The visit made by the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah to the occupied State of Palestine last September was described as “historic” as it was the first of its kind since 1967. It was the last part of the ongoing Arab path to normalise relations with the Israeli occupation, either through direct diplomatic recognition or indirect dealings with Israel through a Palestinian gate.
With the exception of the Egyptian case, the direct and indirect Arab normalisation process used the PLO’s recognition of Israel as a means of “waving the shirt of Othman” (self-aggrandisement in the guise of vengeance) and has taken place with the approval and perhaps even the encouragement of the PLO. In addition to this, the green light given by the PLO to continue this process has opened the door for Israel to violate the strategic depth that has historically supported the Palestinian cause, especially in the Islamic world and Asia, under the pretext of the Islamic world and the non-Arab countries who form part of the Non-Aligned Movement “cannot be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves” or more Arab than the Arabs in terms of their relations with Israel.
News reports recently discussed a meeting at a dinner banquet hosted by former US President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in New York. The meeting was held between the Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, and a number of Arab foreign ministers, along with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, and such reports have not been denied by their governments. Whilst this was happening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York to announce that the “sky is the limit” in terms of their bilateral relations and Modi announced his agreement to such “historical” relations, which contradicts the historical relationship between India and Israel.
India is an Asian leader in the Non-Aligned Movement and has historically been a main international supporter of the just Palestinian cause. However, it changed its reference in terms of this support in order for it to be consistent with the PLO’s reference in dealing with Israel. Sooner or later, the volume of trade between India and Israel, which recently reached approximately $6 billion, will reflect on the Indian political position at the expense of India’s historic support for Palestine and its cause.
Another example is the secret document published by WikiLeaks in 2009, in which Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, an Islamic oil state, described his country’s relationship with Israel like “an iceberg, nine-tenths of which is beneath the surface of the water”.
During the past month, Moshe Ya’alon was the first Israeli defence minister to visit Azerbaijan since the two sides had diplomatic relations 22 years ago. Last May, the Israeli Foreign Minister, who is an illegal settler in the occupied West Bank, Avigdor Lieberman, visited Azerbaijan.
Joint production of Israeli drones recently began in the capital city of Baku, as 16 of Israel’s arms production companies participated in the Baku exhibition in mid-September 2014.
Israel imports nearly 40 per cent of its oil from Azerbaijan via a pipeline passing through Georgia and ending in the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran has been unable to end or limit such relations despite its heavy commonalities with Azerbaijan, including the 470 mile border and the fact that two-thirds of the Azerbaijani population follow the Shia doctrine, which is the majority in Iran, and that a quarter of Iranians are of Azeri origin. Tehran has also announced that it shot down a Hermes drone it claimed came from Azerbaijan last August.
Due to the geopolitical factors and Islamic ties, there must be a pause for Turkey and Iran. Turkey was the first Islamic country to recognise Israel and Iran was the second. The Palestinians, both those resisting and those negotiating, consider Turkey to be a “friend” today, while a main section of the Arabs consider Iran to be an “enemy” despite the fact that Iran’s position after the revolt against the Shah’s regime witnessed a strategic transformation towards Israel. Iran withdrew its recognition and supported the Palestinian people, regardless of the Arab debate regarding the motives and goals behind such a transformation.
Meanwhile, the Turkish position towards Israel hasn’t really changed in essence, instead, it moved towards being more balanced towards the two parties in the historic conflict in Palestine in order to prepare Turkey for its “mediator” role between the Arabs and Israel. Turkey has already mediated between Israel and Syria and this role is no different in essence than the “Atlantic” role played by Turkey before the Islamic trend ruled the country.
On July 13, in an article published by Jakarta Globe, Professor Aleksius Jemadu, Dean of the School of Government and Global Affairs in an Indonesian university, called on his government to follow the example of Turkey (and Egypt) in terms of its relations with Israel because, in his opinion, “there must be a mechanism of directly communicating with Israel in order for us to express our anger and our disappointment” at its treatment of the Palestinian people under occupation. This excuse, used to justify Indonesia’s recognition of Israel, is worse than the sin itself. Indonesia is considered to be the largest Muslim country in terms of population, and it still has not established diplomatic relations with Israel.
Malaysia is another large Islamic country that still has not established relations with Israel. When the king’s brother made an unprecedented visit to Israel in 1994, after the signing of the notorious Oslo Accords, even though there is a Malaysian law that prohibits such visits, friend of the Palestinian people and prime minister at the time, Mahathir Mohamad, said that his country had started to look into establishing diplomatic relations with Israel “because Arab countries have already done so”. The time has come to drop this Arab justification, or, at the very least, remove the Palestinian guise for it.
The Palestinian President and head of the PLO Mahmoud Abbas, who is also considered to be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, said, during his latest speech at the UN, that Israel committed “genocide” against his people, and mentioned the Palestinian Nakba five times. He described Israel as the “racist” state seven times, “fascist” twice, “the Apartheid state” twice, and once as a “terrorist” state, as calculated by the American-Jewish academic Alon Ben-Meir in a recent article.
The time has come to turn off the Arab and Palestinian green light allowing Israel to continuously violate the strategic Islamic and Asian depth that supports the Palestinian cause with an Arab and Palestinian guise. This is the least that can be done.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.