After nearly 100 years of conflict for Palestine, it’s time to realise that this desperate situation is the result of regional interests of many parties, and not merely the consequence of Israel’s existence.
Palestine’s lack of existence as a state, is the result of many factors, but perhaps most importantly, a lack of support from supposed neighbouring allies.
This situation is capitalised on by Israel, who are willing to do their neighbour’s ‘dirty’ work of removing the Palestinian’s last vestige of National struggle. Conveniently, Israel are willing to take the blame for it too; provided they are not seriously challenged in terms of their existence politically or militarily.
Why is it like it is?
In the aftermath of World War One, Britain and France shaped the region. They wanted to ensure access to major trading routes via the Suez. So, with the prospect of decolonisation of the Ottoman empire, the inheritors split up the region and ensued a policy of disunity amongst its inhabitants. It’s still going on today.
As of 1914, historic Syria [highlighted on the left] included modern day Palestine/Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, in addition to Syria. The British and french secretly agreed to the Sykes-Picot agreement, which carved up Syria, and destroyed Syria’s territorial integrity arbitrarily. Although it was never formally implemented, the nature of colonial powers determining borders created a lot of discontent.
A new Saudi Arabian Kingdom was formed from the previously Hashemite kingdom in the west of the Arabian peninsula, and the Hashemites were given new territory in Jordan and Iraq.
Jordan was ethnically similar to Palestine, and the Hashemite’s main interest was preventing this ethnic similarity turning into Palestinian Nationalism, and ultimately crushing the Hashemite monarchy.
By 1948, the neighbours of Israel/Palestine all had major doubts about an independent Palestine. They attacked Israel, because they opposed the creation of a Jewish state; but this did not necessarily mean they supported a Palestinian one.
By 1948, The Syrians [in yellow] disagreed with a Palestinian state, because they saw the territory as part of historic Syrian land. The Jordanian state [on the right in Red] feared that an independent Palestine may destroy their own kingdom.
Saudi Arabia [in green] was hostile to a Palestinian state because of the potential discontent it would cause in Jordan; and the spillover effect, particularly given Syria’s desire to reunite historic lands under one Syria which would have included Palestine and Jordan. Historically there has never been support for a united Palestine, only for the destruction of Israel.
That was of course until the Yom Kippur war, whereby for a third and final time, Israel defeated surrounding countries, and the conflict changed into a long, and unsuccessful series of ‘peace’ talks, as a replacement for war.
Who is responsible?
The major military powers in the Middle East had the chance to act, as the crucial players. They could have united for a common cause, as opposed to a common enemy. But instead, they have left a vacuum of inaction, and allowed Israel to act for itself.
The main military power in the region was Syria for a long time, and it arguably still is.
They opposed Palestinian Nationalism for the same reason they opposed the concept of Lebanon as a state. They supported a Syria based on historic Syria; which included Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan under one Syrian entity.
So, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO] fought Jordan’s Hashemite Monarchy in the civil war of 1970-1, for Palestinian rule over Jordan; Syria supported the PLO.
They did not support the PLO within Israel’s borders. After Black September, as it is known; the PLO were driven out of Jordan, to Lebanon; and the Syrians took matters into their own hands, as the PLO gained momentum as a vision to reassert Palestinian Nationalism within the borders of Israel.
By 1976, Syria invaded Lebanon to destroy the PLO, and Fatah; and with that the last vestiges of Palestinian Nationalism independently without Israel. After participating in wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, Syria were no longer willing to fight for the Palestinians, even if they were willing to oppose Israel’s existence.
Egypt was a supporter of pan-arabism. It opposed the conservative monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and backed Arab socialist republics.
When Iraq, a Hashemite Kingdom, experienced a Nasserist style military coup, one of the two Hashemite kingdoms in the region had been removed, and it was clear that a balance in power was shifting. A pan Arab ideology was possible, and it disagreed with the concept of an independent Palestine, in the same fashion that Syrian interest opposed a united Palestine.
Both believed in having regional dominance over Palestine.
Saudi Arabia had always thus been hostile to secularist socialist Pan Arabism, because it was a conservative Islamic state.
It indirectly supported Israel through association with America in the Arab Cold war; particularly in a strategical sense. It also was against Palestinian Nationalism in case it spilled over to Jordan, which is controlled by relatives of the Saud family.
Israel served as a watertight guarantee against pan arabism, Jordanian security, and against Egyptian and Syrian regional dominance, and arguably it still does. Although informally, Saudi Arabia is not going to admit to supporting Israel, by default; it opposes Palestinian Nationalism, and does not oppose Israel’s activity in preventing a Palestinian state.
Collusion in conclusion
If Israel ceased to exist, Syria and Egypt would clash over Palestine in terms of promoting their interest driven pan ideologies. Jordan and Saudi Arabia would want to protect their interests too; most notably protecting the final vestige of Hashemite and conservative monarchy, not to mention opposing Arab republicanism and militancy.
The direct enemy of Palestinians are Israel. But it is convenient to allow their common enemy to take the wrath for their inaction.
Despite a vision of ‘the middle east’ as a homogenous ethnic group, and unified supporter of their Palestinian brothers; ready and waiting to invade, their strategic and political interest in Palestine’s independence has historically been small.