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.