15 April '11
Posted before Shabbat
"Israel would have to be clearly suicidal to enter today into a process that enables the establishment of another Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria"
Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation)
Middle Eastern Insights
No. 6, 15 April, 2011
Peace needs a very different Arab League approach
The Arab Peace Initiative (API) comprises both positive and negative elements, and I have plenty to say about them. But I would prefer to describe an experience I had that, I believe, reflects the real objective of the API.
Several years ago, I appeared on the Arabic-language satellite channel al-Hurra, which is run by the US State Department, in a discussion of the API. With me on the panel, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was Dr. Muhammad Al Zulfa, diplomatic adviser to King Abdullah. I believe, not without foundation, that he was the brains behind the API, which entered the world as a Saudi initiative presented to the Arab League summit in March 2002 in Beirut.
In the ensuing televised discussion, I argued that the API comprised positive components like recognition of Israel and comprehensive Arab peace with us. The Arab League should, I stated, negotiate with Israel regarding the details. Al Zulfa insisted that Israel must accept the plan word for word without deleting a single letter and implement it, only after which the Arabs would agree to talk to Israel. The Arabs would not negotiate with Israel over anything until the latter completed implementation. Al Zulfa insisted this was a non-negotiable condition.
I went on to offer my opinion on this approach by posing a simple question: would Saudi Arabia accept and implement any proposal whatsoever, down to the most elementary issue, if it had not participated in drafting and determining the conditions? Is there any other Arab state that would agree to be dictated to by a foreign entity? Is it conceivable for Israel to accept a document relating to Israeli national security that has been drafted by the Arab summit without having the right to change a single word?
This approach, as presented by the most important formulator of Saudi foreign policy, projects a sense of superiority and disdain, and broadcasts a clear intent to bring Israel to its knees, to deny it security and return it to the 1948 borders that all agree are not defensible ("Auschwitz borders", according to the late Abba Eban). The Arab desire to tear away the Old City of Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, essentially reflects an Islamic refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish religion and expresses the belief that Islam emerged to replace Judaism rather than coexist with it. (Incidentally, according to this approach, Christianity too lost its role after the arrival of Islam.)
It's my sense that the intention behind the API, as presented in this discussion by its originator, is to create an irreversible situation in which Israel has given up its territorial assets, following which all or some of the Arabs will find excuses for not delivering on their part of the deal. They might cite the "non-return" of demilitarized zones separating Israel and Syria prior to 1967 or of land north of Gaza where the moshav Nativ HaAsara is now located, or some aspect of the refugee problem that is impossible to solve in accordance with refugee demands.
At a time when voices are increasingly heard in Egypt calling for cancelling the peace treaty, Israel has no long-term guarantee that peace, however cold and partial, will survive the revolution there. Jordan's fate, too, is uncertain in view of the wave of unrest sweeping through the Arab world.
Israel would have to be clearly suicidal to enter today into a process that enables the establishment of another Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria after we already have a terror state in Gaza that torments Israel with rockets and missiles made there or smuggled from Iran. There is no country in the world that can guarantee that the Arab League commitment to recognize Israel will be honored by a new Palestinian state, particularly if it is again taken over by Hamas through elections as in January 2006 or a military coup as in June 2007. Will the armies of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Libya come to the territory of a Palestinian state to disperse the Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades or confiscate missiles and mortars from Islamic Jihad?
If the Arab League, led by its summit, wants to persuade Israel to accept the API, it must treat Israel as a negotiating partner and engage in serious discussions of conditions for peace. Once agreement is reached concerning the outline and phases of the peace process, we can discuss the substance of peace. But the words of Mohammad Al Zulfa, spoken to the Arab nation, point to a different outcome: the Saudis and the Arab summit have no intention save the defeat of Israel without a fight, by means of false premises that harbor no commitment to real implementation.
In view of the sorry state of the Arab world today, with key Arab states confronting unprecedented challenges, Israel and the world must wait patiently until the smoke clears. Only then will it be possible to enter into negotiations – nothing less – in which Israel might concede strategic assets.
Published 13/4/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org
Mordechai Kedar is a lecturer in the Department of Bar-Ilan University, an a member of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar-Ilan University
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England....So many thoughts
2 days ago