The Arab Peace Initiative and the Palestinian/Arab Options
The Author: Walid Salem
Work team: Salwa Hdeib/Qannam, Jihad Abu Znead, Hanna Siniora, Ziad Abu Zayyad, Sama'an Khoury, Ata Qaymari, Abdullah Al-Kiswani, Adel Ruwaished, Osama Abu Karsh, Suleiman Al Khatib
This paper consists of three parts; The first part illustrates its assumptions regarding the horizons (opportunities and obstacles) of the political settlement process in the middle east, and on the Palestinian/ Israeli level as well, which is followed by two main parts; the first part is about the possible Palestinian options for making peace, and the second part is about the strategies of addressing the Israeli society from the Palestinian and Arabic sides regarding the Arab Peace Initiative.
This paper was completed on 15/5/2007, before Hamas' control over Gaza Strip in June 2007 and the subsequent internal Palestinian division and the collapse of the national unity government and before the launching of the international peace conference initiative in the speech of the American President George Bush on 16 of July in 2007. Despite all that, this paper still includes several signs regarding the current and future situations.
For comments; Walid Salem, telephone 02-6281151, fax 02-6283351,
Assumptions regarding peace possibilities in the Middle East
First: On the Arabic level it seems there is currently a strong direction towards launching an Arab-Palestinian Peace offense on all tracks with Israel (Palestine, Syria and Lebanon), this opportunity stems from the start of serious Arab efforts for the first time regarding the Arab peace initiative through the following:
a-The emphasis of the last Arab summit in Riyadh last March on the Arab Peace Initiative first introduced in the 14th Arab Summit in Beirut on the 28th of March in 2002.
b-The establishment of a committee consisting of 12 Arab countries and the Secretary General of the Arab League for promoting the Arab Peace Initiative internationally according to the seventh article which states; “The assembly asks its president to form a special committee consisting of a number of states members and the Secretary General for carrying out the necessary communications and mobilizing support for this initiative on all levels especially from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the Islamic countries”.
The established committee includes Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunis, Sudan, and the Secretary General of the Arab League.
c-The Arab Peace Initiative Committee met in Cairo on 18/4/2007 on the ministerial level. The committee issued a statement titled “A conference statement issued by the Arab Peace Initiative ministerial committee meeting”. [The Arab League/ General Secretarial 05/(04/07)/023 – p (0278)]. The statement included the distribution of the committee members into two work teams; the first team consists of a ministerial envoy from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, and the Secretary General responsible for “explaining the Arab point of view regarding ways for implementing the Arab initiative and the consultation of how to revive the peace process on all levels and establishing a peaceful settlement in a definite timeframe through contacting different international entities amongst them those mentioned in the seventh article in the initiative".
The second team consisting of Egypt and Jordan is responsible “as a result of decision number 367 in the Riyadh summit for being the two Arab sides who got there territories back” for working to revive the Arab peace initiative and facilitating the start of direct negotiations according to article 12 from the summit decision which calls for “Emphasizing once again on calling the Israeli government and the Israelis to accept the peace initiative and take advantage of the current opportunity to re-launch the process of direct and serious negotiations on all levels”. In this regard the statement issued by the conference declared that an expanded work team will be established for communication and consultation with the Israeli Government for finding ways to achieve a peaceful settlement within a definite timeframe” after Israel stops its siege of the Palestinian people and stops building settlements, building the separation wall and digging in the Jerusalem area and also return to the status quo prior to the 28th of September 2000.
The statement (article three) also called for “an international meeting to be held by the regional and international sides under the auspices of the United Nations and the International Quartet for launching direct negotiations on all levels according to previous agreements and putting a timeframe for carrying them out”.
The fourth article asked the Secretary General to suggest a list of activities to the Arab peace initiative committee which is responsible for addressing decision making circles, universities and institutions, research centers, and the political and media institutions which influence the public opinions on the international and regional levels in order to promote the Arab Peace Initiative and explain the Arab point of view for reviving the peace process on all levels, and to provide ways for the necessary funding by the Arab States”.
Last article number 5 asked the Secretary General to coordinate all the efforts mentioned in the previous articles and preparing a report regarding these efforts in order to present it in the next committee meeting for evaluation and present it to an irregular meeting for the league assembly on a ministerial level especially held for this purpose in the first half of June 2007.
All of this points to the beginning of a serious movement to assert and support the initiative in coordination with the civil society as the fourth article in the statement of the Arab Peace Initiative ministerial committee shows above.
Second:On the international level, there is a group of factors which provide a good opportunity for the Arab Peace Initiative, among these factors are the following:
A. The crisis of the peace process, and the freeze of all political projects for finding a solution, which created a vacuum requiring political initiatives for taking care of it.
B. A strong need for the United States has appeared to cooperate with what it calls “the moderate Arab states” to help contain Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas after years of incitement by the neo-conservatives and the American administration against these countries under the pretext that their ruling parties are undemocratic. In this regard, a growing Saudi role has been witnessed lately towards carrying a dialogue with Iran in order to reach an agreement with her regarding Iraq and Lebanon, and another Saudi role in Lebanon for loosening the Lebanese crisis in a way to open a direct Saudi channel with Hezbollah through inviting a delegation from them to Riyadh and the following meetings with them in Lebanon itself. Not to mention the Saudi role in getting Fatah and Hamas together and reaching the Makkah agreement last February, which was viewed by some analysts that the agreement was a result of an American policy aimed at distancing Hamas from Iran and softening its stance towards Israel even if it wasn’t a full recognition (Khalid Al Huroub, Daily Star 12/3/2007). Other analyst explained that it was an expression of Saudi displeasure towards some of American policies especially those concerning Iraq which stirs internal problems to Saudi Arabia.
C. The rise of United States need to conduct dialogue with “The rogue states according to the terms used by the neo-conservatives” for the participation in solving the American trap in Iraq, which came as a result of a series of meetings held inside and outside Iraq, this reflects an understanding to some terms of the report prepared by Baker and Hamilton, in spite of the American administration official rejection to the contents of this report.
D. The appearance of an internal American division between the administration and the Congress regarding the American policies towards Iraq and Syria, this was clear in the pressure the congress applied in order to define a timetable for the withdrawal of the American forces from Iraq, as well as the visit the democratic majority leader in the congress Nancy Pelosi, took to Damascus.
E. The rise of different European states’ calls for addressing the political vacuum created by the freezing of the peace process, such as the Spanish-French-Italian initiative for holding an international conference for peace, as well as the Madrid Plus 15 conference held last January in the Spanish capital Madrid which called for holding a new Madrid conference for achieving a comprehensive peace in the region. Moreover, the positive European stance supportive of the Arab Peace Initiative prepares the creation of a joint Arab-International plan for a comprehensive peace in the region.
Third: On the level of the current Israeli Government, the Arab Peace
Initiative provides an opportunity for this government to develop a new program for its own, after it became a government without a program due to freezing its plan to disengage from some of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank after the Lebanon War (The Realignment Plan). The Arab Peace Initiative also provides this government an opportunity to regain its popularity lost in the Israeli streets which has reached its lowest level after its failure in the last Lebanon War in June 2006.
II- Obstacles / Hurdles / and Risks:
First : The biggest obstacle on the Israeli track: The Israeli Government might decide not to create a program based on responding positively to the Arab Peace Initiative, instead it is keen on keeping the current situation and /or making it worse through expanding the operations of targeted assassinations and continuing to build the Wall and settlements, and all other acts of occupation, while limiting the meetings with Abu Mazen for negotiations over security and daily livelihood matters, or in the best scenario the Israeli government prepares an agreed upon disengagement plan over some of the territories in the West Bank in the wake of expanding the calmness (Tahdi'ah) to include the West Bank, as well as reaching a political agreement about the final phase but without implementing it on the ground after that, meaning avoid the implementation through an agreement which never gets implemented afterwards.
In this regard, the Israeli Government might also carry out a large military operation in the Gaza Strip under the pretext of uprooting the "terror infrastructure" which is being built by Hamas and other factions. According to this, it can be concluded that there is no serious Israeli partner for peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative until now, and the mission of finding this partner will be the primary mission in order to push the initiative forward.
Second: The obstacle related to the way the Arab Peace Initiative
is understood, since Israel wants it to be a launching pad for normalization with new Arab countries before the implementation, and a launching pad for negotiation and not preconditions, as well as its desire to do some modifications to the initiative especially in regard to the Palestinian refugees before accepting it while the Arabs generally seek Israel’s approval of the initiative in principle before the beginning of any negotiations over it.
Third: The obstacle related to the contradictions among the tracks: in this regard it is said that officially Israel is not able to withstand and absorb a comprehensive settlement on all tracks altogether, so it tends to choose a track and postpone another, this is where an opportunity rises to choose the Palestinian track and postpone the Syrian track or visa versa. Even though it is not expected the Syrians will proceed until the end alone had Israel chosen to start on the Syrian track, without taking into considerations their allies from the Palestinian opposition’s factions.
Fourth: The difficulties related to the internal Palestinian situation which includes the successive outbreaks of the internal violence instigated by local and external powers, as well as Hamas’ ability to veto any agreement reached by Abu Mazen with Israel, the use of this right is clear from the terms of the program of the Palestinian National Unity Government which calls for the endorsement of a new National Council (which Hamas will be part of it) before any agreement reached with Israel, or through a national referendum which will be put in a special law through the approval of all Palestinian factions. Meaning that the Palestinian National Unity’s program did not end the dual authority in Palestine, on the contrary it has stopped the treatment of this duality which endangers any political agreement reached in the future.
Fifth: Difficulties related to the Israeli-Syrian track: It might include issues outside the track like Syria’s role in Lebanon, (which also includes the international court case regarding the assassination of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hareri) and Syria’s role in Iraq and its relation to Iran as well as its relation to the Palestinian opposition factions.
Sixth: The difficulties related to the Israeli-Lebanese track: which includes the cases of the Lebanese prisoners in the Israeli prisons and the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, and the Sheba Farms (as a tangled Israeli-Lebanese-Syrian subject) and the land mine maps which were planted by Israel in Lebanon, and the issue of the future of the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanese territories.
Seventh: The difficulties related to the different understandings of the initiative by the Arab states, since some of the Arab states want it to be a baseline to be negotiated over with Israel and allow some modifications and additions to it, whereas other Arab states want Israel to recognize the initiative first then start negotiations with them on all tracks based on it.
Eighth: The difficulties related to the relationship between the Arab Peace Initiative and previous plans and understandings which were accepted by the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. Beside the differences among the Arab states themselves regarding the connection between the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map Plan and Clinton’s Initiative, there is the previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements over issues that do not go in-line with the concept of the Arab Peace Initiative, among these issues:
1. The Arab Peace Initiative calls for the full withdrawal from all of the Arab lands occupied in 1967, whereas the Palestinian side has agreed in Camp David 2000 and Taba 2001 to the principle of swapping lands with Israel.
2. The Arab Peace Initiative calls for the return of East Jerusalem to the Arab side (as in the principle of the full withdrawal ) whereas the Palestinian-Israeli Taba understandings of 2001 calls for dividing the sovereignty over the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, as well as special arrangements regarding the Old City in Jerusalem.
3. The Arab Peace Initiative stresses the importance of reaching an agreed upon solution regarding the refugees issue, whereas the Taba understandings of 2001 went farther and has defined the 5 options which will be given to the refugees and described these options as an implementation of the United Nations Resolution 194.
Ninth: The Arab’s lack of pressure means which enables them to push towards a settlement based on the Arab Peace Initiative, which puts them in a weak position in the face of Israel which rejects the initiative.
The Palestinian Options
In the wake of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian track which reached the level of a complete freeze to all steps towards the two-states solution, it becomes adamant and necessary to continue the work to push the Israeli-Palestinian bilateral negotiations as much as possible, and at the same time to find new horizons, including the political horizons which can be provided by the Arab/regional depth, as well as the international depth in order to loosen the knots of the Israeli-Palestinian track, whether it is through the pursuit of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian solution or a comprehensive Israeli-Arab solution on all tracks. What adds to the importance of this research is that it helps to find a way out from this trap expressed in the form of a growing international pressure on the Palestinian side to comply with the three demands of the Quartet, without a parallel international pressure on the Israeli side to fulfill the Palestinian rights, in other words the opportunity available for the Arabs to move according to the Arab Peace Initiative might help create a balance and a treatment as well as a compensation to the current impasse on the Israeli-Palestinian track and hence loosening this impasse. The question now is how?
First: The conditions for the Palestinian progress
In the wake of the hurdles mentioned earlier, it seems that the Palestinian success in handling the peaceful settlement impasse is dependent on the following:
1. The Palestinian ability, if it wanted to achieve a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli solution, to reach a full understanding with Egypt and Jordan (the two Arab States delegated by the Arab Peace Initiative Ministerial committee to contact Israel) so that there will be no contradictions in the stands and visions and desires and work mechanisms.
2. The Palestinian ability, if it wanted to achieve a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli solution, in the framework of a comprehensive solution on all tracks to reach an understanding with Syria and Lebanon in addition to Egypt and Jordan in order to avoid the contradictions between the tracks or one track taking the place of another.
3. Related to the two previous conditions is an internal condition related to the Palestinian ability to agree internally on a clearer mechanism for approving what the President Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Liberation Organization Negotiators reach, from agreements about the final settlements with Israel, a mechanism that is different from the one agreed upon in Makkah Agreement and in the program of the Palestinian National Unity Government which is vague and unclear, what pours in a one-way channel only is the direction of causing miscarriage and failure to all that is agreed upon with Israel without any distinction between what is good for the Palestinian people and what is bad.
The successive outbreaks between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip also show that there is an important agreement that must be reached by the Palestinian factions, the agreement related to the subjects of partnership and the distribution of the security missions between Fatah and Hamas and between the West Bank and Gaza.
4. There is also another internal Palestinian condition that must be met which is expressed in the ability to calm the internal Palestinian situation, this requires handling the outlaw phenomenon which started to take a criminal aspect especially in the Gaza Strip, and also stopping the verbal fighting about issues prior to the Makkah Agreement, and strengthening the National Unity Government and enforcing its agreements rather than calling for early elections which might inflame the internal Palestinian situation rather than enforcing the calm.
5. Finally there is an external condition related to the necessary Palestinian success towards blocking the normalization of new Arab states with Israel, especially those which do not have common borders with Israel before achieving a progress in solving the Palestinian cause and ending the Arab-Israeli conflict as stated by the Arab Peace Initiative.
6. The last condition is related to the Palestinian ability to work with the Israeli public opinion and the international and Arab powers together in order to strengthen the implementation of the Palestinian options and loosen the frozen official Israeli stance, this requires serious efforts to build a joint Palestinian-Arab and International track for peace and taking it together towards Israel.
Second: The Palestinian options
The first options: Palestinian –Israeli negotiations through public and/or back channels
Advantages and motives of this option:
- The available possibilities for discussing all issues in details away from media coverage.
- The possibility of reaching agreements about the final status based on previous understandings between the two sides especially the Taba understandings of 2001.
- The Palestinian Unity Government Program (the second part related to mechanisms for dealing with the occupation, points 3, 4 and 5) includes foundations for mutual calmness (Tahdi'ah) with Israel and the release of the held Israeli soldier, and that negotiations are the sole responsibility of PLO and President Abu Mazen.
The dilemmas of this options:
- The difficulty in getting the Israeli side’s acceptance for implementing agreements reached regarding the final status (the suggestion of Tzipi Livni for reaching an agreement about the nature of the future Palestinian state and postponing the implementation until “Hamas matures” and meets the Quartets’ conditions, and also until the “Palestinian terror ends”).
- The difficulty in endorsing any final agreement reached with the Palestinian side in the wake of the current political differences between the Palestinian factions.
-The breakaway from the Syrian and Lebanese tracks which might strengthen the possibilities of inflaming the internal Palestinian situation especially in the Gaza Strip.
-The possibility of Israel’s insistence on unfolding the previous understandings between the two sides for re-negotiations aimed at extracting new Palestinian concessions.
-Reaching an agreement over an exchanged full calmness (Tahdi'ah) in the West Bank and Gaza.
-Reaching an agreement over the participation of international and regional powers to implement the final status agreement, rather than postponing its implementation, through an accord to place international forces (and possibly regional too, like Turkish forces) on the borders between the Palestinian state and Israel for a transitional period in order to monitor the agreement of preventing attacks on Israel on one hand and on the other hand preventing the Israeli aggressions on the Palestinian people. The implementation of this solution can be achieved in two stages:
The first is a full calm stage monitored internationally and regionally for a period of not more than two years and the second is the stage of achieving a full Palestinian independence and creating an independent Palestinian state within three years.
-Launching a peaceful civil resistance campaign against the occupation and the Wall and expanding the settlements across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem (duplicating Beilin’s example) which provides an additional pressuring factor that helps the Palestinian negotiator in moving things on the negotiating table.
-Putting pressure in order to move forward the Syrian and Lebanese tracks in addition to the work on the Israeli-Palestinian track, in order to avoid the rise of problems from Palestinian factions pushed by Syria to stop the implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
-Coordination with Egypt and Jordan and with Saudi Arabia as the President of the Arab Summit and in all the steps, in order to help prevent imposing new concessions on the Palestinian side.
The Second options: Holding a regional conference for solving the Palestinian issue with the participation of the Quartet, the Arab Quartet, Palestine and Israel.
The advantages of this options:
- It provides a good opportunity for discussing all issues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
-The participation of the International Quartet which puts it face to face in front of its responsibility to reach the mentioned solution.
-The participation of the Arab Quartet which provides a bigger weight to the Arab stance during negotiations.
The dilemmas of this options:
-Postponing the Syrian and Lebanese tracks opens the door for problems (including internal Palestinian problems) instigated by Syria in coordination with Iran to prevent implementing agreements reached.
-The possibility of the conference ending with the normalization of new Arab states with Israel, without any progress in solving the Palestinian issue, or in return of agreements over partial or transitional arrangements destined to collapse quickly as the Israeli-Palestinian experiment since 1993 has shown, and then the situation goes back to what it was before implementing it or even worse.
-Opening parallel negotiating tracks with Syria and Lebanon, and the continuous coordination with Syria regarding the agreements reached step by step.
-Before holding the regional conference there must be meetings held and negotiations for maturing the agreements where the regional conference will come as a crown to these meetings, and not the opposite, which leaves the door wide open for the possibilities of the regional conference becoming just a conference for public relations for normalization and taking pictures.
The Third options: Holding an international conference for peace in the region
The advantages of this options:
-It builds a foundation for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli solution and a complete end to the conflict
-It provides an opportunity for the participation of all sides that have conflict with Israel (Syria and Lebanon) and does not restrict it to the participation of the Palestinian side alone as in the regional conference.
-It provides an opportunity to restart negotiations on all tracks.
-It opens the door for the participation of a large number of international sides so it will not be restricted to international and Arab Quartets which strengthens the validity of any agreements reached.
-It goes in-line with the concept of the Arab Peace Initiative which calls for a comprehensive solution on all tracks.
-It goes in-line with previous international initiatives such as the Spanish-Italian-French initiative, and the Madrid conference initiative.
The dilemmas of this option:
-Opening the door for high expectations where some of them may not be achievable.
- It could be reduced to just an international meeting, rather than an international conference, for discussing one track without the other, or for discussing transitional and procedural issues and partial enhancements rather than discussing the final core issues between the Arabs and Israel.
- Israel might not be ready for such an option.
-One track might overshadow another during the conference, which might lead to postponing the later through the subsequent negotiations.
-If it was impossible to reach comprehensive solutions during the international conference it can be reduced to be a launching pad for negotiations on all tracks in such that these negotiations will continue after the conference.
-To agree in advance that the conference’s goal is: launching the negotiations about the final core issues, and not merely discussing procedural or transitional issues or partial enhancements.
-The coordination between the different Arab sides before and after the conference in order to resolve the differences and reach common understandings regarding these issues step by step.
Around the three choices several intermediate options were presented:
1) Holding a consultative regional conference (Suggestion of Yossi Alpher), where each side presents their questions and concerns for discussions.
-In fact, this is not a choice for an agreement yet, since it is only a consultative and discovery meeting and usually can be held through a back channel without any media coverage or spot lights, But the power of such a suggestion lies in the fact that it could lay ground for a political breakthrough as what happened in the Oslo back channel in 1992-1993.
2.) Holding a regional meeting with designated countries (the two Quartets + Palestine and Israel) for discussing final settlement issues on all tracks and not on the Palestinian-Israeli track only where the Arab Quartet will present Syria an Lebanon in the negotiations in the wake of the hurdles that prevent their participation.
This suggestion has two problems: the first problem: is that Syria might not agree to be represented by any other than itself because of its desire to obtain recognitions and remove the blockade imposed on it. The Second problem: Is that Israel might not be ready for a settlement on all tracks together and at the same time.
In another aspect, if this meeting is ever held and assuming it will achieve progress it might open the door for a later Syrian-Lebanese participation in the negotiations, and until then this formula does not represent an independent choice by itself.
3.) Holding an international meeting as stated by the resolution of the Arab Peace Initiative ministerial committee meeting on 18/4/2007: the phrase “international meeting” here is a loose and stretchy phrase, since it might refer to a regional-international consultative meeting which brings us back to choice (1) mentioned above, or it might refer to a broad international meeting but of a consultative non-binding nature, or a meeting for launching negotiations on all or some tracks afterwards, hoping that things will mature enough during this meeting for holding negotiations regarding the specified conflict issues. Until then the idea of the “international meeting” is a gate in the direction of formulating one of the three choices mentioned earlier (before the intermediate choices title).
Choices from outside the scope of the Arab Peace Initiative
Based on the dilemmas associated with the Arab Peace Initiative and the Arabs’ inability in marketing the initiative in Israel and Israel’s reservations over some of its terms, two known writers Hussein Agha and Robert Malley have suggested in their article “The Road from Makkah” published on 10/5/2007 (volume 54, number 8 www.nybooks.com/articles) a suggestion for establishing an “international effort which aspires the Arab initiative but is not built on it” (p10) in a way that this effort will work to combine everything that is good in each of the tracks: The unilateral, bilateral, and the suggested multi-tracks (a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement, or a comprehensive solution on all tracks), and pushing forward the peaceful settlement in the area on this basis.
This suggestion represents a real alternative choice in case all efforts to build on the Arab Peace Initiative fail
The summary of the Palestinian choices
Based on all of the choices, the common denominator among all of these choices on the Palestinian track lies in the necessity for overturning the negotiating context. Although the previous negotiating context depended on the agreement over the details of the phases hoping that the piling up of the implementation of these phases will lead to a two-state solution, the outcome of this was the sinking in these phases which pushed the two-state solution farther and farther away. On the other hand the suggested negotiating context is based on first agreeing on the final goal between the two sides, based on the previous understandings and agreements between them without presenting these agreements for re-negotiations which if it happened opens the door to new concessions from the Palestinian side, following the agreement over the final goal, come other agreements about the implementation phases which lead to it within three years as an example.
In this regard it is possible to envision an agreement over the final solution which also includes a vision to the nature and structure of the future Palestinian and Israeli states (not only the Palestinian state) and the nature of the political, economical, and cultural relationships between them, and a plan to reach this final status in two stages:
The first is a stage of a mutual comprehensive calm, which also includes other actions on the ground aimed at building confidence such as settlement’s construction freeze and removing the checkpoints and so on, which also includes stationing an international force for monitoring violations and for effective intervention when necessary for putting a stop to these violations. The second is a stage for building an independent Palestinian state living in peace and security side by side with Israel.
In order to make a success out of all of this, the need for serious efforts for creating a Palestinian-Arab and International track which adopts this plan with both of its stages and work together relentlessly to mobilize the necessary support for it in the Israeli society, must be stressed again.
The Third Part: The Palestinian-Arab strategies for addressing the Israeli society regarding the Arab Peace Initiative.
These strategies are important in order to recreate the building of an Israeli partner absent today.
First: The elements of the suggested unified speech directed towards the Israeli street regarding the Arab Peace Initiative
1. The suggested initiative is an Arab initiative first and foremost, an initiative which brings together all of the Arab states since the 14th summit in Beirut in March 2002 without any back down on this consensus despite the absence of an official Israeli response all this time.
Based on that, this initiative must not be used to differentiate between “moderate” and “extremist” Arab states; rather it should be used as a bridge for peace with all the Arabs and on all the tracks.
2. The Arab Initiative provides to Israel if it withdraws to the borders of June 4, 1967 and reaches an agreed upon solution to the Palestinian refugee’s issue the following in the name and approval of 22 Arab states:
A-“declaring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict” (Item 3a in the initiative.
B- “Entering a peace agreement between all of the Arab states and Israel” (Item 3a in the initiative).
C- “Achieving security to all the states in the region” (Item 3a in the initiative)
D- “Establishing normal relations with Israel in the wake of this comprehensive peace” (item 3b in the initiative)
E-“An agreed upon solution to the refugees problem which leads to the Jewish demographic majority in the state of Israel”. (Item 2b in the initiative)
More over the initiative has stressed the resolutions of the unusual Cairo summit held in June 1996 that the comprehensive and just peace is a strategic choice for the Arab states and that the Arab states are convinced “that the military solution to the conflict did not achieve peace and security to any of the sides”.
3. The Arab Peace Initiative was not presented to Israel in the form of the previous conditions, rather it included a call for negotiations over an agreed upon solution to the refugee’s problem from one side (Item 2b in the initiative), and from another side “the text of the Beirut’s declaration” issued at the end of the 14th Arab summit in Beirut on 28/3/2002 has called on Israel to restart the negotiations on all the tracks in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement, it also called her to lean towards peace declaring that the just peace is her strategic choice as well”.
4. In regard to the issue of the Palestinian refugees, the initiative did not include any references to the subject of the “right of return”. Rather it called in item 2b for “reaching a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees by reaching an agreement based on the United Nations resolution 194”, it also called in item 4 for “a guarantee for rejecting all forms of settling the Palestinians which goes against the special situation of each of the Arab host countries”.
This text includes an indirect recognition of the five mechanisms and the Israeli-Palestinian Taba discussions in 2001 described as a translation of how to implement resolution 194, and these are the same mechanisms mentioned in Clinton’s Initiative, which were announced by the former American president Bill Clinton in December 2000.
On the other hand, the text includes a rejection for the settling to appease Lebanon which is a special situation in terms of the sectarian structure of its political system, therefore, rejecting the settling should not be interpreted as a call for a total return to inside Israel as was described in some of the Israeli articles such as the article written by Uri Dromi on 14/4/2007 (Miami Herald, Media Company).
5. Based on the above, the initiative is a call for a comprehensive peace and is not a call for normalization with new Arab states without peace (such as Saudi Arabia, and through using the name “Saudi Initiative” as an alternative to its official name the “Arab Peace Initiative”), it is not also a call for a partial peace with one Arab side without the other, and since the Beirut declaration included a call for re-launching the negotiations on all the tracks, it means that those negotiations will take the other initiatives into consideration such as the roadmap plan, Clinton’s initiative, and the outcome of Taba discussions of 2001, which includes as in the Palestinian case swapping lands between the West Bank and Israel, and the joint and separate special arrangements in Jerusalem.
6. It’s not helpful to demand that the Arab leaders visit Israel in order to present the Arab Peace Initiative in the Israeli Knesset without prior guarantees that the visit will be followed by real measures for returning the Arab lands occupied in 1967, or at least to start serious negotiations within a specified timetable for reaching peace agreements. The comparison with Sadat’s visit to Israel in 1977 proves that, since Sadat did not visit Israel until after he had received clear promises from Moshe Dayan through prior secret discussions as part of a peace agreement between the two countries to be reached after the visit.
Second: The Palestinian Arab Mechanism for addressing the Israeli Society regarding the Arab Peace Initiative
The majority of the Israelis do not know the Arab Peace Initiative and many of those who did, do not know its context according to a poll organized by Tamy Steinmetz Center for Peace Studies in the University of Tel Aviv last March, only 63% from the Israelis have heard of the Arab Peace Plan, 46% from those polled said that it can serve as a foundation for negotiations, whereas an identical percentage said that Israel must reject it outright.
Because of the above, there must be media, educational and public efforts directed towards the Israeli society, there must also be a parallel effort directed towards the Israeli politicians across the Israeli political spectrum, and a third effort on the international level.
Media efforts include:
1. Directing governmental and non-governmental Palestinian and Arab messages regarding the context of the Arab Peace Initiative towards the Israeli public opinion through satellite, radio, and television stations and other means in Hebrew.
2. Writing articles by Arabs and Palestinians and publishing them in Hebrew newspapers.
3. Organizing interviews on Israeli Media.
4. Organizing Media campaigns in the Israeli street in coordination with the Israeli Peace Camp supportive of the Arab Peace Initiative.
5. Organizing video conference meetings with Israeli activists in order to explain the contexts of the initiative and agree on mechanisms for publicizing it inside the Israeli society.
The Educational Effort includes:
1. Organizing lectures and workshops in schools, universities, and across the educational institutions and in different large halls across Israel about the Arab Peace Initiative.
2. Directing information to the widest possible sector in the Israeli society through the internet about the contexts of the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Public Effort includes:
1. Organizing joint planning meetings with Israeli peace activists in order to put the necessary plans for publicizing the Arab Peace Initiative in the Israeli street and agree on timetables for implementations
2. Holding street meetings, carrying banners, arranging field trips, and other activities in order to promote the Arab Peace Initiative in Israel.
3. Establishing a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Arab work group for following-up the public activities regarding the Arab Peace Initiative.
4. Holding a regional meeting for the civil society organizations for planning support to the Arab Peace Initiative and agreeing on the context of the messages from the Arab civil society to the Israeli civil society.
The effort with the Israeli politicians includes:
1. Holding meetings with the influential political symbols in each political party whether from the left or the right in Israel for discussing the context of the Arab Peace Initiative.
2. Establishing a joint Israeli-Palestinian parliamentary group for promoting the Arab Peace Initiative, where the Egyptians and Jordanian embassies in Tel-Aviv must participate in this effort, as well as other Arab states representatives’ offices in the city.
The International Political Effort includes:
1. Working for introducing a Security Council resolution which adopts the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for the solution.
2. Working with all international governments and coalitions in accordance with the contents of the seventh article in the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of the Arab Peace Initiative Ministerial Committee issued in its meeting held in Cairo on 18/4/2007.
3. Working through the Palestinian ambassadors in the world for contacting interested governments and urge them to take actions to support the Arab Peace Initiative.
After re-affirming the Arab Peace Initiative in the last Arab summit in Riyadh on (27&28/3/2007), exactly 5 years after it was first issued, the initial stands regarding this initiative varied between, first, calling for normalizations before implementation (Tzipi Livni’s call to the Arabs), secondly, calling for making it a foundation for negotiation without any preconditions (Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres), and thirdly, calling for an advanced Israeli approval of the Initiative followed by launching negotiations on all tracks (The Arab Stance).
After the meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative Ministerial committee on 18/4/2007 the stance calling for normalization before implementation took a step back because the Arabs have rejected it, they also delegated Jordan and Egypt only for contacting Israel for being the two countries which “got their lands back from Israel” as was stated in the declaration issued by the ministerial committee after their meeting, also the stance calling for launching negotiations before announcing an advanced Israeli approval of the initiative took a step back as well.
Based on that, the ball now is in the Israeli court for announcing their advanced approval of the initiative, as the Arab governments and civil societies must continue to work in accordance with the resolutions of the ministerial committee meeting in order to promote the call for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, a peace if achieved guarantees to provide the appropriate climate for confronting and restraining the objections of those among the Arabs and Palestinians who reject the Arab Peace Initiative totally or partially.