For many years we’ve seen the division between “Arabs of the north” and “Gulf Arabs.” The Arabs of the north reside in our area: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians; Gulf Arabs reside in the south; and Iraq is the borderline country.
The Arabs of the north underwent great upheavals: Military revolutions, liberal monarchies, socialist revolutions, Arab nationalism, political Islam, blood and violence, peace with Israel, political adventures, raging demography, and assassinations. Meanwhile, Gulf Arabs enjoyed tranquility. These relaxed countries did not experience colonialist conquests – even the Turks barely made it to that remote region, as they had very little interest in it.
Oil changed everything, of course, with those who were inferior becoming superior, and vice versa.
Until the 1970s, there were clear rules in the Middle East: The Arabs of the north were the leaders and commanders, while Gulf Arabs donated money. In the 1990s, the system started to change, when a new generation of Gulf leaders sought to also take a leading role in the Arab world – first in the economic sphere, and then in the media sphere. Yet they were halted in the political sphere.
In the last three years, the process has been decided and completed. When the price of an oil barrel reached $100, the Middle East changed as well and Saudi Arabia became the Arab world’s political leader. The price of oil led to a frightening phenomenon: Gulf Arabs accumulated imaginary wealth, while Arabs of the north went broke.
States in the Arab north are sinking under the weight of huge birthrates, dry ideology, desperate unemployment, dysfunctional bureaucracy, and jammed capital cities that devour oil. Despair reigns as oil becomes more expensive. On the other hand, wealth and happiness are on the rise among Gulf Arabs.
Who cares about Palestinians?
One hundreds dollars a barrel is the clear and measurable distance between happiness and growing despair. This is how less than 10% of all Arabs rule all the rest these days – through oil. This is how Gulf states rule Arab politics, as they can reach every corner with money and aid.
Who exactly cares about the miserable Palestinians? Gulf rulers throw a few million dollars in their direction once in a while – pathetic sums of money in their view; charity. In the past they were hiding behind the fake solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, but today they simply ignore them. The Palestinians, Egyptians, and Lebanese became transparent in their eyes. All of this is the result of $100 a barrel.
The northern states are watching this spectacle with great anger, like rulers who went bankrupt. They despise Gulf Arabs and view them as ignorant cousins who just arrived from the desert. This is why we can understand the insulted response of northern states to Dubai’s grand venture, aimed at translating Western literature into Arabic.
The Arab states in the north always took pride in their culture. When they went bankrupt, they at least had their culture as a source of pride. Now come these “barbarians” from the desert and take away their last comfort.
Israel can only gain from those momentous Middle Eastern shifts. It now faces regimes and societies that are less committed to the hatred of the region surrounding us.
Will the proud Arabs of the north accept the rule of Gulf Arabs who they view as a “slave becoming king?” Not at all. Saddam Hussein dared challenge this order in 1990 when he occupied Kuwait and attacked Saudi Arabia, yet a foreign power that was stronger than him pushed him back. In 20 or maybe 30 years, when there is no more oil and the Western patronage ends, the Arabs of the north will rise up against Gulf Arabs and retake the region, through cruel and vengeful Mideastern violence.