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Palestinians rally in response to Kuwaiti support

Kuwait adopted an unparalleled pro-Palestinian stance by boycotting the US economic workshop in Manama and rejecting the economic plan preceding the introductions of the "deal of the century"; Kuwait's actions were hailed by Palestinians at both the official and popular levels.

Palestinians have been welcoming Kuwait’s stances toward the Palestinian cause with open arms, particularly after Kuwait boycotted the June 25-26 economic summit in Manama, Bahrain. The Gulf nation previously expressed reservations about what has been termed the "deal of the century" peace plan in March.

On June 24, Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah said, “We consent to what Palestinians consent to, and reject what they reject,” which goes in line with the fundamentals of Kuwait’s foreign policy in support of the Palestinian cause.

On the same day, Kuwait’s National Assembly called for boycotting the Bahrain conference, considering it to be a prelude to the deal of the century, and rejected its possible outcomes, saying they would help “squander Arab rights” in the Palestinian territories and seek to “well-establish the [Israeli] occupation.”

Palestinians at both the official and popular levels welcomed the Kuwaiti position. Kuwait was the only Gulf state to boycott the conference in Bahrain. 

The secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, said June 26 that Kuwait’s stances will be written down in Palestinian history. Erekat also voiced gratitude for Kuwait's emir, people, government and National Assembly.

Rami Tahboub, the Palestinian ambassador to Kuwait, said June 26 that Kuwait has become the country that supports the Palestinian cause the most, at all political and economic levels.

Osama al-Shaheen, a member of Kuwait’s National Assembly, told Al-Monitor, “Kuwait’s support for the Palestinian cause has been long-standing and deep-rooted, as an Arab, Islamic and humanitarian cause.”

He added, “Kuwait’s popular and official rejection of the deal of the century is only normal, is in favor of Palestinians, and represents all Kuwaitis, be they the emir, parliament and government. This is added to the popular support which is reflected in the charitable associations that are very much present in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.” 

On July 2, Palestinian activists hung banners in central Gaza City expressing gratitude to Kuwait for boycotting the Manama workshop; there also were large posters of Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and parliament Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem in recognition of their pro-Palestinian positions. 

On June 28, Return March protesters raised Kuwait's flag at the Gaza border. 

Moreover, Yatta, in Hebron governorate, decided to rename “Bahrain Street" for “Marzouq al-Ghanem” instead; the city Salfit in the West Bank renamed a street for him as well.

Palestinians also hoisted the Kuwaiti flag June 27 in Salfit, where both the Palestinian and Kuwaiti national hymns were sung and Palestinian police attended the ceremony inaugurating the main street renamed for Ghanem. 

Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The Kuwaiti position has been exceptionally positive in the face of the deal of the century and conference in Bahrain [in comparison with] the other Arab and Gulf positions.” “I can’t speak of Kuwaiti political and diplomatic support turning into an economic and financial one, but we believe that the Kuwaiti stance is a support for ours in the face of the tremendous US efforts to force us to join the deal of the century,” he added. 

This is not the first time that Kuwait has supported Palestinians in recent years. Kuwait also boycotted the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2019, held April 18 in Bahrain, because of Israeli participation in the congress. Also, Kuwait’s permanent representative to the UN, Mansour al-Otaibi, put forward a draft resolution on the protection of Palestinians at the UN Security Council on May 15, 2018.

Furthermore, Kuwait blocked a US draft statement on May 30 condemning Hamas for firing rockets at Israel at the UN Security Council, and Ghanem lashed out at the Israeli delegation at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Russia on Oct. 19, 2017.

Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau and head of its office of Arab and Islamic relations, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas looks with pride at the Kuwaiti stance that is an expression of the authenticity of its historic roles, most recently the boycott of the summit in Bahrain.” Rishq, who is based in Qatar, also said, “Kuwait's positions alongside the Palestinian people have been a success for its policy and diplomacy. Kuwait’s intrinsic positions are reflected in its ongoing charitable and humanitarian projects in the Palestinian territories and support for the Jerusalemites’ steadfastness.”

He added, “Hence, Hamas perceives the Kuwaiti positions as a strong backup for the Palestinian cause which we look forward to promote and sustain.”

Other Arab countries' positions involving Palestinians have varied. While Saudi Arabia and Egypt support the Fatah movement, Qatar, Turkey and Iran back Hamas. Kuwait, however, espouses balanced stances and maintains good relations with the two sides.

A few days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Kuwait in November 2018, the Gulf country announced it was transferring $50 million in support for the Palestinian Authority budget. 

Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University and former director of the Kuwait Information Office in Washington, told Al-Monitor, “Kuwait has adopted a principled stand [involving] the developments of the Palestinian cause, whether by boycotting the Bahrain summit or opposing the deal of the century. It is well aware that it will bump into the intransigent pro-Israeli US position.” Ghabra added, “I do not know whether or not Kuwait’s political support for Palestinians will turn into a financial and economic support. Yet its financial commitment to the PA, the Gaza Strip and UNRWA continues, despite the fear of being framed by the US for supporting terrorism.” The UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Adel al-Mutair, a Kuwaiti author for Qatar’s Al-Arab daily, told Al-Monitor, “Kuwait has not hesitated in supporting Palestinians. Its diplomacy has been marked with such a support in international forums, although it has not been in line with that of some Arab countries that tend to normalize ties with Israel, and, even worse, have pressured the PA to consent to an unfair settlement with Israel.”

Despite the harmonious relations linking Arab and Gulf states to Washington, Palestinians are hoping that other Arab countries follow in Kuwait’s footsteps, although they are not so sure that such hopes will be fulfilled. As for whether or not Kuwait will boost its financial support for the PA, this could depend on Kuwait's ability to counter possible US objections, although there are no signs pointing at US pressure on Kuwait so far. Still, the United States halted financial aid to the PA earlier this year.

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