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Edition 6 Volume 2 - March 16, 2011

"Security for all the states of the region"
Middle East security from a Palestinian perspective  - Mkhaimar Abusada
Security for all states of the region can be provided through education and coexistence.

The API and the regional security deal  - Amor Boubakri
The main security challenge for Israel does not come from Arab states, but from non-state military organizations and groups.

The API promise of security is insufficient  - Shlomo Brom
It leaves us with a long list of unanswered questions.

The Arab world cannot deliver  - Efraim Inbar
Arab military contingents are not likely to be trustworthy peacekeepers.

Middle East security from a Palestinian perspective
 Mkhaimar Abusada

The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 stipulates that the Arab countries "consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region". This, in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in June 1967, a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194, and the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The issue of security is considered a significant value to all states in the region, but more essential to Israel. The question is what do we mean by "security"? Who will provide security to whom? The Arab countries provide security to Israel or vice versa? Does Israel need Arab protection? Can the Arab countries guarantee the security of Israel? Who is threatening the existence and the stability of the other?

Security can be defined as a degree of protection against danger, damage, loss, and criminal activity. Security is also defined as freedom from risk, danger, or freedom from doubt, anxiety, and fear. It means confidence and safety, or the state of being secure.

The clause "provide security for all the states of the region" affirms that the Arab countries collectively will provide security for all the states of the region, but specifically to Israel. The significance of the clause emanates from Israeli propaganda that it is surrounded by radical Arabs and fanatic Muslims who wish to throw the Jews into the sea. Therefore, the Arab countries promise to provide security to Israel.

But, turning back to the Arab-Israel conflict, insecurity originates from occupation and repression that breed hate and revenge across the Middle East. The roots of violence and acts of revenge can be minimized once dignity and respect is restored to all individuals of the region. It is not my intention to repeat old mantras that the Israeli occupation of Arab land is the source of instability in the region, but it must not be neglected.

Providing security shall mean educating the people of the region in the culture of peace, forgiveness, dignity and respect for all. It also must include prohibition of incitement in school curriculum, the media, and by political leaders. Ending the occupation, solving the refugee problem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state shall not be the end game, but rather acceptance of the other and normalizing relations can be the bricks of permanent security, stability, and coexistence.

It is very doubtful that the Arab states, themselves no longer immune from internal crises, can guarantee their own security. The Arab countries frequently turn to the United States and their western allies for assistance in combating violence and terrorism on their own soil. Yemen and other Gulf countries have very recently sought help from the United States to fight against al-Qaeda and its operatives, as well as the use of US intelligence to prevent terror attacks.

The Middle East is changing very rapidly around us. Old regimes that were considered very stable and immune from revolution and internal threats have collapsed. Other regimes are on their way to either adopt political reforms or vanish, just like Tunisia and Egypt.

The name of the game is change and political reform across the Middle East. Democracy, respect for human rights, and rule of law are the new slogans of the Arab youth. There is no doubt that these principles will provide security and stability for all the people of the region. Occupation, repression, and dictatorship are no longer tolerated across the region.

Security for all states of the region can be provided through education and coexistence. I doubt that stockpiling of weapons and ammunition or even nuclear weapons can guarantee the security of all states of the region. It can deter some countries or semi-state actors from threatening each other, but teaching the culture of peace can save money, time, and provide security.

The Arab Peace Initiative needs to be revised. All countries in the region need to cooperate and provide security to all states in the region. The Arab countries as well as Israel are not immune from acts of violence, therefore it must be a collective effort by the whole region. A new approach must be designed to safeguard the principles of human dignity and respect for all.-Published 16/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api

Mkhaimar Abusada is professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza

The API and the regional security deal
 Amor Boubakri

The Arab Peace Initiative promises to "provide security for all the states of the region". These provisions are at the core of the offer made by Arab states in their initiative to Israel and represent a solemn commitment to withdraw the threat of war and the use of arms in the resolution of problems related to territorial claims in the region.

The security clause displays a serious willingness to adopt a permanent armistice that would end all hostilities between the Arabs and Israel. This is the first time that security is perceived as a mutual and peaceful requirement between these states. Previously, security had been mainly perceived as obtained by eradication of the other party; war was the strategic choice.

The security clause should bind both Arabs and Israel and could not work only one way. Each party would have to observe the same obligation toward the other party. However, the real meaning of the clause would definitely differ from one party to another.

For Arab states, the obligation to provide security means that all of them would refrain from attacking Israel in the future. This supposes that they admit Israel has the right to a peaceful existence within the 1948 boundaries. Such provisions would be minimally a pleonasm and useless to Israel, which has not been subject to attacks from Arab states since the war of October 1973, save the episodic attacks by Saddam Hussein in January 1991. The API does not represent an innovation for Israel on this point since it reflects a well-established reality.

Indeed, the main security challenge for Israel does not come from Arab states, but from non-state military organizations and groups. These organizations are allies of some Arab states that can influence their attitudes, while not totally controlling them. As a result, it would not be easy in reality to ensure true security in the region, as long as some non-state actors do not accept the API. All wars in recent years were between Israel and these actors. These were the wars on Lebanon in 1982 and 2006 and the war on Gaza in 2008-2009. This situation means that a serious peace initiative for the region should not exclude these actors, which represent an important part of the public. (In truth, the Arab regimes are not faithfully representing their populations and their ability to make a genuine peace and ensure its effectiveness is doubtful.)

In addition, the security clause also means that Israel would be obliged to refrain from using military force as a condition for regional security. This implies that it would withdraw its theory of preventive war used as an alibi for many attacks against Arabs.

The regional security issue in the Middle East should not be limited to Arab states since it extends also to non-Arab states like Iran. Hence, the obligation of non-attack could extend beyond these states to include Iran and Turkey, for example. A serious commitment to security requires, indeed, that Israel restrain itself from making war against countries like Iran to avoid the regional implications of such actions.

The security clause implies, also, that Israel must withdraw its nuclear weapons program. The mere existence of this program represents a threat to the security and stability of the whole region since it obliges other states to launch their own programs and encourages, in the same way, the acquisition of the most sophisticated equipment for these programs, in order to maintain the terror equilibrium.-Published 16/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Amor Boubakri teaches at the University of Sousse in Tunisia.

The API promise of security is insufficient
 Shlomo Brom

The Arab Peace Initiative states that if Israel resolves the conflict with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon according to the principles it lists, the Arab states will "consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region". Further on, the API adds that realization of the initiative will enable "the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity."

These two security-related statements in the API are very general. They do not specify how "security for all" will be achieved other than through the inherent security benefits granted by peaceful neighborly relations. This is a bit odd, taking into account the importance for Israel of credible security arrangements accompanying present and future peace agreements with its Arab neighbors. It reflects to a great extent a general Arab attitude that security is achieved by peace agreements in and of themselves, insofar as they change the nature of the relationship between the parties to these agreements. Thus, further demands by Israel for security arrangements are superfluous, especially when they infringe on certain attributes of Arab states' sovereignty.

The Arab states that composed the API were nevertheless probably aware of what they usually describe as the Israeli "obsession" with security. Hence they thought they should include these few references to security in the text of the API. Still, the wording reflects their general disregard for this parameter of future agreements.

The API clearly emphasizes that security should be provided to all. This is of course a basic principle of international law and is welcomed by Israel. Still, it evades the question of how security to all is achieved; it avoids one of the thorniest issues that arise when Israel negotiates peace with its neighbors.

Usually, Israel-Arab peace agreements are based on the principle of territories for peace, namely Israel is giving back territory that it occupied during the war in 1967 and gets peace in return. The Israeli position is that the mere transfer of control over these territories has severe security consequences for it because of the small size of Israel's territory, the lack of strategic depth and the dominant topography of some of these areas. Hence, Israel has to be compensated through suitable security arrangements.

From the standpoint of the Arab party to the agreement, the situation is exactly the opposite. The mere withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from these territories substantially improves their security situation. Therefore, security arrangements should not be equal and symmetrical on both sides for the agreement to grant them the same level of security.

There are additional implications of the analysis of security in the API for the usefulness of this document as a tool that can facilitate Arab-Israel peace negotiations. First, the API's generality and lack of emphasis on security are not very helpful in marketing it to the Israeli side. It might be helpful if the Arab parties that wish to market the API to Israel were willing to discuss in greater detail what they mean by "security for all". What are the implications of this general proposition for the nature of security arrangements that should be included in peace agreements?

Another question that remains unanswered by the API is what the Arab states are willing to do to directly support security arrangements in future bilateral agreements with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon. Are they willing to provide security guarantees? Of what kind? Would they participate in third-party peacekeeping forces?

Another needed clarification is what the states that are not party to bilateral agreements with Israel are willing to contribute to the realization of "security for all" that includes Israel. The answer to this question should be divided into two parts. The first one deals with possible Arab state contributions within the framework of future bilateral relations with Israel. Would Arab states be willing to establish security cooperation with Israel in areas such as fighting terrorism, preventing transfer of weapons to non-state actors, and missile defense?

The second aspect is regional. Here the question is what these states are willing to do multilaterally. Are they willing to establish a new multilateral security regime? What would be its nature? It could be collective, in which the regional parties agree to define common threats and commit themselves to cooperate in fighting these threats, or cooperative, in which the parties agree on mechanisms that will deal peacefully with security conflicts among them. It could also be a combination of both. This could provide multilateral tools for dealing with essential security issues. Multilateral cooperation on terrorism, weapons transfers and missile defense can be more effective than mere bilateral cooperation.

In conclusion, the meager reference to security in the Arab Peace Initiative does not provide us with sufficient tools to facilitate bilateral agreements. It leaves us with a long list of unanswered questions.-Published 16/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.

The Arab world cannot deliver
 Efraim Inbar

The Arab Peace Initiative is a positive development, as it accepts the state of Israel and displays willingness to enter into peace agreements with it. Unfortunately, its "take it or leave it" approach prevents Israel from engaging the Arab League in any sort of meaningful dialogue.

The Arab League's offer to "provide security for all states of the region" in return for Israel meeting API conditions highlights the problematic nature of the API. The attempt to ease Israel's legitimate security concerns indicates a misunderstanding of Israel's psyche and approach to national security problems. Moreover, this API clause is disconnected from regional realities, particularly in light of recent Middle East developments.

Israel has always emphasized self-reliance as part of its national security doctrine. Such a "go it alone" orientation is rooted in the Jewish historic experience of living in a hostile world. In the early years of the state, Israel faced diplomatic woes as well as difficulties securing a reliable supplier of adequate arms. Here, self-reliance led to the establishment of a large military industry, capable of producing an array of weapon systems, and to the development of nuclear capabilities.

Despite Israel's preference to be part of the western security architecture in its region, Israel has never formally been an integral part of any alliance since before the Cold War. After a short period of seeking security guarantees from the West and dashed hopes of belonging to NATO in the 1950s, Israel realized that only self-reliance could provide the freedom of action needed in its rough neighborhood. Israelis do not trust outsiders when it comes to the national security of their state; security guarantees have little appeal.

Israel insists instead on "defensible borders," topographical lines that enhance its ability to defend against potential aggressors. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967 lent international legitimacy to this demand for defensible borders. Israel rejects, however, the Arab interpretation of "defensible borders," which is that any border recognized by Arab states becomes defensible because it is not disputed. While Israel understands the political importance of a peace agreement, it is fully aware that since an agreement might be violated in the future as national interests change, it still needs a defensible line to parry a potential invasion.

An offer by the Arab League to station peacekeeping forces along the borders of a future Palestinian state with Israel is not very enticing. Israel's experience with such international forces is negative. The Arab-Israel arena has witnessed the failure of peacekeeping forces a number of times. The UN forces placed on the Egyptian border did not fulfill their role in 1967; they were evacuated upon Egyptian demand, with Israel's opinion ignored. UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon have also been unsuccessful in providing an efficient buffer; at times they have even cooperated with Israel's enemies. America's record at peacekeeping in the Middle East is not any better. After facing terrorist attacks and suffering casualties, US troops withdrew within a short time from Lebanon and Somalia.

Arab military contingents are even less likely to be trustworthy peacekeepers, as they do not have a good track record. The Arab League force in Lebanon, stationed there in 1976, was unsuccessful in preventing the renewal of civil war. Arab League attempts at ending the chaos in Somalia and the genocide in Darfur also failed miserably. The Israeli-Palestinian joint patrols established in the framework of the Oslo agreements ended with the Palestinians shooting at their Israeli patrol colleagues, which undermined Israeli trust in Arab partners. It is highly unlikely that military units under Arab League tutelage can successfully police Gaza and prevent terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Thus, the Arab League has little credibility when it promises security to Israel.

Moreover, the Arab state system is increasingly under pressure from domestic grievances and the ascendance of Islamic radical elements. The recent turmoil in the Arab world, from Morocco to Bahrain, accentuates the frailty of these governments. With great uncertainty looming in the domestic sphere of these countries as well as in their foreign policy conduct, even sincere promises to Israel can be easily violated if and when a new regime takes over.

Even states at peace with Israel may be unable to implement their commitments. For example, Egypt has difficulty imposing its sovereignty in the Sinai Peninsula. The gradual erosion of Egyptian control in Sinai has led to a flow of smuggled arms to Hamas in Gaza, endangering Israel. Recently, Bedouin in Sinai attacked Egyptian police stations there. Sinai--a territory turned over to Egypt by Israel in the context of the 1979 peace treaty--could become a haven for Islamist terrorists.

The promise of the API to provide security to Israel communicates good intentions. Yet Israel needs more than that. When Arab states slide into chaos and fail to fulfill the basic responsibilities of a sovereign government, such a promise looks very shaky.-Published 16/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Efraim Inbar is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

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