March 26, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 599

In Advance of the Arab Summit, The Arab 'Resistance Camp' and Iran Campaign For a New Intifada Against Israel, the PA and the Renewal of Peace Negotiations - While the Summit Itself Is Set To Stress a 'Just and Comprehensive Peace' Including Israeli Withdrawal from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine as the 'Arab Strategic Option'

March 26, 2010 | By Y. Yehoshua*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 599


The last few weeks have seen the reemergence of the conflicts between the two main camps in the Middle East: the "resistance camp" – led by the resistance movements, Iran, Syria and Qatar – that supports armed struggle against Israel and opposes negotiations with it, and the moderate camp – led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority – that supports a political solution for the conflict with Israel. The disagreements resurfaced on the backdrop of the conflict between the U.S. and Israel over construction in East Jerusalem.

Along with the fundamental disagreements between the two camps, many efforts are also underway to reach understandings and agreements between them prior to the upcoming Arab League summit in Libya. At the same time, however, the resistance camp is waging an intensive campaign for launching a third intifada, for de-legitimizing efforts to restart negotiations with Israel, and for rescinding the Arab peace initiative. This approach has the backing of Muslim Brotherhood clerics and of satellite channels such as Al-Jazeera.

The moderate camp is rejecting these calls, saying that escalation in the region will only lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank and serve Iran's interests – and this precisely at a time when conflict is heating up between Israel and the U.S.

As will be recalled, the cold war between the two blocs in the Arab world was apparent in 2006, following the Lebanon war, in light of the moderate camp's objections to the policy of Hizbullah and its supporters Iran, Syria and Qatar. It came to a head during the Gaza war (December 2008-January 2009), when the moderate camp opposed Hamas' policy while the pro-resistance camp supported it.[1]

The efforts to reach understandings between the two camps despite the disputes between them are part of an overall Saudi policy of promoting intra-Arab unity in order to form a solid and influential Arab front, as reflected in the Saudi-Syrian rapprochement over the past year. However, this policy has so far not yielded a more comprehensive intra-Arab reconciliation; for example, it has not led to Syria-Egypt rapprochement or to intra-Palestinian reconciliation. Furthermore, despite the coordination between Syria and Saudi Arabia, their views on Israel are still in conflict: Saudi Arabia supports a political solution, while Syria is still a proponent of resistance.

The upcoming Arab summit in Libya, which is aimed at focusing and fostering unity on the issues of Jerusalem, will focus on the question of the Arab modus operandi vis-à-vis Israel – negotiations or resistance. It is reasonable to assume that the calls for a third intifada and for freezing the negotiations with Israel are aimed at pressuring the moderate Arab countries to take a harsher stance vis-à-vis this country. Arab League Secretary-General 'Amr Moussa has already announced that "rescinding the peace initiative" will be brought up for discussion at the summit. Saudi Arabia, for its part, which has already said that "the Arab initiative will not remain on the table for very long," has called for finding other nonviolent options to pressure Israel in the international arena. But it seems that agreement on the issue between Syria and Saudi Arabia has already been attained – i.e. that at the summit the Arab peace initiative will not be rescinded.[2]

Therefore, alongside the campaign of the Arab "resistance camp" and Iran for a new intifada against Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and for the de-legitimization of a renewal of peace negotiations, the Arab summit itself is set to stress a 'just and comprehensive peace' that will include an Israeli withdrawal from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine as the Arab strategic option.[3]

Another issue that is likely to be agreed upon is Syria's proposal to create an apparatus for resolving intra-Arab disputes. This proposal is to create a new body, an "Arab troika" (which apparently will include Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt), to deal with Arab conflicts. It seems that this proposal is aimed at facilitating stronger Syrian involvement in the intra-Palestinian reconciliation and at gaining a more central status for itself in the Arab world, as it deems appropriate. In addition, this body, if established, will contribute to distancing the new Shi'ite-led Iraq from the centers of Arab decision making – which is a shared interest of Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.[4] This will also be demonstrated by yet another postponement of Iraq's turn to host the next Arab League summit.[5]

The following is a review of the dispute waged between the two camps on the eve of the Arab League Summit in Libya.

Efforts by the Resistance Camp to Launch a Third Intifada and to Rescind the Arab Peace Initiative; The PA Is Opposed

The calls to launch a third intifada and freeze negotiations with Israel come from three main quarters:

1. The resistance movements, headed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

2. Muslim clerics such as Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badi' and the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi.

3. The resistance camp, headed by Iran, Syria and Qatar.

The calls to renew the intifada were accompanied by harsh attacks on the PA, which was accused of collaborating with Israel and of preventing the Palestinians from escalating their struggle.

The PA, for its part, stressed that it opposes renewing the intifada and adheres to the option of negotiations, and its security apparatuses indeed took steps to prevent an escalation in the West Bank. This policy is apparently based on the belief is that a third intifada will harm the Palestinian interests and serve the interests of others – of the Israelis, who are looking for an escape from the international pressures on them, and of Hamas, which seeks to take over the West Bank.

Palestinian Factions: A Third Intifada against Israel and the PA

Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives called to liberate Palestine and its holy places by means of reviving the intifada and by jihad operations against Israel.

At a meeting of the leaders of the Palestinian rejectionist organizations in Damascus, Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash'al announced a campaign to protect the Islamic and Christian holy sites. He called upon all Palestinians to take substantial measures to confront the Israeli aggression, and demanded that the Arabs in general, and the PA in particular, put an end to any negotiations with Israel.[6]

Similar calls were made by many senior Hamas officials. Mash'al's deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouq, said that Hamas was taking action to restore the spirit of resistance to the West Bank by activating sleeper cells there. He added: "All the Palestinians must conduct resistance against the Zionists," and continued: "The only way to liberate Palestine is through resistance and through a declaration that the negotiations have failed." Hamas spokesman Hammad Raqb said: "All options are open, even sacrificing ourselves and our sons for the sake of Al-Aqsa... Intifada, jihad and resistance is the name of [Hamas' new] phase, and we will not remain silent in the face of the desecration of our holy places, no matter how much it costs us."[7] Hamas PM Isma'il Haniya addressed the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, saying: "We are by your side, we will support you, and we will not give up on you. We will not lower our voices, and we will not withdraw from our positions... The occupation has no future on the land of Palestine. Jerusalem is ours, and the land is ours."[8]

Similar statements were made by Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ramadan 'Abdallah Shalah; at an anti-Israel demonstration in the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, he called for dismantling the PA and for the Palestinian people to assemble "under the banner of resistance, jihad, and martyrdom." He said that the Palestinian people "will not negotiate on a single grain of Palestinian soil... The [Islamic] nation... will destroy this entity [Israel] and will drive it out... [We] must put an end to this false gamble on peace."[9]

Hamas members criticized the PA's policy of "appeasement," accusing it of rejecting the return to armed resistance and of conspiring with Israel against the Palestinians. It should be pointed out that, these calls notwithstanding, the Hamas movement is taking action to prevent the firing of missiles from the Gaza Strip.[10]

Hamas MP Salem Salama said that "the third intifada will be against the occupation and against the 'Dayton apparatuses' [a derogatory term for the PA apparatuses]" These apparatuses, he added, "protect the occupation and prevent the resistance from discharging its duty of defending the holy places."[11]

Hamas government spokesman Taher Al-Nounou said: "The Fatah authorities in the West Bank are conspiring with the occupation to such an extent that they have [actually] become full partners in its plans to take over the places holy to Islam – [and are promoting these plans] by preventing the citizens from voicing their opinion and protesting against the Zionists' actions and by threatening protesters with live fire and dispersing them by force." He added that the situation today is reminiscent of what happened during the Gaza war, when the PA prevented demonstrations of solidarity with the Gazans. "Whoever ties his fate to the occupation enters into a game of chance [that he is destined] to lose, and the people will expel him from their midst," he said.[12]

Islamic Clerics Call to Renew Jihad by All Means

Muslim Brotherhood General Guide: Jihad to Restore Palestine and Al-Aqsa Is the Duty of Every Muslim

The calls to renew the intifada were supported by prominent clerics such as Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Dr. Muhammad Badi' and IUMS chairman Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi. These sheikhs called to renew the jihad and the martyrdom operations in Palestine, and stated that contacts with Israel were tantamount to a war against Allah. Muhammad Badi' wrote in his weekly sermon, which is posted on the Muslim Brotherhood website: "Jihad for the restoration of Palestine and Al-Aqsa is an individual duty borne by each and every Muslim. Everyone is required to defend the holy places – and especially Jerusalem – and to protect them..."

Badi' criticized Arab leaders for permitting PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas to conduct negotiations with Israel for four months: "Maintaining relations with [the Zionists] is [tantamount to] a war against Allah, His religion, and the Muslims... Since when do the Arabs measure their decisions in months? Since when does 'Abbas need Arab permission [to negotiate with Israel]...? What is this Arab cover for? And why [now], as the [Libya] summit draws close? Why [now,] at a time when there are European reservations about Israel's forging of the passports of six European countries? Why after the Assad-Ahmadinejad summit? Why at a time when the homes of Jerusalem residents are being demolished? Why at a time when new [Israeli] budgets are being allocated to settlements in the West Bank?..."

Badi' continued: "Despite [the fact] that Israel possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons, despite [the fact] that the U.S. embraces [Israel], and despite the Arab concessions, [Israel] will have no security on our occupied land. It is a transient phenomenon, which will pass. There is much evidence of this.

"Allah informed us, in Surat Al-Isra ['The Nocturnal Journey'] that the Zionists will twice have supremacy in the land. We are currently in the throes of the second and last time, in the course of which Allah will afflict them with terrible agony as punishment for affronting Him and for their contempt for the holy places...

"Allah says about the destruction of nations because of their oppression, aggression, and tyranny: 'Of the wrongdoers the last remnant was cut off. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds' [Koran 6:45]; 'And [as for] these towns, We destroyed them when they acted unjustly, and We have appointed a time for their destruction' [Koran 18:59]...

"The Prophet Muhammad brought us the tidings that a decisive war would break out between the Jews and the Muslims, and that the Muslims and Islam would emerge victorious. This prophecy is what gives us hope. Thus said the Prophet Muhammad [in a hadith]: 'Before Judgment Day arrives, the Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them, until the Jews hide behind stones and trees. The stones or the trees will say: 'Oh Muslim! Oh servant of Allah! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him' – except for the Gharqad tree [which will not betray Jews who hide behind it], for it is the tree of the Jews.'

"Therefore, we say that Israel is bound for perdition, whereas Al-Aqsa will remain as long as the world exists..."[13]

In another sermon, Badi' wrote: "A nation cannot live, a state cannot be founded, rights cannot be protected, and land, property and money cannot be preserved but by means of jihad for the sake of Allah. [Therefore], 'stand up and strive in His cause as you ought to strive [Koran 22:78]'... Our only way to repel the vicious attack on our land and restore our honor and glory is to sacrifice our souls, our money, our time, our lives and anything else for the sake of our noble cause."

Badi' explained that it is the duty of every Muslim family "to plant in its heart and in the heart of its sons [the belief that] the Palestinian cause is its chief worry and concern. [Each family] must repeat this lesson to its sons and daughters, feed them from the cradle with the milk of love for Allah, for the Prophet and for jihad for the sake of Allah, [and teach them] that love for Palestine and for Al-Aqsa is part of the faith... and that jihad must not be likened to terror. Jihad means making sacrifices in order to restore what has been stolen, defend one's property, expel the occupier, and make Allah's word supreme, while terror is occupying someone else's land..." [14]

Al-Qaradhawi: For Jerusalem, We Are Willing to Sacrifice Anything

In a March 19, 2010 Friday sermon, IUMS chairman Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi called on Muslims to declare their willingness to sacrifice themselves for Al-Aqsa Mosque, and called on Saudi King 'Abdallah to rescind the Arab peace initiative.

He said: "By what right are Muslim worshippers prohibited from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque to fulfill their [religious] duties, to the point that they have become slaves of the Israelites, who do with them as they wish... while the [Arab] rulers cling to their seats...? Where is the Muslim nation, its rulers, its peoples, its clerics, its youth, and its media? The [Muslim] nation must never be silent...

"Addressing King 'Abdallah, Al-Qaradhawi said: "The times require [us] to rescind the [Arab] initiative, because the Israelis do not heed anybody – not even the America... We call upon the Muslims worldwide to be vigilant regarding what is going on. We must declare our willingness to make any sacrifice for the sake of Jerusalem. It is inconceivable for us to acquiesce to the destruction of Jerusalem, as long as we live."[15]

IUMS: Renew the Jihad By All Means

In a March 17, 2010 communiqué, the International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, called upon the Palestinians to wage a new intifada and to renew the jihad by any means possible, as a response to the Israeli policy toward Jerusalem and the holy places. In addition, it called upon the Arabs to rescind the peace initiative, to recall the Jordanian and Egyptian ambassadors from Israel, and to put a complete end to negotiations with this country: "...The nation is fed up with the conduct and plans of the Zionist enemy, and it cannot continue with weak and feeble protests and denunciations, which are of no use anymore. The situation is grave and dangerous, and the chances are that we will awaken one day – perhaps even this year – and not find one trace of the Al-Aqsa [Mosque]. Therefore, we – peoples and rulers – must muster all our forces and capabilities in order to stop the tragic course against our land and our holy places, before it is too late.

"The peoples and the Muslim public must express their anger through peaceful means beyond [the borders of] occupied Palestine, and our people in Palestine must lead this awakening. All the resistance factions must renew the jihad actions in all ways possible, particularly in the West Bank, and must not forsake Jerusalem [at a time] when it is besieged from all directions.

"With regard to the rulers, they have many tools that they can use without having to officially declare war against this oppressive enemy. We, more than anybody, know the state of these countries, the state of their abilities, and the state of their military preparedness [which does not enable them to wage war]; but the Arab and Islamic countries can put an end to the Arab peace initiative, and declare categorically the cessation of any kind of negotiations – direct or indirect ones – with this enemy. [In addition], Egypt and Jordan [can] recall their ambassadors from this oppressive entity, and everybody must lift the siege off the Gaza Strip...

"The International Union of Muslim Scholars calls to hold an Islamic summit for the sake of Jerusalem, since the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not the property of the Palestinians alone and not the property of the Arabs alone. It belongs to all Muslims, and it is in real danger of destruction unless the entire nation mobilizes for its sake...

"The Union calls once again upon the Palestinians to be united... It is time to embark upon a new, third, intifada for the sake of the endangered Al-Aqsa, for the sake of the Ibrahimi Mosque [Cave of the Patriarchs], and for the sake of Palestine in its entirety. At the same time, the Union calls upon the Arab and Islamic world to use all its financial means and its media [capabilities] to stand alongside our brothers at the forefront [of the struggle] and alongside those who wage intifada for the sake of the land and the holy places..."[16]

Iran, Syria, and Qatar Give Political Backing to Calls for Escalation in Palestine

Khamenei: The Resistance Will Successfully Liberate Palestine

In addition to religious backing for the call to escalate violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the resistance movements received political backing from Iran, Syria and Qatar. Iran and Syria have even organized conferences recently in support of the resistance,[17] and the press in all three countries called for a third intifada and de-legitimized anyone supporting negotiations with Israel.

At a meeting with the heads of the Palestinian factions, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised the Palestinian resistance, calling it an "incredible phenomenon" that drives Israel to "defeat and destruction." He added that the resistance would succeed in liberating Palestine, and that its increased strength in confronting "the front of arrogance and disbelief" was undeniable. Khamenei also criticized some of the Arabs who he said had abandoned the Palestinians.[18]

The Iranian media have stated repeatedly in recent weeks that a third intifada against Israel is on the verge of breaking out. A March 1, 2010 article in the Iranian daily Javan, which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), stated, "The only route before the Palestinians in response to Israel's desecration of the Islamic holy sites is to ignite a new intifada."[19]

Syrian Dailies: Reality Demands Another Intifada

As Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad reiterates that resistance is the path to peace, the Syrian government press states that there is no other option but a third intifada that will bring down the Palestinian Authority.

In his column in the Syrian daily Al-Watan, Ziad Abu Shawish wrote: "...What is happening today in Palestine, and especially in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the area surrounding it, crosses all the red lines of the Palestinian people.

"In light of the Arabs' and the Palestinian Authority's submission to the American and Zionist logic, increased tension and escalation can be expected – and this time no obstacles stand in the path of the popular anger. The first signs of a third intifada began to emerge some time ago...

"Nothing remains for the Palestinians to do but to ignite a new intifada, that will be bigger and more dangerous than those that preceded it, and in whose path the Road Map will be swept away and cast into the abyss – [an intifada that] will pass over the Palestinian Authority and likely even bring about its end. This is to create options that will better ensure the restoration of rights and the preservation of the holy places.

"The question still facing the Palestinian leadership in the [Gaza] Strip and the West Bank is: How long will the division and disputes continue? How long will the ceasefire and the calm continue, with an enemy who does not know the meaning of rights, freedom, and the holy places, and attaches no importance to our honor?"[20]

Nasser Qandil, a former Lebanese MP who is close to the Syrian regime, wrote in the Syrian daily Teshreen that a third intifada was obviously required and that it could lead to a coup in the West Bank like the one that took place in Gaza: "The [February 25, 2010] Damascus summit, and the strategic deterrence that it created, have provided the West Bank with the security wall it needs in order to continue its struggle against [Israel's] plans of expansion and Judaization. Thus, a third intifada seems to be the appropriate high-quality response.

"The second intifada marked the failure of the reliance on the Oslo Accords, which were attained thanks to the sacrifices of the first intifada and the momentum [it created]. The third intifada will mark [the recognition that] what has emerged after Yasser Arafat's death cannot be relied upon to ensure [even] the most minimal of the Palestinian rights. The war [between the Palestinian factions] over Gaza, and the reliance [on the notion of] ending the resistance, are [now] things of the past... It seems that the popular and political change that occurred in Gaza several years ago, and which led to a shift in the balance of forces there, will also occur in the West Bank, starting in Jerusalem and Hebron."[21]

Qatari Daily Al-Sharq: PA Must Renounce Oslo

Similar calls were heard in Qatar, which sees Hamas as a legitimately elected body. The Qatari daily Al-Sharq took a harsh stance by publishing a series of articles calling on the Arabs and Palestinians to give up the peace process with Israel, and to renew the path of resistance.

Jaber Al-Harmi, the paper's editor, called on the PA to renounce the Oslo Accords and to rejoin the resistance against the Zionist enemy: "The time has come for the Arabs to rethink the 'peace process' – which has continued for 18 years, and which is going around in circles. Furthermore, the enemy has now managed to double its achievements of previous years, especially in expansion, construction of the settlements, and progress in Judaizing Jerusalem.

"The time has come for the PA to take another look [at itself], and to officially announce that it is renouncing the Oslo plan and returning to resistance, and is joining its resisting people – after in recent years it fell into the arms of the Israeli-American plan that has brought the Palestinian people nothing but catastrophe...

"The resistance factions must today unite and refrain from division... At the top of the agenda [must be] national unity, which will turn the resistance plan into a javelin for waging the struggle against the Zionist plan..."[22]

In an editorial, the newspaper wrote: "...The situation in occupied Palestine has shifted from dreams of peace to a state of war, and it demands a determined Arab stance, and a reexamination of the [Arab] position...

"Hamas has called for a third intifada, and the ['Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam Brigades have threatened a painful response to the Israeli violations. But [beyond that], the situation demands the mobilization of Arab-Islamic public opinion for victory, the mobilization of international support for the legitimate rights, and a joint stand against the Israeli arrogance. The battle now is the battle for Jerusalem, and the struggle is the struggle for Al-Aqsa..."[23]

The next day, the paper wrote: "...The PA must stand alongside its people who are exposed to the Israeli repression apparatus, and who must stop insisting and relying upon the path that has been proven so fruitless. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's statements following his meeting with the Brazilian President, [i.e.] that negotiations are the only way of attaining peace, do not reflect the reality in all things concerning the struggle of the Palestinian people [that fights] with its bare hands. [These statements] only push Israel towards more stubbornness and arrogance."[24]

Palestinian Columnists: The PA Opposes a Third Intifada That Could Lead to Hamas's Rise to Power in the West Bank

The PA is paying no heed to the attacks and pressure on it, and is even taking action to prevent an escalation of violence in the West Bank.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his position that negotiations are the only path to peace.[25] Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Dahlan said: "We are not striving for a third intifada, but at the same time, it is our right and our duty to defend ourselves and [to defend] the places holy to Islam, through broad popular action involving everyone." He also denied Hamas accusations that the PA was preventing angry demonstrations against Israel's actions.[26] Fatah spokesman Yahya Rabbah likewise stated that the PA was not preventing demonstrations in the West Bank but was calling on the citizens "to hold quiet and nonviolent marches and to avoid entering into confrontations with the occupation in order to avoid harming the Palestinian cause."[27]

Palestinian officials justified their opposition to escalating the struggle by saying that it would serve Israel, "which is trying to drag the Palestinians into a third intifada" in order to evade international pressure.[28] At the same time, columnists in the Palestinian press made a different claim – that the PA fears that escalation in the region would lead to anarchy, and could serve Hamas in its bid to take over the West Bank.

Hani Al-Masri, a top official in the PA Information Ministry and a columnist in the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote: "It is not hard to infer that a crucial group in Fatah, the PA, and the PLO is opposed to an intifada, fears it, and is taking action to prevent it, because it would challenge the PA and its ability to rule instead of viewing [the PA] as one of the pillars of national liberation. Proponents of this view explain that despite everything, the establishment of a Palestinian state is near, and an intifada will [only] bring destruction and disaster without achieving a thing. They do not say this out loud, but behind closed doors they reiterate that if Fatah begins an intifada, it will not be able to control it or end it [when it wishes to], and that Hamas will continue the intifada and reap its fruits...

"The third intifada will surely come to pass, because the Palestinian people cannot accept the continuation of the occupation, or [believe] that its life will improve under occupation. Therefore, everybody must work now to conduct dialogue, to examine [the option of] and prepare to lead the next intifada, so that it will be able to end the occupation, attain freedom, return [the refugees to their homes, and bring] independence. In order to achieve [these ends], it must be a popular, nonviolent and comprehensive intifada, and it must [waged in such a manner as to] ensure the continuation of the Palestinians' [daily] lives in the course of the struggle."[29]

The chief editor of the Ma'an news agency wrote: "There is no greater danger than the declaration of a disorganized intifada [while the Palestinian people is] in a state of division. [We all] know that [if this happens], each side will try to [exploit] the intifada for its own ends – and this will lead to its defeat and it will boomerang on us. Despite all the boasting in the media and the calls to liberate Jerusalem, none of the [Palestinian] leaders are capable of leading a popular intifada like the first intifada."[30]

Calls to Saudi King 'Abdallah: Rescind Arab Peace Initiative, Mobilize For Jerusalem

Along with the call for the Arab regimes to support the resistance and to sever relations with Israel, a direct call was also addressed to Saudi King Abdallah to rescind the Arab peace initiative and to make good on the threat that he had voiced at the economic summit in Kuwait in January 2009 – that the initiative would not remain on the table for long.

The Islamonline website, which belongs to the Al-Balagh Society (until recently headed by Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi), even published an article titled "The Longed-For Role of Saudi Arabia in the Crisis of the Judaization of Jerusalem," calling on Saudi Arabia to mobilize for the defense of the holy sites and to rescind the Arab peace initiative. The website noted that its Saudi correspondent had not managed to obtain an official response to these calls from the Saudi Foreign Ministry.[31]

'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, who is known for his support for the resistance organizations and for his criticism of the moderate Arab regimes, wrote an article criticizing Saudi clerics who refrained from mobilizing for Al-Aqsa. He called on the king to rescind the Arab peace initiative, and to support Jerusalem as befits his title "Servant of the Two Holy Places." He wrote:

"The Arab intifada in occupied Jerusalem must continue, and must be stepped up. It must earn broader support from the Arab and Muslim peoples. As long as the Israelis want a religious war aimed at the sites holy to Islam, the reaction will likewise be religious, both Muslim and Christian, and in the same measure or in greater measure.

"The Arabs and Muslims have been deceived more than once by American condemnation [of Israel] and by the honeyed promises of peace, [aimed at convincing them] to quell [their] intifadas and [their] anger over the American and Israeli wars in the region, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. [The Muslims] must not be deceived again into burying the new intifada before it grows and becomes stronger.

"The Arab regimes, which remain the pawns of the U.S.'s fraudulent plan, are in their most difficult days. They have proved their helplessness and their failure on all levels, to the point where, in several places, the peoples have begun acting to be rid of them. We have never heard or witnessed such pressures [on these regimes] to rescind the Arab peace initiative as we are seeing and hearing today.

"Clerics in the Muslim world have largely mobilized to help the defenders of Al-Aqsa, but it is interesting that their counterparts in Saudi Arabia – where the Arab peace initiative originated seven years ago – are still silent. [It is interesting] that they have not issued a single fatwa to aid those who are fighting on the Jerusalem front and defending the holy places, [or a fatwa] that charges the Saudi king to rescind the peace initiative and to implement the promise that he himself made at the Kuwait economic summit, namely that the initiative would not stay on the table forever.

"The Saudi king must defend Al-Aqsa mosque, Ibrahimi Mosque [Cave of the Patriarchs] and Bilal bin Rabah Mosque [Rachel's Tomb]. The reaction to these Judaization operations must be the mercy [killing] of the Arab initiative bearing his name... His title and status as the Servant of the Two Holy Places will not befit him if he does not defend Al-Aqsa..."[32]

Saudi Writers: AThird Intifada Will Harm the Palestinian Interest

While the papers published in Saudi Arabia refrained from responding to the calls to renew the intifada and rescind the Arab peace initiative, the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which is published in London, hastened to reject these calls. Tareq Alhomayed, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat editor, wrote that escalating the struggle would harm the Arabs' standing in the international arena and would help Israel evade the current crisis in its relations with the U.S.:

"Today we are witnessing a rare [period of] tension in the U.S.-Israel relationship, and this is taking place against the backdrop of the launch of [indirect] Palestinian – Israeli negotiations and an Israeli announcement that it intends to build new settlements in East Jerusalem…

"Very well, what has this got to do with us? The obvious issue here is not to make – as we usually do – any mistakes that alleviate the pressure from the Israeli side, whether by making irresponsible statements or taking irresponsible actions…

"As for actions, it is up to the Arabs to have courage this time and name and even condemn any party that intends to sabotage this [peace negotiations], regardless of whether they are motivated by the Palestinians or they have the support of any Arab party. It is suspicious that missiles were fired from Gaza during Biden's departure from Israeli territory amidst US discontent of Israel's recent decisions, which is something that promoted Netanyahu to apologize publicly, not to mention resulted in the international quarter condemning Israel's recent decisions with regards to the settlements The firing of rockets reminds us of the absurd operation of rockets being fired during any Israeli Prime Minister's trip to Washington, for as soon as an Israeli Prime Minister's plane lands in Washington then rockets begin to be fired in a clear example of political recklessness…

"It is therefore important for the Palestinians and Arabs to be aware of the necessity of not losing Obama..."[33]

In another article, Alhomayed wrote: "... If Hamas wants to win real popularity, it must act to unite the Palestinian ranks, instead of serving the aims of Iran and prolonging the suffering of the Gaza residents."[34]

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, Al-Arabiya TV director-general and former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, suggested that secret negotiations were in order: "The establishment of a Palestinian state, and genuine peace, will only be attained far from the eyes of the media, [and only if] the negotiators seclude themselves on a remote island until the last page [of the peace agreement is drawn up].

"If they manage to reach an agreement, Netanyahu will be able to take the risk and announce it, and [take] a minimal hit to him and his party. Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] will be able to conduct a referendum among the Palestinians, and thus end his mission; he will accept the citizens' decision.

"Open negotiations, as proven by past experience and by the most recent attempt, push the rivals [i.e. the opponents of peace] to object, to provoke storms of emotion, and to threaten the participants [in the negotiations]. When President Obama began to try to get things moving towards final and decisive negotiations, extremist Jewish groups in Israel began competing to build settlements, with the aim of sabotaging the negotiations. Hamas, Iran, and their supporters hastened to launch a [smear] campaign against Abu Mazen, accusing him of treason, and urged forces on the ground [in that region] to fire missiles [at Israel] and to demonstrate in Jerusalem, with the aim of heavily pressuring Abu Mazen not to negotiate with the Israeli enemy...

"Two years of secret negotiations is the best possible way to execute Obama's two-state plan and [to establish] permanent peace..."[35]

Saudi Columnist: Calls to Defend Al-Aqsa Are Merely Slogans Meant to Serve Iranian Interests

Saudi columnist Suleiman Al-'Oqeili wrote in the Saudi Al-Watan daily that the calls to aid Al-Aqsa were merely slogans aimed at distracting world public opinion from Iran's nuclear program: "It is clear that those who are calling for taking a stand to defend Al-Aqsa mosque don't mean what they say; Al-Aqsa has been in danger for years. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have already made efforts to protect it. Likewise, they have sent donations and aid – not [just] slogans – to support the Arab and Islamic institutions and the Arab residents of Jerusalem. However, it appears that the calls to mobilize [for Al-Aqsa] that we are hearing today are not aimed at defending [the mosque] but at defending [certain] secret nuclear programs that are facing dangers and threats of sanctions.

"The political pressure on Israel is now at its peak, not only from the Arab countries but also from Europe, the U.S. and the U.N. For the first time, there is a consensus in the West regarding the aggressive nature of the Israeli state. The political balance of power has tilted in the Arabs' favor, [while] Israel is the one that is backing down or being asked to back down. Therefore, the big fuss being made by various newspapers and by hard-liners in certain capitals, part of which is a demand to rescind the Arab peace initiative, is just an obligatory ideological reaction meant to denounce the moderate Arab states. This is evident from the curses that they hurl at Saudi Arabia, and from their statements against its clerics and intellectuals, through which they are trying to join the siege on America before America besieges Iran.

"These sycophants exploit sacred causes and pan-Arab interests, but have not raised a single weapon against Israel or spent a single dollar on saving Jerusalem. More than that, they said not one word when Janissary[36] mercenaries from Africa and other countries attacked Saudi Arabia and the Two Holy Places from Yemen, initiating hostilities on the Saudi border and trying to undermine Saudi Arabia's security."[37]

*Y. Yehoshua is Director of Research at MEMRI.


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 492, "An Escalating Regional Cold War – Part I: The 2009 Gaza War," February 2, 2009, An Escalating Regional Cold War – Part I: The 2009 Gaza War.

[2] While at the previous Arab League summit in Doha, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad declared the Arab peace initiative "dead" (Al-Sharq (Qatar), April 2, 2009.), in a March 24, 2010 interview with Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV, he softened his position, saying: "The Arab peace initiative should not be rescinded, because rescinding it means alienation from the sources of validity of the peace process [i.e., U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338], and this will serve Israel's interest. But there is a difference between rescinding it and suspending it..." Al-Manar, March 24, 2010;, March 25, 2010.

[4] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 583, "Syria Regains Pivotal Regional, Int'l Role – The Triumph of the 'Course of Resistance,'" January 29, 2010, Syria Regains Pivotal Regional, Int'l Role – The Triumph of the 'Course of Resistance'.

[6] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 16, 2010; Wafa (PA), March 15, 2010.

[7] Al-Risala (Gaza), March 17, 2010.

[8] Al-Risala (Gaza), March 19, 2010. Likewise, harsh and inciting statements were made by Abdallah Jarbu', deputy minister of religious endowments in the Hamas government (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 2430, Deputy Hamas Minister of Religious Endowments Abdallah Jarbu': Only a Madman Would Think Jews Are Human," March 19, 2010, and by Hamas official Ismail Radhwan (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 2424, Hamas Official Ismail Radhwan: Whoever Refrains from Supporting Jerusalem Will End Up in the Hellfire with the Apes and Pigs – the Jews," March 12, 2010,

[9] Al-Risala (Gaza), March 19, 2010.

[10] The Hamas police force in Gaza has issued orders prohibiting the firing of missiles. See:, March 2, 2010. In a March 20, 2010 interview on Al-Alam TV, Hamas senior official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that the firing of missiles played into Israel's hands.

[11] Al-Risala (Gaza), March 20, 2010.

[12], March 18, 2010.

[13] March 11, 2010.

[14], March 18, 2010.

[15] Qatar TV, March 19, 2010; Al-Sharq (Qatar), March 20, 2010.

[16] Al-Arab (Qatar), March 18, 2010.

[17] On February 27-28, 2010, Iran held a two-day conference on National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine, attended by leaders of the Palestinian resistance factions. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 598, "Iranian Leadership Boosts Efforts to Arouse the Palestinian Masses," March 23, 2010, Iranian Leadership Boosts Efforts to Arouse the Palestinian Masses.

On January 15-17, 2010, the Arab-International Forum for Support of the Resistance held its first conference in Beirut, which was attended by representatives of the Syrian and Iranian presidents. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 586, Resistance Conference in Beirut Declares Resistance's Victory, U.S. Policy's Defeat in Region," February 10, 2010, Resistance Conference in Beirut Declares Resistance's Victory, U.S. Policy's Defeat in Region.

[18] Jam-e Jam (Iran), February 28, 2010. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 586, Resistance Conference in Beirut Declares Resistance's Victory, U.S. Policy's Defeat in Region," February 10, 2010, Resistance Conference in Beirut Declares Resistance's Victory, U.S. Policy's Defeat in Region.

[19] Javan (Iran), March 1, 2010. For a detailed report on Iran's efforts to arouse the Palestinian resistance movements, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 598, Iranian Leadership Boosts Efforts to Arouse the Palestinian Masses.

[20] Al-Watan (Syria), March 18, 2010

[21] Teshreen (Syria), March 21, 2010.

[22] Al-Sharq (Qatar), March 17, 2010.

[23] Al-Sharq (Qatar), March 17, 2010.

[24] Al-Sharq (Qatar), March 18, 2010.

[25], March 14, 2010.

[26] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 20, 2010.

[27],, March 6, 2010.

[28] See, for example, statements by Nimr Hammad, advisor to PA President Abbas, in Al-Sinara (Israel), March 19, 2010; and by PA Minister of Religious Endowments Muhammad Al-Habbash, in Roz Al-Yousuf (Egypt), March 5, 2010.

[29] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 20, 2010. Muwwafaq Matar, columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, claimed that the PA had not altered its position regarding armed violence and that it was adopting the option of popular resistance only, modeled after the protests in the villages of Bil'in and Naalin. See Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 21, 2010.

[30], March 16, 2010.

[31], March 18, 2010.

[32] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 21, 2010.

[33] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 14, 2010.

[34] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 22, 2010.

[35] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 23, 2010

[36] The Janissaries were units of non-Turkish soldiers which served as the guard of the Ottoman sultan and comprised the Ottoman standing army.

[37] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 22, 2010.

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