Extremist Opposes Arab Peace Initiative

boot2.gifPresumably from a comfy chair somewhere safely out of the line of fire, Max Boot declares the 2002 Arab peace initiative to be “laughable“:

The plan, in case you’ve forgotten, calls on Israel to withdraw completely from the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, returning to the lines of June 4 1967; to accept a mutually agreed just solution to the refugee problem according to the General Assembly resolution 194; and to recognize the independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, there would be an end to hostilities between Israel and all the Arab countries, and Israel would get full diplomatic and normal relations.

That this is not actually a solution to the Israeli-Arab dispute should be obvious to anyone with even a modicum of understanding of the region.

Apparently, among those who lack even Boot’s modicum of understanding of the region is Israeli President Shimon Peres, who has praised the plan as “a serious opening for real progress.” In a December interview with Middle East Bulletin, Peres explained that his interest in the plan is the result of “a study of the Initiative’s details and the realization that it presents Israel with a good opportunity that should not be missed.”

Arab colleagues told me explicitly: end the conflict with the Palestinians and get peace and normalization of relations with all of us. They don’t ask extra concessions of Israel, only that we end the conflict with the Palestinians, an end toward which we are working anyway, but they offer us extra benefits. […]

Arab leaders think that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would lead to comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which would in turn undermine extremists, end the regional turmoil and pave the way toward a different Middle East.

Among the extremists who would be undermined: Hamas, Hezbollah, neocons.

Ghaith al-Omary, a former adviser to Palestinian President Abbas and director of advocacy for the American Task Force on Palestine, wrote that “there is little doubt that the Initiative is a significant document.”

It provides symbolic incentives in the form of Arab and Islamic normalization with Israel, concrete security guarantees, as well as obvious political incentives (the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit a Gulf capital will go down in history.)

If nothing else, it represents a major departure in the Arab nations’ articulation of their understanding and definition of the conflict with Israel. It posits the conflict not as an existential one—as was defined in previous Arab League decisions, most notably the “three no’s” of the Khartoum summit—that can only be resolved by the destruction of Israel. Instead, it defines it as an issue that is related to the Israeli occupation: once that ends, hostility to and conflict with Israel end with it.

It’s pretty astounding how cavalierly Boot dismisses a plan that offers Israel full recognition by the 22 members of the Arab League. That seems like something an actual supporter of Israel would be in favor of.