Alliances between nations as well as between nations and non-state actors appear and disappear, pushed by the tides of history and geopolitics.
NATO is a shadow of its original self, as is the Arab nations’ alliance with the Palestinians. The reason is Shiite Iran, which has seduced the Palestinians away from the Sunni Arab nations and has allied itself with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. As a result, the Arab nations are being forced to reduce their allegiance to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, with which Hamas is vying for political power over all Palestinians.
As the Middle East Media Research Institute reported, Hamas has chosen to ally itself with the Iranian regime and its primary terrorist force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Hamas and the IRGC have been allied at least since late 2017. Yahya Al-Sinwar, Hamas‘ political director, confirmed that in December 2017 when he recounted Hamas‘ agreement with Gen. Qassem Solemani, commander of the IRGC. Mr. Al-Sinwar said Gen. Solemani told him that, “We place all our capabilities at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem.” Mr. Al-Sinwar added that Gen. Solemani “… did not ask [for or] set conditions, or encourage us to employ any specific type of resistance.”
The enormous effect of Hamas‘ shift in allegiance was immediate and the Arab nations’ reactions to it not long in coming. They are, more rapidly than one could expect, distancing themselves from the Palestinians.
The most compelling evidence of the growing gap between the Palestinians and their Arab allies came in an April interview with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In answer to a question about the Jewish people’s right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, he said, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
In that same interview, the prince spoke very harshly of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying that Mr. Khamenei “makes Hitler look good.” The prince’s father, King Salman, tried to reaffirm the Saudis’ commitment to the “Palestinian cause,” but the implications of the prince’s words — and the reason for them — are entirely clear.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the other leaders of Arab states, realize that their nations face an existential threat from Iran. The ayatollahs’ regime has spread its power across Iraq and Lebanon into Syria in an alliance with both Russia and Turkey.
Saudi Arabia, whose greatest fear is a revolt in its eastern provinces by the Shiite majority in those provinces, is leading a coalition of nations fighting a proxy war against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. That war is stalled, but apparently is tilting in the Iranians’ favor. On April 3, the Houthi rebels launched a missile attack on an oil tanker coming out of a Saudi port. Though the ship was not seriously damaged, Iran has encouraged the Houthis to conduct more such attacks and is supplying the missiles to enable them.
Other Sunni nations, such as Jordan, are seriously threatened by their populations of which, in Jordan’s case, a majority identify themselves as Palestinian.
It is perhaps too early to say that history has passed the Palestinians by, but their influence is seriously weakened by the Hamas alliance with Iran. The closer they ally themselves with Iran, the fewer will be the number of Arab rulers who sympathize with the Palestinians.
Orchestrated by Hamas and encouraged by Iran, tens of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have tried to force their way into Israel every Friday for the past few weeks. They rush the border, under the cover of clouds of smoke from hundreds of burning tires, throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli soldiers.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli soldiers defending the border. In past years, these riots would have been used by the Palestinians’ allies — the Arab nations — to bestir international condemnation of Israel. That hasn’t happened because the Arab nations are rapidly coming to understand that the Palestinians are no longer their ally.
This all amounts to an historic opportunity for Israel. It, too, is threatened existentially by Iran. Former President Obama’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran in 2015 had many effects, the least publicized of which is the growing ties between Israel and several of the Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia. It is too much to expect that the Arab nations will drop all outward signs of support for the Palestinians, nor will the European apologists for the Palestinians cease all of their support. But the sun is setting quickly on the Palestinians.
At the same time, Israel is struggling to blunt the threat of Iran’s bases in Syria. Last week, an Israeli air strike on one of those bases reportedly killed several Iranians, including, according to The Investigative Project, the Iranian colonel supervising Iran’s drone flights over Israel.
As the president gathers allies to participate in an attack on Syria in response to its latest chemical weapons attack on civilians, he and our allies should decide to give Israel every support against Iran and its terrorist proxies, including Hamas. Iran is the greatest threat in Syria. It should be dealt with accordingly.
• Jed Babbin was deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”