Has the Gulf forgotten Palestine?

Has the Gulf forgotten Palestine?

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

THE discussion was heated as some Arab brothers, particularly Palestinians, were criticizing the current stand of the Gulf countries on the Palestinian cause, the Riyadh Declaration and the Saudi-US deals.

I told them: Every state seeks to achieve its national interests — security, stability, development and public welfare — and to improve its international standing. Governments strive to achieve these goals through policies, relations and strategies. This is their right and duty, as long as they do not harm the interests of others.

When Turkey re-established and strengthened its relations with Israel, Russia and Iran, I responded to those who accused it of serving Zionist, Russian and Iranian projects that politics are based on interests. Policymakers strive to serve homeland interests first, then that of allies and friends. Turkey may have provided itself and allies great service by utilizing its relations with their enemies.

When Hamas chose Iranian and Hezbollah instead of Saudi and its Gulf partners, we respected their right to choose, even if we didn’t approve of their choice. In turn, they should respect our right not to participate in such alliance.

Today, Hamas should look back and judge whether their strategic decision was right. We have provided them for ages with generous political and economic support. Iran only provided weapons and propaganda. It used them as a card in its diplomatic game with the United States and Israel. What has such alliance achieved for the Palestinians under Hamas? How did the confrontational politics serve the Palestinian cause? How many times did the Iranian foreign minister, Jawad Zarif, raised the Palestinian issue in his intimate meetings with the US, Russian and European foreign ministers during the nuclear agreement meetings? Zero!

Hamas leaders should ask themselves these questions before they question our stand on their choice of alliance or wonder why we did not raise their issue or defend their polices during Riyadh Summits, last week.

The same choices faced the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood at different critical stages in their relations with the Gulf states: The Iraqi-Iranian war, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the coercive unity of Yemen, the relationship with Iran in the era of Morsi, and the media attack on Saudi Arabia at every turn, including the issue of the Saudi islands (Tiran and Sanafir) and Riyadh Summits. Each time, their choices were at the expense of their strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, which supported them in their most difficult and darkest hours. Today, they should take responsibility for their choices and their mistakes.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and the rest of the fifty-five Arab and Islamic countries need not explain their objectives to anyone other than their citizens, for the signing of the Riyadh Declaration, as well as, participation in the Arab Islamic and International Alliance against Terrorism. Nor they should defend the economic and military deals they made to serve their interests and secure their domains.

However, press conferences were held, detailed data were published and all relevant information and figures were presented about the summits.
Specialists were tasked to answer all media questions. More than 600 stations, channels and newspapers attended the summits and provided 24-hour coverage. Therefore, I do not find an excuse for those who say they lack information. They do have it all, but their personal filters — beliefs, emotions and interests — affect their stands, vision and judgment.

As for the issue of issues, no country in the world has done what Saudi Arabia has done for Palestine. We fought with Arab armies in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, bore the largest share in supporting Arab confrontation with Israel, cut off oil from Israel-supporting nations, waived our seat in the Security Council for its inability to resolve Arab issues, especially Palestine, resisted US pressure to normalize relations with the Jewish state, and boycotted companies dealing with Israel. For eight decades, we have supported the struggle, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Palestinian state and Hamas itself — we still do. On the other hand, what have Hamas’ new friends offered but defeats, slogans and poisonous advices?

Politics are based on maximizing interests, minimizing losses, sharing benefits and avoiding risks. Saudi and Gulf states’ politics have succeeded in achieving all the above for their people and the Arab world, for their friends and allies. As for foes and traitors, no tears shall be shed!

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi