Why Arab Regimes Don’t Trust Palestinian Leaders

Unlike in the West, writes Yoram Ettinger, in the Arab world “historical memory is very long; nothing is forgotten [and] nothing is forgiven.” Thus, Jordan hasn’t forgotten that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) nearly overthrew its monarchy in 1970; nor has Lebanon forgotten the PLO’s role in igniting its bloody civil war. Ettinger calls attention to the less-known case of Kuwait, a country where, at the beginning of 1990, Palestinian refugees made up a fifth of the population:

Kuwait was the most generous Arab host of Palestinian migrants, providing them with a high level of social, economic, and political freedom, and facilitating their rise to senior managerial, civil-service, media, and professional positions. . . . Kuwait’s Palestinian migrants, [who included] relatives and loyalists of Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, evolved into the wealthiest Palestinian migrant community. . . . The oil-producing sheikhdom levied a 5-percent excise tax on all Palestinian earnings, and transferred it to the stashed accounts of the two PLO leaders. It also extended $65 million of annual aid to the PLO.

Kuwait’s generosity [was] intended to reduce the threat of Palestinian terrorism, and constrain the explosive potential of Palestinian migrants. . . . In return for Kuwait’s hospitality and generosity, PLO leaders displayed deep sympathy toward [Kuwait’s enemy] Saddam Hussein. They spent much time in Baghdad during the months leading up to the August 1990 invasion [of Kuwait], which was facilitated by three PLO battalions stationed in Iraq and vital intelligence that was provided by Palestinians in Kuwait. The PLO [then] heralded the plunder of Kuwait, lobbying . . . against an Arab League resolution that called for military action for the liberation of Kuwait.

As a result of such instances, Arab leaders continue to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, but little else:

Therefore, contrary to Western conventional wisdom, there has been an unbridgeable gap between . . . pro-Palestinian Arab talk and the [very different] Arab walk. Arab leaders have [followed] the fundamental Middle Eastern [aphorism], “on words one does not pay customs tax.”

Are Western democracies aware of the costly Palestinian terroristic track record? Do they intend to learn from past mistakes by avoiding—rather than repeating—them?

Read more at The Ettinger Report

More about: Kuwait, Mahmoud Abbas, PLO, Saddam Hussein, Yasir Arafat

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority