After the Trump Declaration-Some sobering thoughts,PT.2

We were forewarned of an Apocalypse now, the mother of all protests, the days of rage which will shake the Middle East, maybe the entire world. Well, the world still exists, the sun rises, and Malaysia threatens to send its army to ”liberate” Jerusalem, and this was an official announcement of the Malasysian Defense Minister.So, jokes aside, we are surely not off the hook, not by any stretch of the imagination, but what has unfolded in the Middle East since the Trump Declaration is not accidental. Rather, it is the result of processes which have taken place for quite some time, obvious to those who look at what is actually happening in the region, not to those who believe their slogans and manufactured realities. The overall conclusion which it is not too premature to draw even now, is that the key Arab players in the region, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are having far greater and more pressing issues to deal with, the two players which are obsessed with the problem, are non-Arab, Turkey and Iran, and the two Arab players which are actively involved, are also the two weakest ones in the Middle East regional system, Jordan and the Palestinians, both the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Hamas.

Who could have believed just few years back, that Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahabbist Islam, the country of the Haj, of the holy places in Mecca and Madina would be almost completely indifferent to a declaration like this from an American President? Well, we witness here a process which started with the Arab Spring, maybe even before, whereby, the challenge of the growing Shi’i Iranian danger , that of Jihadist Sunni Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS, and the impact of the declining importance of Saudi oil in the world arena led the Kingdom to a radical reassessment of its priorities. The Palestinian issue became the victim of the process, and it started before the current Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman injected himself with such vigor as the actual, soon to be formal ruler. Similar process has happened in Egypt under President Al -Sisi, though with less emphasis on the Iranian threat, and much bigger one on the desperate economic situation. Looking at these two key Arab players and their performance since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, it is clear, that the Palestinians are the greatest losers of this regional upheaval , especially when we add to the equation the demise of traditional strong backers of them, Syria and Iraq. The long-standing Israeli argument, that the Palestinian issue is not the key problem in the region, has been borne out. No one in Israel and among Israel’s supporters should expect any public, official recognition of that from any Arab country, but the behavior of some of them speak volumes.

What also is of significance, is the Turkish-Iranian reaction, the most dramatic evidence, that the Arab world is in a state of deep crisis, in which a vacuum was created, filled by two non-Arab countries. This piece will not delve in any depth into the more profound background of this situation, suffice it to say, that their involvement as ferocious as it is, is also not really effective. Iran does everything in its power to create the Shi’i crescent , stretching from Yemen to Lebanon, surely as a threat to Israel, and as surely also as a challenge to Saudi Arabia. At this juncture, Iran will not endanger its huge investment in this endeavor by precipitating a violent confrontation over Jerusalem. Rhetoric, threats, protest marches notwithstanding, actions will not follow, unless there is a flare -up in Syria over possible future Israeli activities there. Turkey is another story, with the Sultan jumping up and down, but the worst he can do, is to use the Turkish Consulate in Sheikh Jarah as a hotbed of subversive activities. He can cut off relations with Israel, something which will be a symbolic gesture, not a real blow to Israel, though it is doubtful whether he will go that far.

That leaves us with the Hashimite regime in Amman and the Palestinians. Whereas in the case of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the relative indifference to the Trump Declaration is the outcome of changing scale of priorities, in the case of the Hashimite King, the obsessive preoccupation with Jerusalem is a clear sign of weakness and fear. There are those , in fact, the majority of the Israeli political/military establishment who are engulfed with a strong, almost sentimental
affection to the King and his family, a legacy of the relations with his father , but also due to obvious geopolitical/strategic considerations. I, for one, being the eternal Beitari[Shtei Gadot Layarden…] am devoid of any sense of sympathy to the Eastern neighbor, though still clinging to the necessity for Israel to prevent the collapse of the Kingdom.But the emphasis is on the word still, as the King is crossing lines in his incitement about Jerusalem. Somehow, and better quickly than not,Israel has to redress the balance of the relationships with the Hashimite regime. Their weakness can be a source of strength, as ironic as it is, but up to a point. The Kingdom has an undeclared Israeli guarantee for its existence, and under these circumstances, we could and should do more to explain some harsh realities to His Majesty in Amman .Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas have failed miserably in their campaign to create a situation of all hell breaking loose, so much so, that it begs the question whether they are really interested in doing so. The Ramallah and Gaza centers of power in the Palestinian arena, are not detached from reality. They are aware of overall Arab unwillingness to help, they know that Turkey and Iran are far, and they cannot be sure, that they fully control the Palestinian masses. There were few occasions in the past few years, when calls for action were not followed by the masses. Here again, the background for that is profound, and beyond the scope of this piece, but the situation on the ground indicates, that many Palestinians simply do not want another Intifada .

With all that in mind, it is not out of context to relate briefly to the Israeli angle of all that. It will be a mistake to draw the conclusion, that Arab weakness and Palestinian helplessness provide Israel with a golden opportunity to act harshly and irresponsibly in Judea and Samaria, as well as in Jerusalem. All is still fragile, this is the Middle East and caution and reserve are sometimes the best course of action. VP Pence visit can still provide the excuse to more violence, and it can also, and hopefully will be an opportunity to cement further the political/diplomatic understandings between Israel and the Trump Administration, being aware of the fact, that they do not have identical views to Israel’s over Jerusalem in particular, and the Palestinian issue in general.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina