez al-Assad, who claimed, [quite accurately], that “a state by the name of Palestine has never existed.”

Despite Jordan’s 1988 renunciation of claims to the West Bank, the Hashemite monarchy has neither shown any desire for the establishment of a Palestinian state, which it fears might subvert its rule, nor shied away from making peace and closely collaborating with Israel with the kingdom’s possible return to the West Bank occasionally mooted by both sides.

This half-hearted approach toward Palestinian nationalism notwithstanding, decades of staunch anti-Zionist propaganda have entrenched the “Palestine question” in the collective regional psyche to the extent of making it exceedingly difficult for the Arab states to conclude functional peace treaties with Israel without a pro forma Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Yet while this state of affairs gives the Palestinians some veto power over inter-Arab politics, it is unlikely to derail the intensifying, multifaceted, and increasingly overt Arab-Israeli collaboration even in the event of severe deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations, as the 2020 normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco show.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Arab World, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hafez al-Assad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian statehood


Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad