This Time, Israel Is Missing an Historic Opportunity
This Time, Israel Is Missing an Historic Opportunity
Fulfilling a 60-year old Israeli dream and an American unwavering strategy, the 22-member League of Arab states are now in consensus on a potentially groundbreaking Arab Peace Initiative (API), which pledges their collective and full recognition of the Jewish state and full-fledged permanent peace in return for withdrawing the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to 1967 lines, the establishment of an independent Palestine with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, and â€œan agreed, just solutionâ€ to the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with United Nations Resolution 194, but both Washington and Tel Aviv are not forthcoming.
The API was a dramatic reversal of decades-long policy as well as a peace offensive. It was approved in
The historic potentials of the API were acknowledged by the international Quartet of Middle East mediators, comprising the
Arab leaders seemed recently to follow up on their initiative for the first time with a diplomatic offensive that started ahead of their
The API was for five years archived into oblivion on the shelves of the Arab League, rejected by
Seeking to break through
â€œToday, I must speak; I cannot be silent,â€ the Jordanian monarch repeated to
Indicating that thirteen years on since late King Hussein, his father, and Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, were in Washington pursuing the cause of peace, the â€œwork is still not completed,â€ the â€œongoing crisisâ€ has failed eleven American presidents and thirty American congresses, and incumbent President George W. Bushâ€™s â€œvisionâ€™â€ of a two-state solution risks to remain merely a vision for ever, unless the U.S. rises up to the â€œchallenge,â€ plays â€œan historic role,â€ and uses its â€œunrivalledâ€ potentials and â€œunprecedented powerâ€ to seize on the â€œindeed historic, moment of opportunity,â€ made possible by the API.
â€œThe wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond is the denial of justice and peace in
The Jordanian monarchâ€™s message was also that of his Arab counterparts. He met with the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian leaders, King Abdullah and President Hosni Mubarak, ahead of his
Their leading role as well as the
Abdullah IIâ€™s appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears on the Capitol Hill; so far it has created no official forthcoming reaction, thus providing the necessary inaction for
Criticism of the six decade-old
This strategy has all along played into Israeli hands, backed up all Israeli expansionist wars justified by Tel Aviv as pre-emptive, preventive and defensive, but in the end boiled down to being simply aggressive military conquests with two major aims: to grab more Palestinian land for the ongoing colonial Jewish settlement and to maintain Arab land under Israeli occupation as a bargaining chip to blackmail and dictate further Arab concessions. This is the strategy that has been fuelling anti-Americanism among hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims because literary it has turned the
The latest Israeli par excellence exploitation of this strategy was recently illustrated vis-Ã -vis the API.
Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, went this month to Brussels then to Washington to reconfirm Israelâ€™s rejection of the Arab offer, citing two non-starters: First the stipulated â€œagreed upon, justâ€ solution of the Palestinian refugees problem on the basis of the UN resolution 194, which is â€œcontrary to the principle of two states,â€ and Second what she described as the Arab â€œdreamâ€ of withdrawing the IOF to their pre-1967 lines. Identifying these two points as â€œred lineâ€ she told AIPAC nonetheless the Saudi plan has â€œpositive elements,â€ but the â€œoriginalâ€ Saudi plan, not the one adopted by the Arab League!
Livni was drawing on President Bushâ€™s letter of guarantees to the comatose former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, on April 14, 2004, which was condemned by Arab Palestinians as a â€œsecond Balfour Declarationâ€ because it pledged
The simple interpretation of Livniâ€™s objections:
Changing the API would break up Arab consensus on it, which is its most effective asset that makes the collective peace offer credible and an historic turnabout opportunity.
Arab League Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, warned on record: â€œArab peace initiative expressed an Arab consensus and will not be redrafted as demanded by some foreign powers. Watering downâ€ the plan would be â€œa strategic mistakeâ€ that could lead to new bloodshed. â€œThe Arab initiative is not open for review.â€ Similarly GCC secretary-general, Abd Al-Rahman Al-'Atiya, said the Gulf countries were opposed to changes to the API. Syria warned she â€œabsolutely rejected for some hostile fingers to toy, directly or through brokers, with the agenda of the (upcoming) summit so that its decisions would come in harmony with the Israeli and American interests.â€
The Arab diplomatic campaign however has had weight enough to corner Israel into defensive tactics. The Israeli maneuvering between the â€œoriginalâ€ and the â€œadoptedâ€ API is one tactic; another was Prime Minister Ehud Olmertâ€™s statement on Sunday -- hours ahead of a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem -- that Israel â€œwas ready to take seriouslyâ€ the Arab plan, hoping the upcoming Arab summit would bolster its â€œpositive elements.â€ Abbas reportedly spent three quarters of their two-hour meeting trying to convince Olmert of the official API.
The wide political spectrum components of Israelâ€™s incumbent cabinet of Olmert will go down into history as the government that has let its people down by manoeuvring to blackmail Arabs into an unattainable better deal than the best deal Israel has ever had and could ever have to realize its sixty-year old dream of being recognized and accepted as an integral part of the Arab and Muslim Middle East. Israeli peaceniks seem too marginal to have any say among the main stream decision-makers where the species of Avigdor Lieberman hold the upper hand on strategic issues.
Israeli leaders used to mock Arab leaders as the masters of missing opportunities. This time, Israel is the party who seems determined to miss a real historic opportunity.
*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
(1) Frida Ghitis, http://worldpoliticswatch.com, Oct 10, 2006. (2) The Age Online, Oct. 10, 2006.
(2) Jordanâ€™s King Abdullah II, Speech to U.S. Congress, March 7, 2007.
(3) Linda S. Heard, onlinejournal.com, March 7, 2007.
(4) (Petra, March 10, 2007.