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Why Arab armies will not help the US secure post-war Gaza

Without a comprehensive political solution that recognises Palestinian self-determination, Washington cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East
Egyptian soldiers deploy in Rafah, North Sinai, on 20 October 2023 (Kerolos Salah/AFP)
Egyptian soldiers deploy in Rafah, North Sinai, on 20 October 2023 (Kerolos Salah/AFP)

The chief of the Israeli army met his counterparts from five Arab militaries in Bahrain last week, according to a report from Axios. The meeting was held in the presence of US Central Command, amid attempts by Washington to establish a plan for a post-war future in Gaza. 

It is unlikely, however, that anything viable emerged from the meeting, which was held in secret and included army generals from Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt

Such cooperation between Arab states and Israel is not popular among Arab peoples. Polls show that the vast majority of Arabs, 92 percent, say that the Palestinian question concerns all Arabs, and not just Palestinians.

Most Arabs also describe the US as biased towards Israel, saying Washington’s policy will harm American interests in the region.  

Such polls highlight the gap between Arab peoples and their governments on Palestine and on the US role in the Gaza war. They also show that US policy in the Middle East is delusional for ignoring this gap. 

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Indeed, US ignorance of this gap has long been one of the reasons for anti-American sentiment in the region - and it will also be a reason for the failure of its plans for post-war Gaza governance. 

The US has a long tradition of supporting autocracies in the Middle East, while ignoring the rights and ambitions of Arab peoples. This is because US politicians believe that the Arab leaders they support can adopt foreign policies that achieve American interests. 

Fuelling conflict

This longstanding US policy, however, has neither protected stability in the Middle East nor achieved American interests. US attempts to persuade some Arab states to send peacekeeping forces to Gaza will fail, serving only to fuel the conflict between Arab peoples and their governments.

In addition, Palestinian factions will not accept any foreign military presence in Gaza without an agreement with the Palestinian people. Armed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have warned that they would consider any military presence in Gaza as an occupying force.

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For decades, the US has ignored the Palestinian people’s rights and interests. Its Israel-centric policy has not helped Washington to achieve its declared goals in the Middle East: to end the conflict, give Palestinians their national rights, and protect the "safety" of its primary ally, Israel. These goals are not compatible.

If the US pushes its Arab allies to cooperate with Israel without considering the Palestinian position, it will only fuel the conflict in Gaza and across the entire region.

With Israel refusing to recognise a Palestinian state, any plans to control Gaza through Arab military forces will fail

Arab states appear to understand that sending forces to Gaza would be a fatal mistake. Jordan, Egypt and the UAE have publicly rejected this idea. The UAE went further, lashing out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for suggesting that Abu Dhabi would help in post-war Gaza governance.

Arab states have maintained on various occasions that they would not play any role in Gaza’s governance without a comprehensive political solution based on the two-state concept. Moreover, many analysts have questioned whether the Palestinian Authority or other Arab states would be able to control Gaza without the elimination of Hamas. 

After more than eight months of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, this prospect looks increasingly unlikely. Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, while the US has failed to offer a viable political solution. With Israel refusing to recognise a Palestinian state, any plans to control Gaza through Arab military forces will fail.

The US needs to realise that it cannot achieve any of its goals in the Middle East unless it respects Arab public opinion and acknowledges the Palestinian people’s right to decide their own future.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Feras Abu Helal is the Editor-in-Chief of Arabi 21 news website.
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