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Middle East News Service: What Arab Initiative?

What Arab Initiative?

Middle East News Service

[Middle East News Service comments: Any who tells you that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is simple is, with all due respect, fooling themselves. Unless you adopt the most one-sided, and one-eyed, narrative it is complex. But there are junctures in which a single article can explain what is happening at the moment.

The State of Israel is at an important crossroads at the moment. It can choose to deal with the Arab states and its Palestinian neighbours (yes including Hamas) on the basis of the Arab League’s 2002 peace plan. Or it can find thousands of excuses why it should not do so.

The most significant sticking point in the conflict is what is the issue of the Palestinian refuges. known by both sides as the right of return. This are the crucial paragraph in Eldar’s outline:

In a comprehensive study of the Arab peace initiatives, in the framework of studies for a master's degree in conflict resolution at Tel Aviv University, Gal Peleg spoke with Hillel Newman, the foreign minister's diplomatic advisor. The advisor presented Livni's position to the effect that "the initiative speaks specifically about return to Israel, whereas Israel's position on this is clear. Therefore, there is no revolutionary proposal here, but rather a slight change in the semantics, only a blurring of the intentions... A more profound analysis would see in this proposal the negation of the existence of the State of Israel: There is an attempt here to create two states with a Palestinian majority."

Law professor Eyal Benvenisti, who is considered an international expert on the refugee issue, rejects outright the minister's argument (and at the Foreign Ministry there are quite a few who share his opinion). He notes that it was Israel that supported United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, and until 1988 the Arabs avoided it as though it were a plague. According to him, the Arab League formulation, which requires Israeli agreement to any solution of the refugee issue, is a bargain that should have been grasped with both hands. (Emphasis added.)

This is one of those articles that is best read in full. If Eldar’s prediction unfortunately comes true you won’t have to read another one like it for another 40 years – Sol Salbe.]


Last update - 02:34 06/03/2007

What Arab initiative?

By Akiva Eldar

According to the London newspaper Al Hayat, in a preliminary discussion that was held yesterday in Cairo, the Arab foreign ministers agreed that the summit that will convene in Riyadh three weeks from now will emphasize the commitment of the Arab League and its members to "a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic choice." The line is identical to its big brother, born in February 2002 in Saudi Arabia, and baptized in Beirut. It will be difficult to impossible for Hamas to swallow this bitter pill but like experienced poker players, its leaders are keeping mum. Why should they come out the patsies of the Arab world?

The formulation of the resolution that has been prepared in advance of the Riyadh summit states that the Arab League "expresses full support for the Mecca agreement, which was obtained under the auspices of the Guardian of the Holy Places [the Saudi king], with the help of an Arab effort, to achieve Palestinian national agreement and the establishment of a national unity government." The summit will also call upon the international community to recognize the new government and to lift the siege on the territories. Hamas is not taking too great a risk in gambling that Israel will do the work of refusing in its stead.

The reaction of the Israeli government to the Riyadh summit in general, and to the Mecca article in particular will have been known for a long time before the opening ceremony even takes place. It is enough to look at the reactions to the agreement that arranged the conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian unity government. It suffices to follow Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's crusade to the world intended to thwart the agreement that was aimed at lifting the international boycott on the territories and paving the way for negotiations on a final-status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.



[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

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