Warsaw Conference Highlights Struggling Middle Eastern Peace Efforts
The two-day Warsaw Conference for peace in the Middle East, which ran from Feb. 13-14, resulted in little progress towards cooperation between Middle Eastern governments. Led by the United States, it appeared as if the conference was an effort to isolate Iran, who was not invited. In response to hostility toward Iran, Lebanon announced a few days prior to the conference that they would not attend.
President Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, told an anti-Iran rally hours before the conference that Iranian leaders are “assassins, they are murderers and they should be out of power.” America’s European allies, Britain, France, and Germany, were hesitant to participate in a conference meant to target Iran. The conference occurred about a week after Germany, France, and the UK announced efforts to facilitate trade with Iran, in an attempt to avoid US sanctions and enable Iranian oil trade.
Another focus of the conference was on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the importance of considering a US-proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. He also noted that in order for “Israel to be at peace or normalize relations with the broader Arab world, we must have Israel and Palestinian peace.” Shehab al-Makahleh, CEO of Geostrategic Media and a Middle East political analyst based in Jordan is critical of Netanyahu’s rhetoric and supposed efforts to deepen relations with Arab-Gulf governments. Arab countries are nervous that normalization with Israel would come “at the expense of Arab states [and would] put the burden on these countries to absorb many Palestinians, depriving the latter of their national identity.”
Palestinians have condemned some Arab countries’ deepening relationship with Israel, such as Oman. Secretary General of the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat called Arab countries' signal of normalization with Israel a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people.” Erekat pushed those working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians to look to international resolutions, international law, and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Highest Commission of the Great March of Return organized a social media-based campaign that opposes normalization with Israel, called “No for normalization. Normalization is betrayal.” Nisrin al-Sadi, a female activist from the West Bank, tweeted “every day, the occupation (Israel) commits all kinds of crimes against the Palestinian people and in return Arab leaders are hurrying up to normalize ties with it.”
Yemen’s Supreme Political Council responded to Minister of Foreign Affairs of the exiled Hadi government Khaled al-Yamani’s attendance at the conference on Feb. 15: “the Republic of Yemen denies its participation in this forum and that al-Yamani does not represent Yemen,” calling the Conference one of “humiliation and shame.”
The two day conference generated backlash from activists in light of small efforts towards normalization between some Arab countries and Israel; and tension between the US and Germany, France, and the UK were evident over anti-Iran rhetoric. The conference highlighted the complex regional and international power struggles and clarified the near-impossibility of peace that centers on efforts from superpowers such as the US or Russia.