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Washington and the 2+4 allies

February 24, 2017 at 10:48 am

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that spoke of America’s intention to establish a new regional alliance that would include four Arab countries alongside Israel and the United States. The goal of the alliance, which will resemble NATO in some ways, is to counter the threat that is arising from Iran’s role in the region, as this is considered the primary concern in the area second to none.

Among the details of the agreement comes Israel and the US’ decision not to put forward any new NATO forces. The two countries are satisfied with merely acquiring new information and logistical support. The discussions surrounding this situation have crossed oceans and narratives have changed.

On the Arab side, there is no discussion of any kind regarding this reality or its potential dangers and urgency. Yet, the government representatives who hail from the capitals of these four countries are usually quick to comment on or deny any statement that deals with these four countries, including news that is published on exclusively online sites. The silence on this news is very worrying.

What we can understand regarding the countries that are mentioned as well as those that are not (including those that are allegedly due to join the alliance at a late date) is that they seek to strengthen their ties with the US. Yet, what is not understandable is the willingness to accept that Israel is also a member of this alliance, as if the Arab states have to pay some kind of royalty to become a member of the club with Washington, in an unrestrained step of Trump management.

I will not speak too long about the disastrous effects of such an alliance on the Palestinian people and their cause, which was once the Arab cause par excellence. The effects of such an agreement are evident even to the deaf and blind: Israel will gain the weapon of “Arab-granted legitimacy” in their war on the Palestinians, their land, rights, holy sites and national project. The Palestinian national project is one based on freedom and independence and it was betrayed by the Arab this time around.

Yet, what about the effects that such an agreement will have on the Arab governments and projects to counter extremism and terrorism? What about the future of these countries’ relationship with their people and their opposition? What about the future of building a foundation of legitimacy in these countries and by legitimacy I mean governmental legitimacy?

There is a claim that the Arab governments who will participate in this alliance will allegedly insist on achieving a political solution in Palestine as a pre-requisite. This includes affording the Palestinian people the opportunity to enjoy legitimate national human rights. A similar precedence was made when a number of Arab states became involved in the second Gulf War. In their support for the Madrid Conference, they insisted that a timeframe is allotted to the occupation in Iraq, which meant that a deadline was set in place. However, they did not get more than a roadmap. Washington gained what it wanted while its promises to the Arabs remained nothing more than promises on paper.

Netanyahu was more than clear when he talked about this issue from an Israeli perspective: Tel Aviv will not pay the price from its own pockets (considering that the occupied Palestinian pockets are in Israel’s pockets) in order to achieve an alliance of this sort. The excitement over the agreement stems from achieving an alliance with “moderate Arab countries” over a “common enemy” and an understanding based on “peace in exchange for peace” and “security in exchange for security”.

Netanyahu has no intention of giving “land in exchange for peace” and a total withdrawal of occupation forces in return for a complete implementation of an agreement. These are important factors that must be understood by Arab public opinion, those who have appointed themselves as Sunni spokespeople for their governments. On the ground, however, there is no true intent on Israel’s part to cooperate except from a security perspective.

Trump, like Netanyahu, sees Iran as a source of evil and considers it to be the first enemy against the Arabs and Israel in the world. His decision to counter Iran and its growing influence stems from a desire to “realign the ranks” and achieve a NATO 2. Perhaps a common political operation room will be established like the one in Daraa these days.

It is possible that some national forces, ones that are Islamist in nature, are excited about the prospects of such an agreement because they see the “struggle against the main enemy as more important then the struggle against the Zionist enemy”, which explains why it is offering its services to the common space of the political operating room. It is hard to have expectations, as we are in an era of coups. Not to mention that some Arab countries are looking forward to the Trump era, viewing it as an opportunity to be grasped. They fail to recognise that playing with fire burns the fingers of those who grab on to coals.

We are yet unaware of the validity of the WSJ’s claims and it is safe to assume that there is no smoke without a fire.

 Translated from The New Khaleej, 22 February 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.