Kuwait’s move to restore ties with Palestine is a brave and historic step that, while having come after a long hiatus, must nonetheless be commended.
Memories of the Iraqi invasion continue to evoke strong emotions among Kuwaitis. Any attempt to restore relations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation was until recently considered taboo and controversial. The country’s move to restore relations with Palestinians now, with few voices of opposition, is therefore indicative of the healing of the wounds of the war that started with the Iraqi invasion of August 1990 and left a deep impact on Kuwaiti society, its politics and the regional order. Having restored relations even with Iraq, the country is telling the region and the world that it is moving on.
The occasion serves as a reminder that one man or organisation should not have been assumed to speak for an entire nation then, and perhaps not even now. The contribution of Palestinians had been instrumental in the building of institutions in the Gulf states from the time of their establishment, particularly in the field of education — especially so in the state of Kuwait.
However, this should perhaps also serve as a reminder of the role that Kuwait played in the Palestinian cause, having been the birthplace of numerous figures and movements that were central to the liberation struggle. If relations continue to improve, this may be a first step towards restoring Kuwait’s status as one of the most passionate supporters of the Palestinian cause in the Gulf and the Arab world.