By MJ Rosenberg
I wonder if the Israeli government now regrets that it didn’t consider the Arab League peace offer that was first issued in 2002 and then again in 2007. Every Arab state signed it and it was strongly backed by the Saudis who, in fact, drafted it. Under its terms, in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem:
The Arab countries affirm the following: (I) Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region; (II) Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace. The Arab League Initiative is not a full-blown peace treaty. It is rather a framework under which Israel would conduct negotiations with the goal of reaching agreements on all the critical points. Nothing would be dictated to either side; nothing could take effect without full agreement by both sides.
In essence, the Arab League Initiative was a golden offer to Israel by every single Arab state (the end of conflict and isolation in return for giving up the lands won in the 1967 war. The Palestinian Authority also signed it and Hamas said that if a deal was reached, it would not “contradict the Arab consensus.” But Israel flat-out refused to consider it and, at Israel’s request, neither did the United States. That pretty much killed it although the offer is still out there, ready for Israel to seize the opportunity at any time.
Of course, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government have never indicated any interest in a deal that requires giving up the occupied territories, which, of course, rules out any deal at all. However, given the changes in Israel’s regional standing since 2007, even Israeli right-wingers might be willing to rethink now. (The center and left have always favoured considering the initiative).
Just look at the changes since 2007. [During this year] when the Arab League Initiative was last issued, Israel’s most important ally President Hosni Mubarak was firmly in power. For 30 years, Mubarak was the guarantee that Israel would not have to worry about war with its powerful neighbour to the west. That was because Mubarak scrupulously adhered to its terms. Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood government has not indicated that it will back away from the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty but, no doubt about it, its future is up in the air.
The moderate Palestinian Authority is weaker than ever before, due largely to the fact that it has not been able to achieve the return of any Palestinian land from Israel, and the failure of its attempt to declare statehood, it appears feckless and weak. Palestinians increasingly view it as a tool of Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas has become thoroughly entrenched in Gaza and its Muslim Brotherhood allies are now in power in Egypt.
Hezbollah, formerly a Shiite terrorist group formed in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, now plays a dominant role in the Lebanese government. . It is believed to possess 20,000 rockets which could reach Israel. In 2006, it launched some 4,000 of those rockets, causing the evacuation of northern Israel.
Turkey, since 1948 Israel’s staunch Muslim ally, turned against the Israeli government as a result of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and an Israeli attack on a Turkish ship that was sailing there with relief supplies for its population. The two countries are now barely on speaking terms.
And now the Assad government is on the verge of collapse. The Assad regime, although rhetorically hostile to Israel, has maintained peace with it since the 1973 war. Israelis view the Syrian regime, much as they viewed Mubarak’s, as totalitarians who maintained stability and the status quo. Revolutionary instability in Syria or the replacement of Assad by a more militantly pan-Arab regime will mean more trouble for Israel.
And then there is Iran, which — whether it is developing nuclear weapons or not — successfully uses the 45-year occupation as a pretext to assert leadership among Arabs. As supposed champions of Muslim interests (including the Palestinians) the Iranians are achieving ascendancy in the Arab world. This is ironic, to say the least, because Arabs and Persians have traditionally been hostile to each other; the Israeli occupation has helped create a new unnatural (and utterly cynical) alliance.