By Asaf Romirowsky, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies—
In his 1974 book Palestinians and Israel, the late Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote that following the Six-Day War,
The collision with the Palestinians is presented as the essence of the conflict, for this is allegedly a struggle for national liberation. Arabs explain, especially to foreigners, that the antagonism is not that of large Arab states versus a small state like Israel but of an oppressed people against a strong, colonialist oppressive state…The focus of the conflict has shifted. It is not between states but between a government and a people struggling for its liberation, which by definition is a just war that deserves support.
Over the years, the struggle became not only just but even divine.
A binary understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict has dominated thinking for decades. The conflict is presumed to be unsolvable as it is caught between demands for Israel’s total destruction and the inevitability of Arab-Palestinian exile and political oblivion.
But the paradigm may have shifted following the Abraham Accords and Israel’s normalization with the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan. Even the Saudis have noticed the change, as illustrated by a recent statement by Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz. He openly criticized Palestinian leaders with these words:
The Palestinian cause is a just cause but its advocates are failures, and the Israeli cause is unjust but its advocates have proven to be successful. There is something that successive Palestinian leadership historically share in common: they always bet on the losing side, and that comes at a price.
This damning statement from a traditional Palestinian ally raises the question of the Palestinian endgame and, more importantly, the centrality of—and fatigue with—the Palestinian struggle in the Arab world.
Historically, the Palestinian cause was the glue that kept that Arab world united in animus toward the Zionist entity and its presumed threat. Throughout his career, Yasser Arafat’s ultimate goal was to make the Palestinian issue the flagship cause of the Arab world, which, he argued, should not rest until the Palestinians received the justice they are divinely owed.
Arafat was largely successful in this regard—though not necessarily to the benefit of the Palestinian people, who were used by many Arab regimes and Islamist groups as a tool with which to galvanize support for their own causes. Arafat was the walking symbol of the Palestinian cause, but since his death, the Palestinian leadership has struggled to keep the cause front and center. Continue Reading….