“Damned if you do, dead if you don’t”

The greatest challenge, at this stage in the war on terrorism, seems to be sustaining the fragile East/West alliance. A series of articles recently published in various elite and pro-Zionist publications accusing Saudi Arabia of various indiscretions, while issuing threats against Mecca and Medina, are only a few examples of how great the challenge to maintain these alliances really is. Perhaps not understanding how important Saudi Arabia’s cooperation is to the overall success of the international campaign now underway, Zionists in the United States have launched another one of their many Saudi bashing campaigns, perhaps hoping, as usual, to cause cleavage between the two nations, the United States and Saudi Arabia. Thinking perhaps that by so doing, they will bolster the strategic importance of Israel, who has until recently served the United States as its sole proxy in the Middle East, while pushing Saudi Arabia away from the Palestine/Israel negotiating table.

Following 911, pro-Israeli pundits in the United States were more than a little upset by the amount of consideration the United States was extending to Arab governments. On numerous occasions public statements were made, where Israel accused the United States of selling out Israel in exchange for shoring up relationships with these Arab governments, as the U.S. sought to put together strategic international alliances against Al-Qadea. This type of reaction to so serious a project is less than what one would expect of a sophisticated and politically adept Israel, yet looking at the historic politics of the Middle East region, Israel’s response is predictable.

Politics in the Middle East operates according to the “damned if you do; dead if you don’t” political theory. You need not have an extensive knowledge of the region to recognize those characteristics of the theory that makes it unique. In fact, it is the simplicity of the theory, that makes it easily adaptable, and that seduces the governments of the region to the extent that they have never, and absolutely refuses to abandon the theory, and in fact depend upon its more persuasive qualities, in lieu of common sense, on virtually every opportunity.

Case in point: a similar competition as the one between Israel and Saudi Arabia is now underway between the Arab governments. Each wants to best the other as friend to the United States, and as its key ally in the War against terrorism. The proving ground is of course the Palestine/Israel conflict. Following the introduction of Saudi Arabia’s proposal for peace in the Palestine/Israel conflict, other Arab countries, which had previously accepted the Saudi proposal at the Arab Summit held in Lebanon, visited the United States to introduce plans of their own. Several months ago, Washington DC was besieged by Arab government representatives, and delegations, all vying for the attention of the American people, and a closer relationship with the U.S. government. Such pandering is not necessarily harmful. Yet, it becomes absolutely dangerous when we consider that the governments of the region are using the plight of the Palestinian people as an attraction to solicit foreign aid and status, leaving us to ask exactly how much the Palestinian people themselves are saying about their own futures. Having nothing much to offer in exchange for their lives, it would be surprising if anything they had to say could be as appealing as what the competing Arab governments have to say. This is dangerous since as we should have learned with Oslo, there is no plan for peace that can succeed in Palestine unless it can produce the long awaited freedom and self-determination that the people long for.

Until now, just about everyone has had something to say about who should govern Palestine, how and why, except the people, whose right to vote and elect their own representative is being upheld, while the United States works to figure out, who, among the various contenders is best qualified, and more likely to follow its directive, which is to work cooperatively with Ariel Sharon in his bid to wipe out the Islamic resistance movement, and establish an Israeli proxy in the occupied territories.

Zionists have no doubt decided that they don’t want Saudi Arabia to play this role. They no doubt prefer other Arab government’s for the job. There are at least two others that they have had good relationships with in the past, as peace partners, and both have proven their willingness and ability to employ the heavy handed tactics required to impose unpopular policies upon Arabs and Muslims. Saudi Arabia, now famous for its support of the Palestinian resistance, and its refusal to deny financial support to the families of people martyred in the resistance movement, might be seen as too sympathetic and close to the people to engage in the necessary amount of subterfuge to further distance the people from self determination. The animosity between Israel and Saudi Arabia that has mounted since Saudi Arabia officially entered the peace proposal pageant unequivocally on the side of the Palestinians, may make it difficult for the two, Israel and Saudi Arabia to work “cooperatively,” at least so far as Ariel Sharon and the Likud Party might be concerned.

Following Israel’s March 29th incursion into Jenin, pundits predicted that once the siege had abated, Sharon would be ready to select a new Arab counterpart to oversee the implementation and progress of Israeli dictated changes in leadership and reforms in the occupied territories. The United States, perhaps worried that it would be useless to install a partner for peace in Palestine that Sharon neither likes, nor trusts, may also be leaning towards one of the other Arab governments, as the primary overseers of the Palestinians, and new Israeli proxy, the PA having been declared incapable of eliminating the resistance movement. The damned if you do, dead if you don’t theory says that any government who hopes to achieve power and status in the Middle East will either be damned by the people for their collaboration with Israel and the United States, or marginalized, and declared “irrelevant” as Yasser Arafat was so declared by Israel, for refusing to play along. The governments of the region never tire of playing this game, including Israel, since the rewards are too tempting, and the consequences for not playing too dire. In the case of Saudi Arabia, its challenge to Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders in return for normalized relations in the Muslim World has resulted in Zionists threats to nuke both Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia successfully produced the first real test to Israel’s claim to prefer a negotiated peace, rather than a military solution to the intifada. Israel, no doubt embarrassed by the questions and pressure that the public began to apply, hoping to get the two sides together, and talking again, rather than continuing the unneeded cycle of violence, thinks that threats to nuke Mecca and Medina will be enough to run the Saudi’s away. One such threat was made only a week ago, in a well known Zionist magazine, while a former White House official made a similar threat in the Wall Street Journal, in an article entitled, “How to win: Stopping the Next September 11,” by Fred Ekle, (June 2, 2002).

Keep in my mind that the Palestinian people will not be the sole victims of this game. As was seen during the Oslo peace process, when the colonial Middle East governments get together to ply their tainted ware, it is the people of the entire region, Muslims and Arabs, as well as people outside the region who suffer from the oppression, corruption and injustices that usually follow the implementation of their policies. As for the Resistance Movement, chances are that it will continue not only to grow in popularity among the people, but also to be an important variable in the success of any government who hopes to oversee the implementation of agreements, making it essential that any plan for the future of Palestine be one that enjoys not only government support, but also Palestinian support. Saudi Arabia, for all of the above reasons, seems to be the only Arab government that can steer the tumultuous waters that have traditionally overturned the peace processes. If the United States is smart, it will not fall sway to the ease of choice in this matter, but will instead seek a partner for Israel who can garner sincere public support from the Palestinian people, and one that can participate financially in the reconstruction of Palestine from its own treasury, which will make the American taxpayer, who would probably feel very good about helping the Palestinians, but not understand why they are paying Arab governments to help Palestinians. Saudi Arabia is respected by the younger generation of resistance movement supporters, who, even if the official movement is significantly limited, will never yield their affection for armed resistance in lieu of occupation.

Dr. Ahmed Yousef is Director of United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) and Editor-in-Chief, Middle East Affairs Journal.