Opinion |

The Israeli Occupation Is Good for the Saudis

Whenever Arabs rise up against their corrupt rulers, they are reminded that Jerusalem is still under the boot of the Zionist occupier and that the first duty of every Arab is to liberate the holy city

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Trump and King Salman at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017.
Trump and King Salman at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017.Credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

I hate to disappoint, but the Saudis won’t pressure Donald Trump to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to end the occupation. There’s an Arab saying, “Where there is rain, there are clouds.”

Were an end to the occupation a Saudi priority, a Saudi Naftali Bennett would have whispered about the need for a Palestinian state while the U.S. president was drinking his bitter coffee. The Saudi Gilad Erdan would have whispered — telling the truth, this time — that over the course of 2016 Israel arrested 1,332 Palestinian children, and the Saudi Oren Hazan would have sneaked a Palestinian flag with the slogan “Free Palestine” into the background of his selfie with Trump.

Not only was there no Saudi pressure, but the final communiqué of the Riyadh summit did not mention Palestine. And if the Saudis weren’t willing even to pay lip service to the Palestinian state, perhaps they are the ones who need to be pressured, before Trump or Netanyahu. And if that’s the case, then why should Trump, even if he were an agent of Hamas, not only of Russia, make an effort to end the occupation?

Moreover, if one really looked into the matter, they would discover that the Saudis have no interest in changing the status quo.

After all, for them and for all of the oil states, the occupation is a hidden treasure. Every time the Arabs rise up against their corrupt regimes, they will be reminded that holy Jerusalem is still suffocating under the boot of the Zionist occupier, and that the first duty of every Arab is to liberate Jerusalem, rather than to rebel at home.

On the cusp of 1948, the Iraqi regime, which was subordinate to Britain, saw the enlistment of young Iraqis to fight in Palestine as a gift from heaven; that’s how they could divert the public’s anger toward the Zionists instead of toward the regime.

Until the Arab Spring erupted six years ago, Arab regimes used the Palestinian issue to avoid their social, economic and political obligations to their own people. After the Arab Spring, all shame disappeared, and even empty slogans about Palestinian rights evaporated from the manifestos of these regimes.

And if you really investigate, most of the Arab regimes would say that it’s good that Israel is abusing the Palestinians, rather than them. What, they don’t have enough people to abuse? On the contrary, the abuse of the Palestinians draws all the international attention because Israel presents itself as an enlightened state, and this overshadows their own crimes against their own people and the people of other countries. Is anyone paying attention to Saudi Arabia’s killing and destruction in Yemen?

If it weren’t too simplistic, one could say that the occupation is an Arab conspiracy along the lines of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The Arabs drew Israel into conquering territories three times its size in the June 1967 war, and since then the Jewish state has been in a state of chronic suffocation — if it gives up the territories, there goes its empire; if it holds them, there goes the pure Jewish state. Why hurry to relieve the Jews of their torment?

If the Israeli occupation were really a problem for the Saudis, it would have ended long ago. It would have been enough to withdraw a few hundred billion dollars now padding the vaults of American banks, or to stop the journey of one oil tanker to an American or European port, and the occupation would be history.

Now people here are harvesting the fruits of Trump’s visit, which tightened the alliance with the “moderate Sunni world,” which Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog is also excited about; Netanyahu’s popularity is starting to climb in the polls, and Israel’s weapons industry will even get a few crumbs from the deal of billions with the Saudis. So if anyone thought the Saudi royal court would do the work of the Israeli peace camp, they are going to be gravely disappointed. Netanyahu and Trump are the Saudis’ ultimate allies.

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