The Warsaw Conference, organized by the US in the Polish capital on February 13-14, has outraged observers in the Arab world who believe their leaders attended the conference merely as “extras” in a pre-planned scenario for normalization of Israeli-Arab ties.
In an editorial piece on Thursday, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm news and opinion website, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the “groom” at the Warsaw conference, and the foreign ministers of Arab countries were “extras” summoned by the US to help normalize Arab ties with the Israeli regime.
While European officials, the main allies of the US in the NATO, had either boycotted the conference or sent low-ranking officials to Warsaw, the Persian Gulf Arab foreign ministers decided to join the new “Warsaw Treaty”, led by the US and Israel, for a war against Iran, said the senior Palestinian commentator, describing it as a humiliation for the Arab world.
“It was painful to see the foreign minister of the former government of Yemen, Khaled al-Yamani, sitting next to Netanyahu and exchanging smiles with him,” Atwan said in his article.
Al-Yamani’s participation in the conference was also condemned by the political bureau of the Yemeni popular movement, Ansarullah, which described it as part of a Zionist-American plot to normalize Arab countries’ ties with Tel Aviv.
The move by the foreign minister of the resigned government of Yemen indicates the moral decline of the mercenary government and its sponsors in the UAE and Abu Dhabi, the Ansarullah said in a statement.
“The Warsaw summit was a shame for all its attendees,” the statement said.
“It was even more painful to see Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi – always praised for his neutral stances and refusal to meddle in disputes among Arab countries – was the only Arab foreign minister to openly meet Netanyahu in front of the camera,” Atwan said in his editorial.
Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Poland.
The meeting between bin Alawi and Netanyahu seemed so embarrassing to Omani media that two major newspapers, Oman and Al-Roya, did not even mention the meeting in their Thursday editions.
The handshake, however, built on another trip Netanyahu made in October when he met with Oman’s sultan, the first such visit in more than two decades.
Kuwait’s cheerleader for normalization
One of Kuwait’s top officials, who had recently said the Persian Gulf country will be the last to normalize ties with Israel, was sitting a small number of seats away from Netanyahu at the conference in Warsaw, said Kuwaiti writer Fajr al-Saeed.
“The deputy Kuwaiti foreign minister is sitting at the same table as the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the opening of the Warsaw conference…..Why has he not withdrawn from the session[?] Has the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry not said that we will be the last state to normalize with Israel[?]” Saeed tweeted Thursday.
Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah had told a Kuwaiti news outlet in January that “Kuwait will be the last country to normalize with Israel.”
The Palestinians, who boycotted the conference, have strongly protested the summit and the participation of Arab ministers.
Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, wrote in a column published by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the Warsaw conference lacked credibility as it aimed to “normalize” the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
“By fully siding with the Israeli government, [the Americans] have tried to normalize the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” he said.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called it “an attempt to bypass” the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, calls on Israel to agree to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. The initiative has been repeatedly endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, 2007, and 2017.
Former Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who represented Riyadh in the Warsaw Conference, tweeted after the summit that he had spoken in support of the 2002 initiative.
However, US special envoy Jared Kushner confirmed Thursday that President Donald Trump’s peace plan won’t be based on the 2002 Saudi initiative.
“I think it was a great initiative, in 2002 when it was done, but it hasn’t produced peace, so if that was the framework under which something would be accomplished then I think that would have been accomplished a long time ago, and then I wouldn’t be doing the duty I’m doing right now to try to bring the people together,” Kushner reportedly said behind closed doors at the Warsaw summit. His words were leaked to the Israeli media.
Netanyahu later confirmed that Kushner had dismissed the Saudi peace plan.
Netanyahu said Thursday that statements by Arab leaders at the Warsaw conference on the Middle East laid the groundwork for the Arab public to accept the normalization of ties with Israel.
The opening dinner Wednesday night of the conference marked “a historical turning point,” Netanyahu told reporters, adding that Arab foreign ministers speaking in front of the world together with Israel about a common enemy was a “process of legitimization of a global and Arab public opinion.”
“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he said.
The four countries Netanyahu was talking about were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Kuwait none of which recognize the occupying regime yet.
Arab leaders play down Palestinian issue in leaked video
Netanyahu’s office later released a video of the closed meeting in which Persian Gulf Arab officials play down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, defend Israel’s “right to defend itself”, and describe Iran as the greatest threat to regional peace.
The video gave a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes contacts the Israeli leader frequently boasts of, but which are rarely seen in public. The video was recorded on a mobile device and it was not clear who took it.
Netanyahu’s office briefly made the YouTube video available to a small group of journalists traveling with him before quickly removing it.
It was unclear whether Netanyahu, who is running for re-election, intended to leak the information or distributed it mistakenly.
But the decision to take the video down indicated the Persian Gulf officials, whose governments do not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, had not consented to its release, Israel’s Ynet online news website said.
“Netanyahu has the right to post joyful tweets and proudly talk of standing by his Arab brothers on the same boat to counter the threat of Iran, but we are sure the joy will not last long, as those who have chosen to be his friend and elected him as their leader do not represent the Arab-Islamic values or even their own nations,” Atwan said in his Thursday piece.
“We do not know how those participating in the summit want to face their own nations, but we are sure the moment they elect Netanyahu as the leader of their new coalition, they will turn Iran into the symbol of resistance and defense of Arab-Islamic societies and their sanctities,” he added.