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‘We’ll accept whatever the Palestinians accept’

February 16, 2019 at 9:15 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas participates in the Palestinian Central Council meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s National Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

“We’ll accept whatever the Palestinians accept” has become a slogan used by several Arab states under various circumstances over the years. It seems that it has become a rule of thumb when forming Arab states’ positions on the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians’ struggle for their freedom and independence.

However, Arab states did not always stick to this rule. If they had, there wouldn’t have been Arab pressure on the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at various stages throughout history to accept what it had thus far been rejecting. Resorting to this rule wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the established conviction of Arab states that the Palestinian leadership should adhere to their positions, mechanisms and ceilings.

PLO delegation - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

PLO delegation – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

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In the past, the matter seemed suspicious and the slogan seemed “loaded”. Many, including myself, at times, viewed it as an attempt to give up and, at other times, as a smoking gun aiming to cover up the weakening of the Arab position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One could assume that resorting to this slogan was an implicit justification for the Arab states’ tendency to distance themselves from the Palestinian cause, as well as reduce their burdens and responsibilities. It was as if the Arab states were saying “we won’t be more Catholic than the Pope himself”.

However, the rock bottom reached by the Arab states, the decline in their position and policies, the mismanagement of their crises and inability to resolve them, are just part of the problem. Combined with leaning towards unilateral rather than collective action, as well as moving towards normalisation with Israel, allows us to see the bright side of this slogan and to look at this as a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty.

In the era of the “deal of the century” and US’ attempts to push a “regional framework” to resolve the Palestinian issue – in isolation from the Palestinians themselves and perhaps even behind their backs – we feel relieved when a statement is made by an Arab leader saying “we will accept what the Palestinians accept”. It is as if the issue is being transferred back to its original owners after the administration of US President Donald Trump – driven by a right-wing Israeli agenda pushing in this direction – kidnapped it from the Palestinians and put it in the custody of a “regional framework”.

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We do not want more from Arab leaders than for them to refer the issue back to its rightful owners in line with their summit resolution in the Moroccan capital Rabat in 1974; to recognise the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. We want nothing more from them than to reaffirm the need to have a collective Arab position which adheres to their summit resolutions, including the 2002 Beirut summit and the ongoing Arab Peace Initiative. We only want them to understand, and we won’t go as far as to say support, the Palestinian position that rejects the deal of the century, against which there is rare Palestinian consensus.

Are the Arab Nations surrendering to Uncle Sam? - Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Are the Arab Nations surrendering to Uncle Sam? – Cartoon [Mohammad Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

We are aware of the specific circumstances of every Arab government and the challenges and constraints they face. Palestinians are not looking for anything more than understanding, but of course, fear the pressures disguised by the slogan “we’ll accept what the Palestinians accept”. Those who cannot provide assistance and support should, at the very least, not volunteer to put pressure on the Palestinians. Those who cannot be vocal about their position on the ill-fated “deal of the century” should simply remain quiet, as in some cases silence is a virtue.

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The Arab states are not required to do anything more than what some countries like Jordan, for example, is doing. Jordan only reaffirms that the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the prevention of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is the greatest threat to the region’s security, peace and stability and that this threat supersedes all other threats, if not nullifies or dwarfs them.

The Palestinians were revitalised by the results of their president, Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Saudi Arabia. This has slightly mitigated the heavyweight of Arab participation in the worrying Warsaw Conference, despite the fact that these results did not go beyond the concept of “we’ll accept what the Palestinians accept”. However, at this current point in time, when the Arab position is declining and Arab fronts are dismantling, such positions take on great significance.

This article first appeared in Arabic on Addustour on 15 February 2019

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