What if the Arabs had recognized Israel in 1948?
Now, the Palestinians are on their own; each Arab country is busy with its own crisis and has put the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on hold.
I have been exposed to Palestinians since I was in first grade in Al- Hassa, Saudi Arabia. They were the most dedicated and intelligent among all my instructors, from elementary to high school. When I was attending New York-based SUNY Maritime college (1975-1979), I read a lot of books about Palestinians, Arabs and the Israelis. I have read every article about the many chances the Palestinians missed to solve their problem, especially the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel. I have seen and read about the lives of Palestinians in the US and other places. They are very successful in every field.
At the same time, I saw the Arab countries at the bottom of the list in education and development. And I ask the question: What if the Palestinians and Arabs accepted Israel on May 14, 1948 and recognized its right to exist? Would the Arab world have been more stable, more democratic and more advanced? If Israel were recognized in 1948, the Palestinians would have been able to free themselves from the hollow promises of Arab dictators who kept telling them the refugees would be back in their homes, all Arab lands would be liberated and Israel would be sent to the bottom of the sea. Some Arab leaders used the Palestinians to suppress their own people and stay in power.
Since 1948, if an Arab politician wanted to be a hero, he had an easy way of doing it. He just needed to shout as loud as he could about his intention to destroy Israel, without mobilizing a single soldier (talk is cheap).
If Israel were recognized in 1948, there would have been no need for a coup in Egypt against King Farouk in 1952 and there would have been no attack on Egypt in 1956 by the UK, France and Israel. Also, there would have been no war in June 1967, and the size of Israel would not have increased and we Arabs would not have the need for a UN resolution to beg Israel to go back to the pre-1967 borders. And no war of attrition between Egypt and Israel that caused more casualties on the Egyptian side than the Israeli side.
After the 1967 war, Israel became a strategic ally of the US. Before then, the US was not as close to Israel as some in the Arab world believe. The Israelis fought that war using mainly French and British weapons while the US administration refused to supply Israel with more modern aircraft and weapons systems, such as the F-4 Phantom.
Palestinian misery was also used to topple another stable monarchy, this time in Iraq, and replace it with a bloody dictatorship. Iraq is rich in minerals, water reserves, fertile land and archeological sites. The military, led by Abdul Karim Qassim, killed King Faisal II and his family. Bloodshed in Iraq continued, and this Arab country has seen more violent revolutions.
One of them was carried out in the 1960s by a brigade sent to help liberate Palestine. Instead it went back and took over Baghdad.
Years later, Saddam Hussein said he would liberate Jerusalem via Kuwait; he used Palestinian misery as an excuse to invade that country.
If Israel had been recognized in 1948, the 1968 coup would not have taken place in another stable and rich monarchy – Libya, where King Idris was toppled and Muammar Gaddafi took over.
There were other military coups in the Arab world, such as in Syria, Yemen and Sudan. And each one of them used Palestine as the reason for such acts.
The Egyptian regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser used to call the Arab Gulf states backward, and he tried to topple their governments using his media and military forces. He even attacked the southern borders of Saudi Arabia using his air bases in Yemen.
Even a non-Arab country (Iran) used Palestine to divert its people from internal unrest. I remember Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declaring that he would liberate Jerusalem via Baghdad, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making bellicose statements about Israel, though not even a firecracker was fired from Iran toward Israel.
Now, the Palestinians are on their own; each Arab country is busy with its own crisis – from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Algeria, Lebanon and the Gulf states.
For now, the Arab countries have put the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on hold.
• The writer is a commodore (ret.) in the Royal Saudi Navy. He is based in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia, and can be contacted at [email protected]