Abusing the Arab Peace Initiative
By Nicola Nasser
Oct 13, 2006, 00:57
The failed Qatari mediation in the still unresolved
inter-Palestinian divide was, in practice, an American success in turning the
Arab Peace Initiative (API) into a pressure tool that further exacerbates
fractures both in Arab and Palestinian ranks, less than two weeks after the
U.S. aborted a move by the Arab League to revive an overdue comprehensive
approach to the Arab and Palestinian-Israeli conflict on its basis through the
The Unites States is now trying to find a common
ground with regional powers to abuse this initiative as a regional framework
for a coordinated effort vis-�-vis Iran, Syria and their Palestinian, Lebanese
and Iraqi spheres of influence.
The API was for
four years archived into oblivion on the shelves of the Arab League, rejected
by Israel, ignored by the US and viewed even by its authors as an unrealistic
nonstarter, until it was dusted off to contain the negative unexpected outcome
of the Israeli 33-day destructive war on Lebanon.
Adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, it is
based on the concept of land for peace and offers Israel an unprecedented
historic opportunity to enjoy normal relations with all 22 members of the Arab
League in return for returning Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories it
annexed during the 1967 War and agreeing to a negotiated settlement for
millions of Palestinian refugees.
The fallout of the
Lebanon war unmasked the impotence of Israel�s overwhelming military
superiority, discredited negotiations as an Arab strategy to coerce Israel into
accepting just peace, confirmed the United States as a biased broker in the
conflict, gave impetus and credibility to Syrian and Iranian arguments, doomed
the already moribund Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which was pronounced
�dead� by none other than the spokesman of the Arab League leaders, Amr Moussa,
created a rift in the ranks of the Arab leaders, which rendered convening an
Arab summit impossible after a few years of regular meetings, revived war as a
possible alternative to resolve the conflict and widened the gap between Arab
rulers and their people.
the Arab League leaders decided to dust off the API and revive peace making on
its basis by entrusting the mission to the United Nations Security Council.
Israel�s Palestinian peace partner, the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), subscribed to the effort.
The U.S. and Israel
swiftly snubbed the Arab move in the bud, but nonetheless perceived in it and
its motives a common ground with some Arabs vis-�-vis Syria and Iran, �to recast
the (regional) political landscape from the traditional one of Arabs versus
Israelis . . . into a Sunni vs. Shiia alignment.� )
Immediately the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza
Rice, seized on the opportunity and embarked on a Middle East mission early
this month to profit on the inter-Arab and inter-Palestinian divides. She
gathered eight of her counterparts from eight Arab countries in Cairo.
Rice was on record that Washington�s aim was to seek
an Arab alliance of �moderates� to shore up the �moderate� Palestinian camp
against the �militant� Hamas-led government and its �militant� Syrian and
Iranian backers, thus fuelling polarization both among Arab states and
Palestinian factions by playing on what she supposed as Islamophobia and
Iranophobia among them. But she was misreading the signals. Both phobias have
better audience in the West.
Heralding the potential of a moderate Arab camp, whose
moderation credentials are only judged vis-�-vis Israel, to act immoderately
vis-�-vis Syria and Iran was the latest US effort to divert regional attention
away from the major Israeli obstacle to regional peace and stability, contrary to
what the Arab partners are hoping for.
For the U.S. to take sides would inevitably deepen
Arab and Palestinian divides, which is an unwelcome policy to moderate Arabs
and Palestinians alike, who do not want and could not be perceived by their
people as advocating dialogue and negotiations with the Israeli occupying power
but willing to go into confrontation with their compatriot political
However the six-member GCC states, Egypt and Jordan
got along with Rice, calculated that the converging common ground with the U.S.
could be enough incentive for its administration to revive the
Palestinian-Israeli peace process to defuse a drift toward further regional
It was a miscalculation; how could the U.S. credibly
deal with the API that it aborted at the UN Security Council less than two
weeks ago? How the ruling out of Palestinians from the Rice-led nine foreign
minister Cairo meeting could credibly be perceived to be in support of
Palestinian �moderates,� while ruling out any Palestinian �moderate� or
How could the Cairo meeting bail out the Palestinians
from their internal divide on the basis of an initiative that was also adopted
in the absence of Palestinian representation by an Arab summit that could not
afford neither to bail late leader Yasser Arafat out of his Israeli captivity
to join them, nor even to allow in his voice live via satellite link from his
besieged headquarters in the West Bank?
The ostensibly Palestinian-geared Cairo meeting could
not camouflage its regional agenda. The API was put now on the table not to revive the peace
process, but to be thrown in the face of Syria and Iran as a direct response to
Iran�s rejection of Israel�s existence, although it was originally a genuine
Arab peace endeavor dictated by Arab impotence to stand up to Israeli military
On this backdrop the Qatari mediation in the
inter-Palestinian divide floundered, because it redirected the API from a peace
offensive against Israel into a pressure tool to help enforce the Israeli
In less than a
month the Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, failed on two Arab missions, the first
foiled by the U.S. at the U.N. Security Council and the second aborted because
of the U.S. in Gaza.
inter-Palestinian crisis is a prerequisite to jumpstart the U.S.-envisioned
camp of Arab moderates, because without a Palestinian blessing no such camp
could kick off due to the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to
involvement was blessed and hailed by the 8+1 camp and beforehand perceived as
an additional pressure on Hamas irrespective of Qatar�s well-intentioned
motives. Any simple logical analysis would easily conclude that Doha�s
mediation has weighed in on Hamas. The Qatari proposals boil down to being a US
version of the API that was adapted to sell the Israeli dictates to Hamas in
involvement to resolve the Palestinian crisis is doomed if based on an agenda
adverse to Syria and Iran, particularly if this involvement is suspiciously
backed by the US strategic ally, Israel.
The Americans, the
Arab moderates, the Qataris and the �moderate� Palestinian camp knew this
beforehand and were very well aware that Hamas won�t be forthcoming and won�t
buy the Israeli conditions camouflaged in Arab mediation.
Neither Hamas nor Palestinians are in short memory not
to remember that the central committee of Fatah, the four-decade leader of
the PLO and at the time the ruling party of the PLO offshoot, the Palestinian
Authority, issued a statement describing the API as another �stab� against the
struggle of the Palestinian people. Is it too much now for Palestinian
Prime Minister Ismail Haneya of Hamas to reject it as �problematic!�
The initiative does not address: (1) the nature of the envisioned
Palestinian state or the level of its militarization; (2) the use of water
resources; (3) access to Jerusalem and its holy sites, as well as access to
other holy sites within the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine or
access between the West Bank and Gaza Strip; (4) the fate of more than 160
Israeli colonies, home to more than 450.000 illegal Jewish settlers in the
envisioned Palestinian state; (5) the borders and the border controls between
Israel and the Palestinian state, and (6) the fate of Palestinian prisoners.
More importantly the API doesn�t address the nature of the �just solution�
to the refugee problem, the hard core of the Palestine Question, although it
refers to the UN General Assembly's non-binding resolution 194 -- rejected by
Israel and ignored by the U.S. for 59 years -- and makes this solution subject
to negotiations, thus compromising the �Right of Return� for more than half the
The �moderate� side in the Palestinian divide complicates the controversy
further by President Mahmoud Abbas� repeated statements on reaching
�a just and agreed upon solution for the problem.� The �agreed upon� formula
reveals willingness to compromise, which is worrying to refugees.
If the Palestinian-Israeli unofficial Geneva Accord or
Initiative is the indicator, then the �agreed upon solution� as an approach
would compromise not only the Palestinian Right of Return but also the status
The accord gives the refugees six options of which
only one grants them the choice to allow a marginal number a symbolic return to
Israel, thus converging with the comatose former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon�s vision of turning the West Bank into world�s largest refugee camp,
which is to be called a Palestinian state. The accord also cedes to Israel 85
percent of eastern Jerusalem, which the Jewish state occupied in 1967.
Fortunately, Israel rejected the initiative, but
unfortunately, the PLO never officially rejected the accord which was
co-authored by none other than a member of its executive committee.
How could anyone blame Hamas for insisting on
alternative terms of reference, other than the terms which the PLO was coerced
to accept when an Israeli academic and author, like Tanya Reinhart, decides to
quit as emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University and �return� to Australia in
protest against Israel�s handling of the Palestinian issue after condemning its
government for lying to the world by using arguments about Israel's right to
exist as a cover for grabbing land and resources from the Palestinian people.
�Palestinians should not have to pay the price of the
Holocaust,� she said, adding that Israel is imprisoning �a whole nation.� 
If Israeli immigrants into Palestine have the luxury
of opting to leave Israel and return home when things turn unbearable for them
to stay, the Palestinian people have no other choice but to stay.
How could anyone blame Hamas for insisting on alternative
terms of reference other than the terms which the PLO was coerced into
(1) Frida Ghitis, Mideast Realignment:
Could Iran Unite Arabs and Israelis?, Oct 10, 2006.
(2) The Age Online, Oct. 10, 2006.
Nicola Nasser is a
veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in
Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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