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Will the Ukraine crisis affect the Palestinians?

February 16, 2022 at 3:15 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Sochi on November 23, 2021 [YEVGENY BIYATOV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

The US, its European allies and Israel are playing up the idea that war in Ukraine is inevitable if Russia attacks its neighbour. They are clearly preparing the public for such a conflict. It all serves US interests in this phoney psychological war against Russia which may strengthen America’s presence in Europe, as well as European economic conditions.

Russia denies that it is planning to invade Ukraine, but is making all the necessary troop movements and preparations to suggest that it does indeed have that intention. Herein lies the dilemma of any escalation in Ukraine, with an uncertain and inconsistent situation.

The Americans and their allies will win the diplomatic and media war; likewise with having public opinion on their side. If Russia backs down and does not attack Ukraine, it will be said that the US was successful in deterring the Russians. If war does break out, the US will be praised for its intelligence gathering and interpretation, and for being right to warn about Moscow’s intentions; Russia’s deception will be exposed and its narrative will be discredited.

Russia’s relative success will be the absence of a war, because it will say that it was right all along, and American propaganda and policy were wrong. In the event that war breaks out, Moscow will be forced to cast around for justifications. A no war situation will be win-win for both sides.

Will the Ukraine crisis affect the Palestinians? It will depend on whether or not a major war breaks out, and if the result favours Russia or America. Or whether understandings are reached fairly quickly which allow a face-saving de-escalation for both Russia and the US.

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Any impact on the Palestinians will require a coherent Palestinian leadership with correct alliances and a clear vision through which it can determine its options and seize opportunities in a manner that serves the national cause of the Palestinian people, and without relying on just one option.

A major or limited war will have an indirect impact on the Palestinians, as it is likely to weaken Israel’s position, especially in Syria and its confrontation with the resistance groups and Iran. This is because Israel will be forced to stand with the US against Russia, which will have a negative impact on Tel Aviv’s relationship with Moscow. The result may be support for the resistance forces in the region. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority is unlikely to able to take advantage of this due to its own weakness and reluctance.

Russia VS NATO: Ukraine, gas, Death Sea... - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Russia VS NATO: Ukraine, gas, Death Sea… – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

A broad strategic understanding within the very near future between Russia and America — which is possible but unlikely — will probably not affect the Palestinian issue, unless it leads to a further US pullback from the region and more Russian intervention.

The most likely scenario, I believe, is that an understanding is reached that allows for de-escalation and leads to strategic dialogue between the Russians, the Americans and Europe on the main contentious issues. These include Russia’s wish to change the world order in favour of a Moscow-Beijing alliance; Putin will have noticed what appears to be Washington’s weakness in foreign policy. In this case, the Palestinian cause will be affected positively as long as this new order appears and the US and Israeli roles in the region decline. However, this requires the official Palestinian leadership to reform itself, strengthen its internal position, and reconsider its strategic options and regional alignments.

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My conclusion, therefore, is that the Palestinian issue may be affected in a limited and indirect manner by what is happening in Ukraine, and possibly in a positive manner if the Russians benefit from the crisis more than the US and its allies. To be more precise, the resistance groups may benefit from events in and around Ukraine, while the official Palestinian leadership will probably not benefit because of it has got it all wrong in term of its internal, regional and international alliances and allegiances.

Based on my human principles and Islamic values, however, my own wish is that no war will take place in Ukraine or anywhere else, and that all existing conflicts can be solved in a peaceful and just way. International law and human rights should provide the criterion for the resolution of all such conflicts, not least the one in occupied Palestine.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 15 February 2022

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