Brainstorming with Avi Shlaim


Avi Shlaim is an Israeli British neo-historian who had criticised the Zionist movement. He is originally a rich Iraqi who migrated to Israel in 1950 when he was five years old. He enlisted in the Israeli forces and confesses that one of his mistakes was to vote for the Likud Party as most Jews from the Arab world.

He has written a number of books, including ” Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine”, “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World” and his celebrated biography of His Majesty the late King Hussein titled “Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace”. Shlaim lives in England, where he had done his studies and is married to the great granddaughter of British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George, who was serving when the Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2, 1917.

I had the chance to listen to his lecture last week at the British ambassador’s residence and to have dinner with him the next evening with a limited group of people.

The man is honest, and severely critical of the Likud Party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he believes succeeded, with the help of US President Donald Trump’s administration, to replace Israel with Iran as the Arabs’ top enemy.

Professor Shlaim predicts with certainty that the British are the ones responsible for the creation of Israel, and all their mandate policies were dedicated to enabling Jewish migrants occupy lands in historical Palestine.

His reading of the Israeli society is that they do not want to make peace with their neighbours nor do they seek to become part of the Middle East. They prefer to maintain strategic relations with a super power. It was the UK and France until 1966, now it is the US and they are cementing their relations with China. The awarding of the Haifa Sea Port to China to run signals Netanyahu’s intentions to build formidable relations with this rising world power.

The most disturbing news which Professor Shlaim brought to his audience was that Jordan is being subjected to political and economic pressure in order to accept the peace deal of Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, the current US ambassador in Israel.

To him, such a peace deal, at best, calls for the creation of a tiny Palestinian entity in the West Bank with Abu Dis as its capital in addition to the Gaza Strip. Jordan is expected to be, as Shlaim puts it, “the subcontractor of Israeli security on the West Bank Palestinian enclave”; a role both the late King Hussein and His Majesty King Abdulla adamantly reject.

If Jordan insists, then it would be pressured into becoming the alternative homeland of the Palestinian people.

These dismal readings of the near future are alarming. It is now Jordan’s turn to show its mettle. Cohesiveness, unity and biting the bullet are the recipe to sustaining pressures and withering the toxic winds from the West.

Such solutions to the Palestinian rights are but futile efforts. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, cutting funds to UNRWA, closing the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s diplomatic missions in the USA and freezing aid to the Palestinian authority are all but unilateral decisions. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor Jordan should sign any bilateral or multilateral arrangement. With their individual or combined signatures, all this hot air called “the deal of the century” will fade into oblivion.

According to Shlaim, Israel may be powerful now, but in a decade or two it will run out of steam. That is what usually happens to apartheid regimes.


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