Home | About | Documents | Previous |Search |

Edition 5 Volume 2 - March 02, 2011

End of conflict and peace agreement
Not a clear enough incentive  - Yossi Alpher
There are many questions to discuss here.

The magic Arab clause  - Adil Awadh
A new sense of urgency has arisen.

Ending the "conflict"  - Laila el-Haddad
The Arab states need to radically re-think the kind of "peace agreement" they endorse.

If not now, then when?  - Elias Samo
Even if, as some contend, the API is a bluff, Israel has everything to win and nothing to lose by accepting it.

Not a clear enough incentive
 Yossi Alpher

According to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 and 2007, once Israel has made peace with all its neighbors in accordance with a specific list of conditions (1967 borders, a just and agreed solution to the refugee issue, the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem), "the Arab countries . . . consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel." This, together with "security for all the states of the region" (an important issue that warrants a separate discussion), is the Arab "payoff" to Israel in return for peace.

How substantive and serious is the API's offer of an end to the conflict and a comprehensive Arab-Israel peace? Undoubtedly, it is without precedent in the annals of the Arab-Israel conflict. It should have been (and still could be) greeted far more warmly by Israel. Nevertheless, from the Israeli standpoint there are also many questions to discuss here.

First and perhaps most important, do all the Arab countries enter into a peace agreement with Israel? Is this a collective agreement with the Arab League? Or is Israel simply invited to make peace with each and every Arab League member on its own? What happens if, say, Lebanon and Libya refuse to make peace with Israel--the former because Hizballah with its extreme Islamist ideology holds sway over the government and the latter because Moammar Gaddafi, assuming he's still in power--and if not, someone like him in an Arab country--holds out for a bi-national "Isratine".

Obviously, for Israel, Lebanon is the bigger problem. Let's assume Israel has carried out its part of the API's Lebanon bargain and has withdrawn from "the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon" by turning them over to Syria, to Lebanon or to the United Nations, yet Lebanon refuses either to consider the conflict ended or to sign a peace treaty. Given Hizballah's preeminence in Lebanon today and Iran's influence over that movement, this is a realistic, even likely, scenario. Will the Arab League, in accordance with the commitment embodied in the API, somehow enforce the peace and end-of-conflict provision regarding Lebanon? Will it, by the same token, compel Hamas in the Gaza Strip to comply with an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty?

A second set of issues involves the possibility of implementing the peace provision of the API in stages. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit made this offer a few years ago when he visited Israel to "present" the API. Suppose Israel makes peace with Syria and fulfils the API territorial requirement (1967 lines) on that front to the satisfaction of Damascus, yet has not yet found a way to end the Palestinian conflict. Or, vice versa, Israel makes peace with Palestine first, with Syria left to a later stage. After all, it's very unlikely that Israel will make peace simultaneously on all fronts, and it will reasonably seek recognition from the Arab world for a specific stage of peace and explain that this could serve as an important incentive to the Israeli public to proceed with further territorial concessions.

Peace in stages presumably means either that all Arab countries will respond by offering Israel some significant element of peace, with the remaining elements withheld pending completion of all peace agreements with all neighbors, or that some Arab countries (besides Syria or Palestine) will respond by offering full peace agreements. The API says nothing about this; it would be very useful for any peace-minded Israeli government to cite the prospective Arab payoff for the next peace agreement as a way of reassuring the Israeli public that the concessions and risks entailed are worthwhile.

Finally, there is another very specific Israeli approach to peace that is relevant here. If we go back two or three decades, when Israel made peace with Egypt and Jordan and was negotiating seriously with Syria, Israelis by and large viewed peace with our neighbors as implying not only "end of conflict" but also normalization and even acceptance into the region. We would be greeted in the market places of Cairo and Damascus as members in equal standing of the Middle East community. But years of cold peace have taught us that this is not the reality: the end of conflict is there, but not the rest.

Of course, we ourselves are partly to blame for the cold peace, but only partly. Many Israelis honestly believe, after assessing the wages of peace, that by and large our neighbors will not, in the foreseeable future, come to terms with the equal standing of a Jewish state in the midst of an Arab and primarily Muslim world. The revolutionary changes currently rocking the Arab world and the possibility that in neighboring countries like Egypt and Jordan they will bring to the fore political actors who oppose even a cold peace with Israel, give additional pause to skeptical Israelis.

This explains, at least in part, why the API's offer of an end-of-conflict and peace agreement with Israel in return for withdrawal to the 1967 lines has not generated the kind of enthusiasm in Israel that might qualify the offer as a tempting incentive. Here again, and having acknowledged Israel's need to be more forthcoming toward the API, the Arab side could do better--if and when the revolution on the Arab street comes to an end.-Published 2/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The magic Arab clause
 Adil Awadh

While the ongoing Arab revolutions promise more unrest and uncertainty in the Middle East, Israel still has one card in its hand that it has not played. In fact, it's an Arab clause written in a nine-year-old paper that could stand as an admission ticket for Tel Aviv to be part of yet another revolution that would reshape the whole region.

"The Arab countries...consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel..." affirmed 25 Arab countries that signed the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002. The number of countries then surged to 57 when the initiative was later endorsed by the Organization of Islamic Countries.

This clause, along with its other offerings, is still sitting on the deserted negotiating table of the Arabs and the Israelis. It has not been undermined by the ouster of Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, one of the most ardent proponents of the initiative. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has affirmed that Egypt will continue to uphold the treaties and international obligations it agreed upon.

Initially written off by Israel as a "nonstarter", the initiative has since garnered more US and international recognition. It's a "groundbreaking initiative [that] provided a far-sighted vision for comprehensive regional peace," stated Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, in September 23, 2010. Even Israel has shown, within the last few years, some tendency to revisit its initial position towards the initiative. In 2008, Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser, acknowledged that Israel should have considered saying "yes, but" rather than "no".

With the volcano still raging and the thick ice melting in the Middle East, a new sense of urgency has arisen, encouraging both parties to snatch the opportunity to build the long-lasting peace that this magic Arab clause promises.

That said, everyone agrees that all existing initiatives do not furnish a magic solution. This is also true with the Arab Peace Initiative, which only provides general principles for ending the 60-year-old conflict. But, if accepted by Israel, a new reality could emerge in the Middle East. A wide door could open up for Israel to be one of the players and have a chance to join a new region full of milk and honey for all--peace, freedom and democracy.

This rosy scenario could be produced once 57 Arab and Muslim countries announce the "conflict ended" so all parties would be prohibited from introducing further claims. This is crucial as some Muslim countries and major Palestinian players may choose to play the spoiler role and refrain from entering into the comprehensive agreement. Iran denied in 2007 that it had accepted the initiative, although the Saudi foreign minister had announced Iran's acceptance. "No Arab is going to come and say 'we are going to claim part of pre-1967 Israel' once a two-state solution is implemented and an end is brought to the occupation," said Marwan Muashar, former Jordanian deputy prime minister.

The clause also stipulates that Arab countries should "enter into a peace agreement with Israel" as part of a comprehensive deal. It's a collective commitment that offers Israel "full, normal economic and political ties with the Arab and Muslim world in exchange for a peaceful end to the 60-year-old conflict", as stated by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department.

Although the initiative does not spell out the specifics or details of implementation, some suggest that this would be a collective peace agreement that all Arab and Muslim countries have to abide by. However, the initiative has acknowledged gaps that require more work. A set of conclusions by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2008 stated that the initiative "lacks a step-by-step or even a schematic plan for how to get to the desired end-state of 'land for peace'". The report, prepared with contributions by well-known US, Israeli, and Arab pundits, further advised Israel and Arab countries to issue more declarations to foster more trust on each side. Among these would be for Arab countries to announce, as part of the peace accord, that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and for Israel to issue a moratorium on settlements.

The initiative, according to NAD, "is not a take it-or-leave-it proposition, but rather a basis for all sides to reach a negotiated settlement". It offers Israel full normalization with Arab and Muslim states, an end to Israeli economic isolation by opening regional markets to Israeli products and the strengthening of tourism in Israel and neighboring states.

The magic clause ends with another offering by Arab and Muslim states: to "provide security for all the states of the region", a rare commodity these days.-Published 3/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Adil Awadh is a freelance journalist living in the Washington, DC area. He is a former doctor in Iraq, with a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.

Ending the "conflict"
 Laila el-Haddad

Conventional discourse surrounding the Arab-Israel conflict, if one may even refer to it as a "conflict", talks about a resolution based on the premise of two states as though it were just within our reach. As though any resolution--no matter the final shape or status of such a state--is better than no state or resolution at all. The Arab Peace Initiative is no different.

First of all, we should call it as it is: not a "conflict", but Israel's occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, accompanied with the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of refugees and the denial of their and their descendants' right to return to their native homes, the continued incarceration of over 10,000 political prisoners, and ongoing violent colonization of Palestinian land.

To paraphrase former US Ambassador Edward Peck, there is no "conflict" to speak of here--there is an illegal occupation. And in line with this, a "peace process" implies a state of war, which itself implies two symmetric parties at odds with one another, in need of reconciliation. Rather, there is an illegal occupation, and its resolution is simple: demand it be ended. As Frederick Douglass reminded us, "power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

The Arab states need to radically re-think the kind of "peace agreement" they endorse and will enter into in light of the tectonic changes in the Arab world, the crumbling of Pax Americana and the "repressive but stable" Arab regime, and new revelations about the collusive dealings of these regimes by way of Wikileaks and the Palestine Papers.

It is no longer sufficient to simply endorse an initiative modeled on those fruitless and failed processes of the past and present and expect this will be enough. Because even if the Arab regimes think it is, the Arab people will not.

They should not make the mistake of entering into an agreement with Israel without securing an end to the Israeli occupation first and Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state--something of which the Oslo accords make not a single mention, and that is not endorsed in the governing Likud Party's charter, which "flatly rejects" its establishment. They should also not be bartering away other people's enshrined rights--such as the Palestinian right of return. And they should certainly not be offering concessions without getting any in return.

If we are to take anything away from the Palestine Papers released by al-Jazeera, it is these lessons. Palestinian negotiators were all too willing to provide concessions to Israel--concessions they had no right to offer in the first place. In return for their capitulation, they received only Israeli intransigence, a further hardening of the Israeli position, increase in land theft and colonization and consistent sabotage of the process.

The lesson to be learned is that Israel was never interested in a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians, only one that would serve to further strengthen Israeli control over the land without the people, forever forestalling viable Palestinian statehood. It was former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's advisor, Dov Weisglass, who referred to the disengagement as a process intended to achieve just that: "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

The Arab Peace Initiative only further enforces the myth that there has been an active and ongoing peace process to start with--that Oslo and all its tributaries are ultimately leading to a just and lasting peace of equals, viable and contiguous Palestinian statehood and sovereignty, freedom, equality, and statehood.

It is time for the Arab states to think outside the two-state land-for-peace box and wake up to this reality. It is now time to begin to seriously consider endorsing a solution of one country with equal rights for all: a one-state solution. Given the realities on the ground in the West Bank--where Israel's annexation barrier and illegal settlements and seam lines swallow nearly half of Palestinian land, Israel is determined to maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout the land, no matter the cost (see: ethnic cleansing), and it intends to postpone viable Palestinian statehood indefinitely--this is the only solution that can achieve a just, feasible, and lasting peace.-Published 3/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Laila el-Haddad is author of "Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between". She is also a contributing author to "The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict".

If not now, then when?
 Elias Samo

The Arab Peace Initiative, unanimously approved at the 2002 Beirut Arab League summit, is divided into two operative parts. The first, paragraph 2, which represents minimum Arab demands, calls for full Israeli withdrawal and a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem its capital. The second, paragraph 3, which represents the maximum Arab offer to Israel, affirms a commitment to consider the "conflict ended and enter into a peace agreement with Israel".

For some Israelis, the precise meaning of these two phrases, "conflict ended" and "peace agreement", raises questions. Delving into their meaning to answer questions raised by Israelis prior to accepting the API is putting the cart before the horse. If Israel were to accept the API this would be, by implication, a conditional acceptance. The API does not provide the modalities for implementation; they will be developed through negotiations, at which time the questions raised by Israel regarding the meaning of the two phrases would be answered. Accepting the API does not mean an irrevocable commitment to it unless the final stage provides each side its minimum demands, including satisfactory answers to the questions raised.

This of course does not prevent us here and now from looking into what is meant by "peace agreement" and "conflict ended". "Peace agreement" concerns the Palestinians and the two remaining contiguous Arab states, Syria and Lebanon, with which Israel is still in a state of war. Once Israel accepts the API, the three Arab parties will resume negotiations with Israel on separate tracks. It is understood that the three peace tracks will be negotiated and settled separately. However, one question remains unanswered: will the signing of the peace agreements be done simultaneously as a package deal, or separately at different periods as in the case of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty? Only the Arab leaders who would sign the peace agreements can answer that question.

As for "conflict ended", the reference is to the Arab states both collectively, i.e., the Arab League, and individually. For the League, ending the conflict means revoking all anti-Israel policies adopted by it. A case in point is the Office of Economic Boycott of Israel. For the individual Arab states, "conflict ended" means recognition and normalization of relations with Israel; in fact, some of these states are anxious to see the "conflict ended" so that they can conduct business with Israel openly instead of doing it secretly. Upon the successful conclusion of negotiations between Israel and the three Arab partners and the signing of peace agreements, the Arab League and the Arab states will recognize and normalize relations with Israel.

In view of this, it remains a mystery why Israel does not accept the API. Even if, as some contend, the API is a bluff, Israel has everything to win and nothing to lose. If Israel were to accept the API, it would score a public relations victory and either call the Arab bluff--if that is what it is--or develop with Arab negotiators the modalities for implementing it. It is understood that neither side will impose its views on the other. Thus, Israeli fears about subscribing to the API due to uncertainty as to what the final stage will look like are unfounded.

To the present Israeli government, are the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan more important than peace? Perhaps so, in view of the fact that the Israeli leadership probably feels that returning something tangible to the Arabs--land--in return for agreements, i.e., ink on paper, that are signed by Arab leaders whose legitimacy is questionable and whose reign is clouded and uncertain, is a losing bargain. If this is the case, then it is another instance of the legendary Israeli shortsightedness.

There is Palestinian desire, Arab consensus, Islamic acquiescence and international support for a comprehensive Arab-Israel peace, for which the API provides a framework. The question to Israel is, if not the Arab Peace Initiative, then what? If not now, then when?-Published 3/3/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Elias Samo is professor of international relations at American and Syrian universities.

Notice Board