The Arab world’s attitude towards Israel is “archaic” and needs to be rethought in light of recent developments, including the rise of Iran, said French-Moroccan professor Youssef Chiheb earlier this month.
Speaking to France 24 Arabic TV on Feb. 12, Chiheb said the greatest danger facing the Arab world today was Iran, not Israel.
Youssef Chiheb: “In my opinion, the greater danger that threatens the Arab world is Iran, the Shi’ite movement in the region, and the proliferation of WMDs, and the spread of terrorism in the Sub-Sahara, and the Sahel region. Israel is not an enemy of Morocco. Furthermore, in the past, it provided some intelligence services.”
Interviewer: “This is what certain people in the region are saying.”
Chiheb: “It’s the truth.”
Interviewer: “This is your opinion. Others may think differently.”
Chiheb: “Israel has no problem with Morocco. It does not hate Morocco. In addition, as my colleague said, Morocco is exceptional in the Arab world when it comes to its potential relations with Israel. Morocco is a country that…”
Interviewer: “What kind of relationship can we have with Israel? We saw that Jordan and Egypt have signed a peace treaty with Israel, but it did not change at all what the people feel about Israel. If such a thing happens in Morocco—will there be a peace treaty? How will the normalization proceed? Will Morocco welcome [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, for instance?”
Chiheb: “The Arab world has been brainwashed with anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli rhetoric. But the world has changed and so has the balance of power in the Middle East. Other dangers have risen, globalization has appeared, ideas have changed … The Arab way of thinking towards Israel has become archaic. Israel must be dealt with as an existing state.”
Interviewer: “So the Palestinian cause is over?”
Chiheb: “The Palestinian cause is between the Palestinians and Israel…”
Interviewer: “Isn’t it the number one cause of the Arabs?”
Youssef Chiheb: “I don’t think so.”
Interviewer: “For many years, the Palestinian cause has been the number one cause of the Arabs.”
Chiheb: “It was in the old days, but it’s over. It was part of the common tune, but all the Arab regimes have used the Palestinian cause for domestic purposes. No Arab leader has offered any solution for the Palestinians.
“Jerusalem and Palestine were lost in 1999, when Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were in Morocco, and then moved to Washington under the auspices of [U.S. President Bill] Clinton, who said that they had been given the opportunity of a lifetime—not the deal of the century, but an opportunity of a lifetime—to put their pride aside and sign an agreement. The late chairman Arafat was about to sign, but then the
Arab countries intervened and accused him of treason. In our Arab way of thinking, we are still the victims of the Crusader wars. We still believe that within every Arab person there is a Saladin al-Ayoubi. The world has changed.”