Nostalgia for Arafat?[Ed Note: This is one in a series of JINSA Reports on the Administration’s “Palestine Policy” and efforts to score a Middle East success by creating the State of Palestine, even if the current State Department proposal for an international conference fails.]
[Ed Note: This is one in a series of JINSA Reports on the Administration’s “Palestine Policy” and efforts to score a Middle East success by creating the State of Palestine, even if the current State Department proposal for an international conference fails.]
How far has the principle of Arab-Israel peacemaking mutated? Originally, the goal was to obtain for Israel the security that recognition of its legitimacy by the Arab states would bring. Israel was the party wronged and Israel was entitled to redress by the neighbors; the limbo of the Palestinians was a byproduct of Israel not having “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” (UN Res. 242) Over the years, the Palestinians have assumed the role of aggrieved party, entitled to redress by Israel.
Even then it was understood that formal recognition of Israel by the Arab states and the Palestinians was required for progress. In July 2007, President Bush said, “The Arabs should end the fiction that Israel does not exist, stop official incitement and send cabinet level visitors to Israel.”
Now, however, the Administration appears ready to create a Palestinian state in territory that Abu Mazen controls tenuously (The West Bank) and territory that he doesn’t control at all (Gaza) in hopes that the Palestinians will stop trying to destroy Israel, and the Arab states will deign to accept reality – although not necessarily accept Israel.
Undermining the President, Secretary of State Rice said Arab countries, including Syria which maintains an active state of war with Israel, could come to the “peace conference” as long as their attendance would reflect “acceptance of international efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and support for the ultimate goal of a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace agreement,” according to The Washington Post.
That’s it. There is no Arab-Israel conflict; only the problem caused by the absence of a Palestinian State. There is no requirement for Arab states to “send cabinet level visitors to Israel” – only to send them to Washington. Expressions of support for an “ultimate goal” and a “comprehensive regional peace agreement” do nothing to end “the fiction that Israel does not exist.” It is all so much muddy diplo-speak that allows each country to decide for itself what constitutes “support for international efforts” and what an acceptable “two-state solution” would look like.
It is lucky that the Arab states and the Palestinians have more experience with this than Secretary Rice. The Saudis have declined to participate and Abu Mazen said he needs specific answers to Palestinian demands on borders, Jerusalem and refugees – the big three – BEFORE the conference.
Arafat had to be dragged to Camp David II in July 2000 – because, it transpired, he thought the leaders of Israel, the United States and the Palestinians should only publicly stake their prestige on a meeting after the actual negotiations were done and ratification was all that was required. He was right.