Modi changes narrative
India-Israeli ties: Reality sinks in for Arab friends.
The bonhomie in Tel Aviv between 'dosts' marks a tectonic shift in India's so-called appeasement policy on the domestic front, while it unleashes the energy of a nuclear explosion in bilateral relations with Israel. The two countries have inked a number of deals to cooperate in technology, water and agriculture in all of which the Israelis enjoy unmatched supremacy and opens the prospects of the two countries working together in more areas, including nuclear and defence technologies. Already bilateral trade is expected to increase from the present $5 billion to $20 billion in five years.
In any country's relationship with Israel, a third element comes into play automatically, which is Palestine, until not long ago the Muslim identity's most powerful unifying factor before it was usurped by the all-pervasive jihad at least in the case of a sizeable section of the community identifying itself with more strident approaches.
So, why did it had to be Narendra Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, despite the cordial relations between the two countries, is well-known to anyone familiar with India's domestic politics and therefore, needs no reiteration. Modi seems to have decided that the risk of Muslims feeling alienated is perhaps worth taking, given the impressive performance of the ruling alliance in recent elections, whatever may be the reasons for that. In short, the posturing of the Indian Establishment on the issue of Palestine hitherto was shaped by vote bank politics and this is what the proceedings in Tel Aviv have changed.
Now it will be of interest to see the implications of this change on the Arab approach towards New Delhi. Already there have been expressions of disappointment and suggestions that Modi should have first visited Palestine. But beyond such muted reactions, the Arab response is unlikely to lead to anything substantial, given that the issue of Palestine itself has gone through a process of metamorphosis.
The Arabs love to hate the Israelis, but cannot do without their technology. The glitzy superstructures that dot the landscape of the Gulf Arab capitals and the captivating greenery on their deserts and palace grounds are all created using Israeli technology. Specifically, the self-working sprinkler irrigation system that waters the opulent gardens of the Gulf's royals is a product of Israeli innovation. It is a different matter that these have come from third countries, which import Israeli products and then re-export.
No one can deny that Palestine is a real tragedy. But a bigger tragedy is the fact that the leaders who are supposed to be spearheading the liberation of the unfortunate people pursue their own agenda. Palestine has, in fact, has evolved into a big industry, with billions of donor money at stake and for these people finding a solution to the Palestine issue would be like killing the golden goose. This is as much true in the case of the legendary Yasser Arafat, the proclaimed 'brother' of the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose portrait prints on T-shirts evoked such admiration among intellectuals of his time, similar to the face of Che Guevara, who has remained an icon of revolutionary zeal for generations of youth all over the world.
TIME weekly once carried a story on Arafat's mysterious billions, which it estimated, with the help of Israeli intelligence reports, to be worth $3 billion in the mid-1990s. But it said that by the time of his death, he was down to his last $1 billion. The story then detailed how investigators followed Arafat's money trail for years in an effort to find out how the billions of dollars donated to the Palestinian cause had been spent. "Although many details of Arafat's financial dealings remain murky, the evidence suggests that by his death, the Palestinian leader had squandered much of the fortune he had built in the name of his people," it said. The weekly said that before the 1991 Gulf War, Arafat received millions of dollars from the Gulf states, including at least $50 million a year from Saudi Arabia, but Palestinians working in the Gulf countries were subjected to a tax to raise money for the welfare of the 4 million Palestinian refugees. According to the magazine, most of this money went to finance "military operations" and buy the support of cronies. Funds started to dry up following Arafat's backing of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. Gulf countries stopped supporting him and expelled most of the Palestinian workers, which in turn cut off his tax revenue. Now, Arafat stands disgraced for all the scams, while his movement itself is left with little credibility.
It appears that the Palestine issue will never get solved because those are supposed to do that have no real interest in solving the tangle. For them, the benefits of the issue hanging fire by far outweigh the gains expected of a settlement. This explains why so many attempts to reach a settlement could not reach their logical conclusion although those who were behind such initiatives were the world's mightiest and enjoyed the power and clout to influence the course of history.
And in the course of all this, many leaders of the militant Palestine liberation elements have landed up in the jihadi camp and now swear by the much larger cause of Islamic nation and no more consider the Palestine cause as the basis of Muslim identity. Some of them, such as the Hamas, which led the armed struggle for the liberation of Palestinian lands, have since been branded terrorists. Incidentally, support for Hamas is one of the reasons attributed by Saudi Arabia and its followers to the diplomatic isolation of Qatar. This in a way explains to what extent Palestine emotes the Muslims these days. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)