The ‘Arab Peace Initiative’ — Both a Good Thing and a Scam

There’s something very strange about this alleged new Arab League peace initiative and I find no serious addressing of these issues in the media coverage. A step toward efforts by Arab states to move toward proposing a possible peace with Israel is a good thing. Especially touted is an idea, mentioned by Qatar’s representative at the Washington meeting, to accept an agreement that small border modifications could be made to the pre-1967 lines. …

At the meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry there were representatives of the Arab League, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.

But Arab League bureaucrats can’t agree on anything. Only a vote of the Arab League’s almost two dozen members can establish an official position. So this was not an Arab League plan at all. To represent it as an official Arab position is, then, untrue.

Indeed, we already know that the Palestinian Authority (PA) opposes this formula. At any rate, the United States cannot even get the PA to negotiate with Israel and yet fantasies of comprehensive peace are spread around by it. The mass media is cooperating in this theme, seeking to make Kerry look good at least.

Then there is the list of countries involved. I have no difficulty in believing that the governments of Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are ready for a deal. …

But what about the other three countries? Are we to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, the Hizbullah-dominated regime in Lebanon and the quirky but pro-Hamas and pro-Muslim Brotherhood regime in Qatar have suddenly reversed everything that they have been saying in order to seek a compromise peace with Israel? Highly doubtful to say the least. …

And let’s also remember the radical forces not present. The Syrian rebels [who] will be holding the Arab League seat are dominated by Islamists. Hamas itself, which governs the Gaza Strip, will refuse to abide by any such agreement. Remember that this group represents at least one-third of Palestinians and perhaps a plurality over Fatah, which governs the PA. Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated leadership have even written into the country’s new constitution that it can never make peace with Israel!

Finally, there is a curious lack of mention over the demand, enshrined in the previous “Arab Peace Initiative” about what is called the “right of return.” Namely, to satisfy PA demands Israel would have to accept the immigration of hundreds of thousands of passionately anti-Israel Palestinians who had lived in the country 60 years ago (or their descendants) and who have been fighting all that time to wipe Israel off the map.

Is the “right of return” as a condition for making peace still in the small print? I don’t see that anyone else has asked that rather important question. Presumably it is still there. Consequently, what is in fact a suicidal offer to Israel is made, by selective reporting, to make it sound like an attractive offer. But if the demand for a massive immigration of hostile Palestinians is indeed dropped, that, in fact, is the real news. Of course, the PA would passionately denounce such a step and since it has said nothing on the point one might assume that this demand still stands. …

That doesn’t mean it is a bad thing as a sign of the times. I believe that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf would like to see the Arab-Israeli conflict decline and even end. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates no longer profit from this battle. They are frightened of Iran and revolutionary Islamists, and the Shia Muslim challenge in general. Such governments view Israel as a positive strategic factor given these real and big threats. You might add Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan to the list of moderates. Iraq doesn’t care anymore, while the Kurds in Iraq and Syria are almost pro-Israel.

And if these countries feel that saying or pretending to agree that peace with Israel is a good thing for their image in the West that is positive also. (Unfortunately, though, they know how easily they can get away with double talk.) …

It is, however, interesting to compare this development with the total refusal of Arab states to make such a gesture when Obama asked them to do so back in 2009. Is the change due to the relative moderates’ greater fear of Islamist overthrow? Of Iran getting nuclear weapons? A response to Obama’s reelection? Of the radical, pro-Islamist forces trying to lull America and the West into an even deeper sleep so that they think more Sharia states will not make for more radical regimes?

One can almost hear the radicals’ reasoning: We have to keep the Americans at bay until we consolidate power at home and we have to keep the Americans handing over billions of dollars to finance the fundamental transformations we intend to make.

What it does show once again, however, is that the strategic picture in the region has changed dramatically. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a minor issue compared to the Islamist threat at home and from neighbors, the Iranian threat abroad, and the Shia challenge to these predominantly Sunni Muslim, conservative or nationalist, monarchical or dictatorial regimes.

Here is the paradox of the situation. The very threats that make some governments wish the conflict would go away are the same threats that stop them from actually doing something about it.


 

This article is published on PJMedia.