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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Palestine Waits for The Arabs

US lawmakers have slapped the Palestinians with a $200m cut in aid as punishment for pushing ahead with full UN recognition. For many, this shows how out of touch the US Congress is with all the serious warnings against such a move not only from friends of the US but from Israeli officials as well.

The aid would have benefited education, food aid and healthcare projects in the Palestinian territories. Israeli officials have said repeatedly that a viable Palestinian state is in Israel’s national interest. Cutting aid off at this juncture will create more stress and unnecessary pressure on both Palestinians and Israelis who are trying to figure out a way to go back to peace negotiations. Worse yet, it won’t make the Palestinians change their mind about their unwavering request for full UN recognition.

If the lawmakers are concerned about “tarnishing” their pro-Israel image, many experts have said that is not necessary. Former President Bill Clinton said it best, “Everybody knows the US Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world. They don’t have to demonstrate that.”

What should be concerning to all Arabs is the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has respectfully and legally requested full membership in the world body. A right Palestinians have been unsuccessfully trying to achieve for 63 years. The US Congress is punishing it for an action officially supported by all Arab nations and the majority of UN members.

But, what is $200m in the big scheme of things? How much is that in the ongoing Arab competition over who builds the tallest building or tower in the world? Once we learn that this amount is less than what the fountain at a famous Gulf landmark has cost, the answer becomes easy.

If I were an Arab leader, I would cut spending at just one major project and dedicate the money to building a Palestinian state. This would send a positive and firm message to the US that while Arabs know very well where the US priorities lie, they also know where they stand and they put their money where their mouth is.

The only way towards fair peace talks for all is when Arabs stand firm behind Palestine just as the US stands firm behind Israel. Arabs cannot be fair arbitrators in this conflict but they can certainly play a role by footing some bills individually or collectively.

With the beginning of autumn, a new opportunity presents itself to make a difference; not only in the lives of Palestinians as they seek an independent state but for the entire region. Arab leaders should get inspired by the youthful energy of the Arab Spring to rise and revive the glory they once represented and raise their name high and play a role in the shaping of their region not just their own standing each on their territory.

Will this week bring any new philanthropic, political or entrepreneurial initiatives to make the world pay attention to who Arabs really are? Or will they continue to send the message of division, individuality and dismemberment on issues that should matter to all of them?

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