Middle East

The Arab Initiative for Peace

Veiled Threats, Dire Predictions

Al-Aqsa Brigade
Palestinians duck to avoid a teargas canister in Ramallah, April 26, 2002. At least three people were wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire to prevent roughly 1,000 international peace activists from marching to Yasser Arafat's compound (Photo: AFP).

When the Arab Summit in Beirut issued its peaceful initiative, it came in the form of a text proposing to conclude a comprehensive deal with Israel through obligatory reciprocation. However, it did not give Israel a specified time limit within which to respond. Additionally, among all the other decisions made at the summit, Arab dignitaries did not proffer an alternate course of action nor did they say what they would do if Israel refuses their proposal. If this is indeed what comes to pass, the unfulfilled initiative will come to represent a kind of warning that actually contradicts the spirit of peace advocated by the summit. Even in its present form, the Arab initiative is still equivalent to an implicit warning, because despite the fact that Arab dignitaries and supporters of the initiative refused to answer questions regarding an Israeli rejection in their press conferences, the possibility still remains.

Sharon understands the message of the initiative. He also knows completely that it doesn’t aim to coordinate an agreement with him because he represents the source of the present desperate situation; he understands the plan hopes to win the opinion of the Israeli public in an effort to bring about his fall from power. It is also directed at the United States as a means of improving the U.S. view of Arabs as well as being directed to general world opinion to announce that the Arab side [of the Arab-Israeli conflict] wants peace and has extended the olive branch. However, as Israel is the one that currently refuses peace and prevents a peaceful resolution, it follows through this line of logic that Israel carries the responsibility for what is currently occurring between Israelis and Palestinians. The pertinent question to ask though is: What will happen? What has happened is that Sharon plunged into the battle of his life in an attempt to defend his administration, which was threatened with an [electoral] overthrow, as well as simultaneously satiating his natural disposition and propensity for blood. The result has been the occupation of the Palestinian Authority capital [Ramallah], the surrounding of its president, the killing of dozens, and the arrest of hundreds.

These actions have changed the nature of the present situation radically, and have buried the Oslo agreement under a pile of razed buildings in Ramallah. Therefore there are only two foreseeable possibilities, with no third option in sight: There will either be the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, concurrent with the withdrawal of the army of occupation; or a second disaster equivalent to the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, with the same results and all that it evokes.

Everyone talks about the necessary role that Arabs must take in adding a moderate voice to the conflict, yet without considering their interpretations of this crisis. In the absence of the military option, which Arabs had officially abandoned as they (now) consider peace a strategic choice, the Arab role is limited to material support and political work in international circles to draw the world’s attention to Israel’s violence. Yet in actuality it seems that some Arab governments have both acquiesced in taking a diplomatic back seat and shunned becoming more actively involved in the current crisis. The Arab people possess many cards they haven’t played. What this means is that the governments of some Arab nations have a great deal of interest in business and economic matters. In the case of their continued passivity or instability in the region, the coming years will be similar to the years immediately following the Catastrophe of 1948, when many Arab regimes convulsed and toppled because of pressures from the masses. And it was also when the age of terrorism began.

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