Embracing Arab Peace Initiative

Posted: June 2, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Peace Process, Setting Facts Straight

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AMONG ISRAELI LEFT wing activists, it became a good tone to push for the Arab Peace Initiative – a “comprehensive” proposal, calling for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors – and beyond. Yet another two cents in this piggybank is Danny Rothschild’s “Obama is right” – an op-ed, arguing Barack Obama does the right thing by attempting to align himself with Arab states, in order to reach a – yet, again – “comprehensive” peace deal. Rothschild believes that having an agreement only between Israelis and Palestinians is not a good idea, as it would not bring calm to Israel; instead, an inclusive deal should be reached, which would bring peace not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also to Beirut and Damascus (maybe even Tehran?)

Rothschild is no rookie in the field of negotiations: serving the Israeli Defense Forces’ Intelligence Unit for thirty years, and was even assigned as a head of the Research Brigade – an important post within IDF, giving him wide access to deep knowledge in regards to Israel’s neighbors. This man was also involved in peace talks with both Jordan and Palestinians (eventually leading to 1993 Oslo ‘peace agreement’).

It is also important to understand that Rothschild suffers the “If only” syndrome – as in, “If only Israel would try harder to reach peace deal with the Palestinians…”. I believe the syndrome is clearly visible in conclusion of his article:

Today we are paying the price of our stubbornness and diplomatic inaction over the years. It would have been better for us to initiate and not to wait for Obama and others to come up with initiatives. As we didn’t do it, the world will dictate an initiative to us that we may not like; moreover, those who come up with this initiative may also adopt painful steps against us.

oslo3 I shall forgive the distinguished officer for omitting – deliberately or not – the facts: I believe this is the effect of the IOS (If Only Syndrome) on an average adult. After all, Israel attempted negotiations on several occasions: in 1993, Israel signed Oslo peace deal with PLO’s Yasser Arafat, effectively repatriating him – and his gang of terrorists – from Tunis, where he ran off to following Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon. Oslo agreements were viewed as a great achievement – instead, they brought increase in terrorism against Israeli civilians, leaving scores dead.

Yasser Arafat went even further, unleashing the Second Intifada in October 2000, following then Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer, which included 96 to 97 per cent of West Bank and Gaza (some West Bank territories would be exchanged for ones surrounding Gaza Strip), separation of Jerusalem to Jewish city and Al Quds, and partial return of Palestinian refugees from surrounding Arab states. No Palestinian counter-offer was ever made.

 

MANY, AGAIN, WOULD blame Israel, for it not finding “just” solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees (one also described in the Arab Peace Initiative document) – that is, to allow over two million “refugees” to return into 1967-bordered Israel. You, of course, notice the quotes surrounding the word refugees – that is because when Arab world uses this expression, they not only mean ones who left or was expelled from Palestine in 1967 – but also their children and the children of their children. Arrival of two million “refugees” would effectively diminish Jewish majority of Israel within twenty years – thus finally reaching the goal of destruction of a ‘Jewish’ state.

Let’s get back to the peace initiative, though.

The document, requires:

1) Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

2) Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

3) The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In exchange, the Arab states will:

1) Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

2) Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

The “comprehensive” document, mind you, consists of barely two pages of text.

The UN resolution 194, by the way, is quite biased against Israel on the matter of refugees. The resolution was signed in 1948, just after the Independence War (in which Arab states, in disagreement with UN’s partition of Palestine, attacked Israel), calls for Israel to allow the return of any refugee willing to do so, and compensate ones willing to stay where they are. As there were no Jewish refugees during the war, it is up to Israel to compensate the ones expelled due to actions by their brethren:

…[The General Assembly,] Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations…

You should also note, that millions of Palestinian refugees still live in cramped refugee camps all over the Middle East, rarely given citizenship of the state hosting them – including their children (in high contrast, for example, to WW2 refugees). Thus, it is up to Israel – attacked by its neighbors on several occasions – to find “just” solution to the refugee problem – constantly kept alive by its Lebanese, Jordanian and Syrian neighbors.

The document does not elaborate on the kind of “normal relations” Arab states would hold with Israel, in case latter complies with all demands. Are those the “normal relations” Israel has with Syria, whereby Arab neighbor stays out of direct conflict with Israel, but fuels it by supporting Hizb Allah and Hamas? Or are those “normal relations” Egypt and Israel enjoy – far from friendship, but quite stable?

 

MOST IMPORTANT POINT of all, is that the Arab Peace Initiative – while agreed on during several Summits – was never ratified in any Arab government. While Rothschild clearly keeps this fact far away from your view, you should know, that while leaders talked the talk during Riyadh summit in 2007, then never brought the proposition home, calling for their brothers and sisters to accept Israel if only it would comply to demands.

That, and nothing else, is the main source of skepticism in Israel. Arab leaders wrote us a swell story – full of imagination. Yet, unless they bring it home and such proposal gets approved by full governments of those 22 Arab states, the two pages are not worth the paper they are printed on.

We can all dream. Yet, we would expect a better dream – a more realistic one – from Rothschild, particularly with his experience in the field. Israel should not accept any agreement fully accepted by all Arab governments and states surrounding it. Only then – when those states are ready to acknowledge Israel – as it acknowledges Palestinian will for self-identification – could “comprehensive” agreement be signed.

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