I HAVE been exposed to Palestinians since I was in first grade in Al-Hassa, Saudi Arabia They were my favorite teachers. They were the most dedicated and the most intelligent among all my instructors, from elementary to high school.
When I was attending New York-based SUNY Maritime college (1975-1979), I read a lot of books about Palestinians, Arabs and the Israelis. I have read every article about the many chances the Palestinians had and missed to solve their problem, especially the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel.
I have seen and read about the lives of the Palestinians in the US and other places. They are very successful in every field. And at the same time I saw the Arab countries at the bottom of the list in education and development. And I always ask the question: What if the Palestinians and the Arabs accepted the presence of Israel on May 14, 1948 and recognized its right to exist? Would the Arab world have been more stable, more democratic and more advanced?
If Israel was recognized in 1948, then the Palestinians would have been able to free themselves from the hollow promises of some Arab dictators who kept telling them that the refugees would be back in their homes and all Arab lands will be liberated and Israel will be sent to the bottom of the sea. Some Arab leaders used the Palestinians for their own agenda to suppress their own people and to stay in power.
Since 1948, if an Arab politician wanted to be the hero and the leader of the Arab world, then he has a very easy way to do it. He just shouts as loud as he can about the intention to destroy Israel, without mobilizing one soldier (Talk is cheap).
If Israel was recognized in 1948, then there would have been no need for a coup in Egypt against King Farouq in 1952 and there would have been no attack on Egypt in 1956 by The UK, France and Israel. Also there will be no war in June 1967 and the size of Israel will not be increased and we, the Arabs would not have the need for a UN resolution to beg Israel to go back to the pre-1967 borders. And no war of attrition between Egypt and Israel that caused more casualties on the Egyptian side than the Israeli side.
After the 1967 war, Israel became a strategic ally of the US because before this war, the US was not as close to Israel as people in the Arab world think. The Israelis fought in that war using mainly French and British weapons. At that time, the US administrations refused to supply Israel with more modern aircraft and weapon systems such as the F-4 Phantom.
The Palestinian misery was also used to topple another stable monarchy, this time in Iraq and replacing it with a bloody dictatorship in one of the richest countries of the world. Iraq is rich in minerals, water reserves, fertile land and archaeological sites. The military led by Abdul Karim Qassim killed King Faisal II and his family. Bloodshed in Iraq continued and this Arab country has seen more violent revolutions and one of them was carried out in the 1960s by a brigade that was sent to help liberate Palestine. Instead it made a turn and went back and took over Baghdad. Even years later, Saddam Hussien said that he will liberate Jerusalem via Kuwait. He used Palestinians misery as an excuse to invade Kuwait.
If Israel were recognized in 1948, then the 1968 coup would not have taken place in another stable and rich monarchy (Kingdom of Libya). King Idris was toppled and Muammar Qaddafi took over.
There were other military coups in the Arab world such as Syria, Yemen and the Sudan. And each one of them used Palestine as their reason for such acts. The Egyptian regime of Jamal Abdul Nasser used to call the Arab Gulf states backward states and he tried to topple the governments of these Gulf states by using his media and his military forces. He even attacked southern borders of Saudi Arabia using his air force bases in Yemen.
Even a non-Arab country (Iran) used Palestine to divert the minds of their people from internal unrest. I remember Ayatollah Khomeini declaring that he would liberate Jerusalem via Baghdad and President Ahmadinejad making bellicose statements about Israel, though not even a single fire cracker was fired from Iran toward Israel.
Now, the Palestinians are on their own. Each Arab country is busy with its own crisis. From Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Algeria, Lebanon and the Gulf states. For now, the Arab countries have put the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on hold.
-Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, is Commodore (Retd.), Royal Saudi Navy. He is based in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia, and can be contacted at: [email protected]