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The Solution To The Conflict I Favor

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By MJ Rosenberg

Crossposted on Tikkun Daily

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.

It’s now called the Arab League Initiative but it actually began as a proposal by Saudi King Abdullah to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Friedman announced it to the world in his column and it evolved, almost incredibly, into a full blown offer to Israel by the entire Arab world (yes, every single Arab country and the Palestinians).  In exchange for a return to the ’67 borders, Israel would not only achieve peace but normalization of relations with the Arab world: trade, travel, educational and cultural exchanges, security arrangements etc.

The precise wording was this: 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 including the issues of “return” and Jerusalem. 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 refused to seriously 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.

Just look at the changes since 2007.

In 2007, 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 neighbor 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 dim.

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  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 only a Shiite terrorist group 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.

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