Peace in the Middle East: Some Facts
We in the west seem to have a short memory concerning overtures from the Arab world concerning peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Todays news had me thinking I should tickle your memory a bit in case you have forgotten a few important instances from the last forty years or so. You are probably aware of the myths. Here are some facts.
"Arab leaders relaunch Saudi Mideast peace initiative" is the headline that caught my eye today. The Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called peace the "strategic option" to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab League is reffering to a peace initiative first put forth in Beirut in 2002 by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
Here is some text from the March 2002 article, yep, three years ago, announcing peaceful normalization of relations with Israel if the nation would honor International Law and end the occupation.
The plan, first made public in a February interview with the New York Times, proposes that the Arab world would fully recognize and normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a withdrawal to the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day war, when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
Seems rather straightforward, doesn't it? Honor International Law and peace can be achieved. Allow the Palestinian people to have their own nation, East Jeruselem as its capitol.
"We want this peace initiative to take its path to the world," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.
One can hope but history shows us that the government of Israel is more concerned with grabbing land and water than with achieving a just peace. Let's hop into the time machine for a wider perspective, since the context offered by remembering the history of the conflict is often ignored, much to the advantage of the state of Israel.
The Sadat peace refused:
...in February 1971, when UN mediator Gunnar Jarring presented a proposal to Egypt and Israel that called for full peace between them in return for full Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory. Egyptian President Sadat accepted the proposal. Sadat's acceptance of Jarring's "famous" peace proposal was a "bombshell," Prime Minister Rabin recalls in his memoirs, a "milestone." While officially welcoming Egypt's expression "of its readiness to enter into a peace agreement with Israel," the government of Israel rejected the agreement, stating that "Israel will not withdraw to the pre-June 5, 1967 lines. The reasoning was explained by Haim Bar-Lev of the governing Labor Party: "I think that we could obtain a peace settlement on the basis of the earlier [pre-June 1967] borders. If I were persuaded that this is the maximum that we might obtain, I would say: agreed. But I think that it is not the maximum. I think that if we continue to hold out, we will obtain more."
A two state solution with the PLO refused:
Beginning in the mid-1970s a modification of UN Resolution 242 to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict provided for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza once Israel withdrew to its pre-June 1967 borders. Except for the United States and Israel (and occasionally a US client state), an international consensus has backed, for the past quarter century, the full-withdrawal/full recognition formula or what is called the "two-state" settlement. The United States cast the lone veto of Security Council resolutions in 1976 and 1980 calling for a two-state settlement that was endorsed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and front-line Arab states. A December 1989 General Assembly resolution along similar lines passed 151-3 (no abstentions), the three negative votes cast by Israel, the United States, and Dominica.
Sharon is still encouraging illegal settlements to be built on Palestinian territory, despite his Road Map agreements otherwise.
Sharon was a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians. I had promised Arafat that his people would not get any harm. Sharon, however, ignored this commitment entirely. Sharon's word is worth nil. --Ambassador Philip Habib President Ronald Reagan's Special Middle East Envoy in 1982