Reviewing the “derailment” of Arab-Peace Initiative: Objectives and dilemmas
One of the most important “possible point of confrontation” is Israeli’s foreign policy towards Palestine and its rapidly increasing military deployment and settlement within West Bank. In accordance with the Oslo Accord, large sections of the land were “ignored”. Tel Aviv continues to argue on the fact that, during the Six Day war there were no diplomatic channels available and Israeli forces used the lands for defence. Tel Aviv is “reluctant” to surrender the entire West Bank as it will make Israeli settlements vulnerable to Palestinian rocket attacks. – Anant Mishra*
Since its creation in 1947, Israel and Palestine are “locked in conflict”. Between 1965 and early 2018, over 25,000 members of the armed forces have been killed, whereas the civilian casualties have “escalated phenomenally”. The conflict is no longer “limited” to the borders and has “dragged” neighbouring states in the conflict since the beginning. The “military confrontation” between Arab states and Israel sparked “the worst humanitarian crisis” which “worsens every day”. The “ruthlessness in the conflict” has highlighted that the conflict will not end, which is evident from frequent terror attacks on Israeli citizens and “ferocious” response by Israeli military forces.
The “confrontation” between Israel and the Arab world is not only limited to a “territorial dispute” since disputes-centred on “territorial occupation” can be resolved through “diplomatic means”. Furthermore, the “confrontation” between Israel and Arab states are “dipped in ideology”. Zionism emerged post-Balfour declaration, after the then foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, promising a Jewish state in British mandated Palestine, to the 2nd Baron Rothschild. Also, the Balfour deceleration also stated that the “rights of existing Ara communities will be in-alienable”, asserting that these “rights” will not be affected by the Jewish state.
To spread Zionism, mandated Palestine was an ideal place, moreover, geographically “ideal” to establish a Jewish state. Jerusalem is the “historical” capital of Judaism, Zionists relentlessly “lobbied” to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Series of “intensive lobbying”, followed by “secretly settling Jewish people”, were “carefully drafted tactics” which Zionist groups used to convince the west of an “ideal Jewish state”. However, the Jewish “desire to establish a state in Palestine”, the land which they called “home” was an “essential British colony”, a perfect example of a “British colonial rule”. Although, foreign secretary Balfour desired to create a “Jewish state within Palestine”, London was more inclined to maintain its “colonial legacy”. Faced with “numerous challenges” coupled with a “reluctant London”, the Israeli masses, similar to their future enemy “Palestinian guerrillas”, induced violence and guerrilla tactics in an effort to “fulfil their dreams”.
Amid World War II, the mass execution of Jews horrified global communities, “infuriating” the Jewish guerrilla groups. The then published White paper advocated for “strictly limiting Jewish immigration” while advocating independence of Palestine under the Arab rule by 1949, further angered Zionist leaders, who viewed this as Britain’s betrayal. Infuriated Zionist extremists declared war on Britain. This resulted in numerous terror incidents particularly the one which destroyed an entire wing of the King David hotel. The “ferocious” destroyed an entire wing the King David hotel which resulted in the ninety-one deaths, injuring hundreds. The intensity of the attack shook the world while raising numerous questions on British “interest to resolve the issue”. By inducing “terror tactics”, Jewish “militant” groups such as the Irgun, Lehi and the Haganah “initiated series of events” whose impacts can be heard even today.
On the parallel side, the Arab nations were “calling for a unanimous” response. The then “naïve” concept of Arab-nationalism emerged whose “seeds” transformed into the “League of Arab states” which continues to influence global forums today. The notion of Arab-nationalism was not only limited to attaining “Arab independence from Western control”, also “unify all Arab countries into one”. The establishment of Israel hindered in “Arab-unification”. With the existence of Jewish state within Palestine, advocators of Arab-nationalism could not link Arab nations in North Africa with Arab states in Asia. This was precisely the reason behind the failure of United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria since “geographically” Israel was between Egypt and Syria.
In the early 1940s, the then Foreign Minister of Britain, Anthony Eden raised the proposal for a “United Arab”, and his “proposal” received numerous “possible approaches” from the then “British backed” Middle Eastern leaders, such as the then King Abdullah of Jordan and Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Said. Meanwhile, the Egyptians proposed for a “regional-centric groupings”, which resulted in the establishment of the League of Arab States in 1945. The establishment of the United Arab Republic in 1958, was the first “union” of two earlier independent nations.
The “union” came into existence because of the immense popularity of the Egypt President Nasser. The Unified Arab Republic was “hurriedly” formed by the then President Nasser supported by Syrian leaders who were fearing the “rise of nationalists” hoping to take the initiative forward. An absence of a “federal structure”, many critics considered the “union” as “nothing more than a large nation occupying a small state”. The union lasted until 1961 when Syrian army officers initiated the coup d’état and subsequently “withdrew” Syria from the union. The political leadership, now in immense pressure from the “agitated” crowd, Egypt, Syria and Iraq ratified another agreement in 1963 to form a new “union” of Arab republics, which now had a new “federal structure while retaining the identity and institution of member states”. During this time, Egypt was the only Arab state calling itself “the United Arab Republic” (by stating that it remains open for unification with any member nation), eventually naming itself as “Arab Republic of Egypt” in 1973.
Six-Day War and Arab peace initiatives
During the Six-Day Arab-Israeli war, the Arab nations met during the League of Arab States summit and established the Khartoum agreement, which did not state any “recognition, peace-propositions and diplomatic engagements”. It was a “huge burden” for Arab states to “accept decisive defeats twice from the hands of Israel” , but now, with “disorderly militaristic resources” along with rapidly falling economy due to the failed oil embargo of 1967, the only “solution” left for Arab states was to ratify Khartoum agreement. However, the United Nations tried to ease the stress by implementing resolution 242, “calling all Arab nations to normalise their relations with Israel” and “calling the parties to return lands occupied during the third war”, already “humiliated” Arab nations unanimously “rejected” the resolution.
However, the Arab states strictly adhered to the Khartoum agreement (stated three no’s), nonetheless, for Egypt, survival during the post-Six Day war was increasingly difficult. The “decisive defeat” of Egyptian army against the Israelis coupled with the loss of entire Sinai Peninsula “quantified economic hardship” during post-war. The embargo of oil in 1967 was not only “ineffective”, it had a severe economic impact on Arab states during the post-war years. The then “economic industrial nations” condemned the use of oil “as a political tool”. Also, the global economies were not dependent upon Arab oil as it is today, and Texas easily compensated with the loss of oil shipment during the war. Moreover, the oil embargo proved to be “significant failure” when oil-dependent nations received fuel from “alternate” countries or “third party nations”. Evidently, the oil industry significantly revived its operations in the first month of the oil embargo, highlighting the “dangerous” gamble played by Arab states which were “essentially backfiring”.
By the end of August 1967, “defeated Arab nations”, Egypt, Syria and Jorden could no longer bear the “economic stress” receiving from “oil embargo” while simultaneously initiating post-war construction and rehabilitation programs. In a desperate attempt to revive their economy, the member states called on other Arab nations to stop the embargo and continue production of oil. The post six-day war period was increasingly becoming “economically harsh” for Arab nations long after the “guns were silent”. The revived Arab oil production at a time when the global oil market was already booming, resulted in “marginalised prices of Arab oil” which destroyed domestic Arab economies.
In the light of “massive humiliation and decisive defeat”, the hope for an “everlasting peace, security and stability in the region” was most vulnerable since Israel’s creation. The “concept” was essentially destroyed, when the then dynamic President of Egypt, Anwar Al Sadat, declared war on Israel in 1973. The Yom Kippur war initiated the status quo, returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Moreover, the West Bank and Gaza strip were also handed over to Arab whereas Golan heights were established as a De-Militarized Zone between Israel and Syria. Furthermore, the commonality between the previous Arab-Israeli wars was “oil being used as a political tool”. By this time, global nations were now independent of Arab oil and Saudi Arabia successfully “replaced” America as the “viable” leader of crude oil. The embargo on oil during Yom Kippur war “phenomenally” increased oil prices, during which Arab nations witnessed Western countries to incline towards “peaceful negotiations”.
The next decades were significantly fuelled by terrorism induce by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions, but no “traditional Arab-Israel” war was fought. The first Arab-Peace initiative was proposed in 2003 and global nations unanimously agreed to it, since the violence induced against the Israeli settlements were largely skirmishers, whereas the Arab nations lost “credibility” among the Palestinian masses to “unanimously voice” for Palestinian sovereignty, integrity and security. The “concept of self-determination” was openly advocated by Palestinian activists.
The PLO carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Western nations while specifically targeting Palestinian territories in an effort to liberate them through “succession and violence”.
However, the violence induced by the PLO was no different than the violence induced by the Haganah in the early formation years of Israel, the acts of violence induced by PLO received massive global condemnation, which gave Israel an opportunity to “demonstrate an aggressive response” and employ “strict policing tactics” in Palestinian occupied territories. By this time, the notion of all global statesmen was towards formulating a “two-nation” theory, pointing towards the “co-existence” of two naturals, “Israelis and Palestinians” within the territory controlled by the Israelis. It was quite a task for Arafat to convince Palestinian masses that “their share of the land would only be thirty percent of what they seek”. Furthermore, the context of Khartoum agreement prevented Arab nations to interfere or overrule PLO during negotiations with Israel.
Again, Egypt repeated the “same mistake”. President Sadat closely witnessed violence in Lebanon and a veteran of wars with Israel. His previous “failed-confrontation” with Israel, followed by his “failed military invasion” of Libya, forced him to “realise that settling for peace with Israel was the only practical solution”. During this time, settling for peace with Israel was one of the most “harshest decisions”, especially when there was a “right-wing” Prime Minister in Tel Aviv. Negotiating with a “right-wing” party with a history of inducing violence during pre-creation of Israel, was “harsher for any strong-willed Arab leader”. Sadat’s hope for peace was repeatedly shattered, when Begin while addressing Israeli masses, “swore to take over all the lands lost in Yom Kippur war, while taking over Palestine”. Surprisingly, Begin was the first leader to initiate peace-dialogue, by sending “positive messages for conciliation” through the kingdom of Morocco and Romania. Running all possible simulation in mind, in the late November 1978, Sadat ratified the Camp David accords and a similar accord in 1979. Although “popular for his ruthlessness”, Sadat enjoyed the relationship with liberal Arabs, who did criticise his actions, but knew “there wasn’t much decision to make”.
The initial “steps to progress” came during the Oslo accords in 1993. This was the very first time when PLO was officially recognised by the Israeli government. With PLO being recognised, the right to self-determination, under the UN charter was provided to the Palestinian masses. It was a “point of no return” for the Israeli government who could no longer argue on the existence of PLO. The accords further stated a “step-by-step withdrawal policy” of the Israeli military, right from Gaza strip to West Bank. The objective of the accord was to “establish” settlements in accordance with the UN Resolutions 242 and 338. Here, no “actual” progress was made since Tel Aviv was reluctant to leave territories occupied during the wars.
This was the “tipping point”. The parties did not agree any further. The agreement’s speculative “Tel Aviv” was agreeing to offer was not even “significantly enough” for Palestine. Furthermore, during agreements, there was widespread unrest, as Israeli armed forces and Palestinian armed groups frequently “encountered” each other, constantly reminding political leadership of “violent” consequences.
Under “intense” political induced “violence” that resulted in the formation of Saudi supported Arab-Peace initiative. Frequent “non-communique” followed by “everyday skirmishes” reminded the importance of a “multi-lateral peace initiative” to Arab leaders. During the Arab League setting of 2002, a formal recognition to the Arab-Peace initiative was signed by the former which was revived again in 2007. This initiative was “particularly” important as it highlighted the “commitment of Arab nations to formally end the conflict”. The agenda of the agreement “specifically mentioned the withdrawal of all Israeli forces and populous within the borders established during 1967, the establishment of a Palestine state on the West Bank and Gaza strip, and a unanimous “cooperation” to end the refugee issue. For the first time, Arab states advocated for a two-state solution, while purposefully violating Khartoum agreement and directly discussing a peaceful solution with Israel. The “engine” of the Arab-peace initiative was the Arab League which remained “dedicated and committed” to the peace initiative. Furthermore, there was an absolute need of “new solutions” since the issues discussed were similar in context, largely responsible in dissolving previous peace efforts.
The government under the leadership of the then-premier Ariel Sharon outrightly rejected the peace initiative ruling it “bias in every nature”, while calling for fresh “bi-lateral” negotiations. In the light of calling “bilateral negotiations with excitement”, the negotiations continue to remain “locked and abandoned” with Israel and Palestine. Although significant progress was achieved during President George W. Bush undertaking. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to “conclude a peace deal by the end of 2008”. Although, the “initial” progress made, was destroyed after Israeli military action in Palestine, halting all future negotiations once again. Incumbent primer Benjamin Netanyahu also took “significant time” before supporting the existence of Palestine as a state and PLO.
The saga of “distrust and hatred” between Israelis and Palestinians have drastically effected peace initiatives, and it is possible of another “Palestinian” revolt against the Israelis in the “unforeseeable” future. Today, Arab-Israeli Peace settlement remains a challenge for Arab nations, particularly to the League of Arab states. A peaceful agreement, if “unanimously discussed and ratified”, has the potential to alter “regional” and global “politics”, forever.
Today, the peace-initiative between Israel and all Arab nations remains at “head-locked”. The Israeli and Palestinian governments have not discussed peace initiatives since 2009. The talks which initially began in late 2010, did not receive a full attendance of Arab member states. Beginning with initial “setbacks”, political leadership immediately reached a “deadlock” and the situation remains unchanged since then. Palestine will not negotiate until Israeli forces leave the “occupied” territories whereas Israel has made it absolutely clear that “a full retreat will not happen”.
The situation on the ground continues to be “fluid and fragile”. Armed groups sponsored by HAMAS continues to “involve in violent confrontation” with the Israeli military, in response the Israeli’s continuing to adopt strict measures against the Palestinians. The hostility between the two nations “reached to its heights” when armed Palestinians stormed the holy shrines in Israel. This instigated more violence and confrontation between Israeli armed forces and Palestinian groups trained by HAMAS.
Again, in late 2017, a suicide bomber killed over 30 Israelis, which was considered to be one of the most devastating attacks since multiple suicide bombings of 2015. Armed groups trained by violent non-state actors continue to escalate their attacks, highlighting towards another intifada. Violence has been induced in a way that communities on both the sides have adapted it in their daily routine. Numerous “repeated attacks on civilian establishments” have poisoned the community relationship between Israeli and Palestinian masses and steering “anger and revenge” throughout their lives. The relationship between the Israel and Palestine is “dipped in duality”, but the question remains if Palestine is “recognised” as a state, will then the violence halt? Or without violence will there be a Palestine?
Until Tel Aviv “wills” to support the initiative, the peace process will never succeed. It is quite a task to pursue “military masters” with a history of “battlefield tactics, conquers and tails” to leave such rich legacy behind and adopt diplomatic avenues to “release conquered lands and retreat”. The Israeli government’s narrative remains unchanged, cloaking their “occupation” with “protecting Israeli lives on Palestinian settlements”. Tel Aviv has forgotten that the same population they term as “vicious terrorists” were internally displaced during the time when Haganah induced “violence and terror” in an effort to create Israel. HAMAS and its supported elements FATAH has established regional governments in the West Bank and Gaza strip whereas Israel continues to deploy strict measures and “military means” to maintain order. Both the parties support their role of inducing violence terming it as a “response” against each other’s military escalated reaction.
The “traditional” strain of military confrontation” has been superimposed by “diplomatic dialogue”. The violence continues to escalate, and its intensity has been “adopted” by the local communities, the “ferocity” of these attacks continues to increase. Today, the wars are over but “remembered especially how determined nations were to drive certain communities into the sea”. The “confrontations” have largely become “literal and verbal”, however, in an effort to come to begin “communications”, both states must resolve certain issues under the segment of “confidence-building mechanism”.
The first segment that has been a “point of contention for Israelis” is the right of Palestinian communities to return. In the light of escalating conflict, coupled with the historical Arab-Israeli wars and numerous Palestine Intifadas, numerous Palestinians sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), over 711,000 people had sought refuge alone in 1949, generations have passed since then increasing the numbers to as high as 4.7 million in 2011 alone. According to Arab leaders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates the right of Palestinian refugees to return, which Tel Aviv has out-rightly rejected, stating that they would allow re-settlement along eth borders of West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Another important point of confrontation is that of, their individual “security environment”. Israel has been rigorously “encountering” “Palestinian armed groups” especially during the Intifadas. With Tel Aviv’s move to recall Israeli patrol from Gaza strip, there has been a phenomenal increase in “rocket attacks” on Israeli settlements. In a real scenario where Palestine has established boundary the Israeli cities, Israeli’s might seek “revenge through violence and other means”. Finding a solution to this security crisis is another challenge, although policymakers must keep in mind the no solution will be perfect. Arab nations will never recognise a Jew state without compromising its regional principles, and it is a fact that “relationship with Arabs” can never be restored without compromising Jewish principles.
One of the most important “possible point of confrontation” is Israeli’s foreign policy towards Palestine and its rapidly increasing military deployment and settlement within West Bank. In accordance with the Oslo Accord, large sections of the land were “ignored”. Tel Aviv continues to argue on the fact that, during the Six Day war there were no diplomatic channels available and Israeli forces used the lands for defence. Tel Aviv is “reluctant” to surrender the entire West Bank as it will make Israeli settlements vulnerable to Palestinian rocket attacks.
The rapidly increasing Israeli settlements within West Bank continues to challenge leaders advocating the rights to existing Palestine statehood. Israeli citizens, in large numbers, reside within Palestinian hinterland. The settlements are guarded by Israeli defence forces and functions under the Israeli Protectorate. These settlements provide an excuse to deploy Israeli military forces on Palestinian lands. These settlements received massive condemnation from global leaders, with the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon describing these settlements as “illegal and violating all international laws”. It is also important to note that, Israeli communities within the West Bank openly oppose any peace initiatives between Arab and Israel in a fear of losing West Bank to Palestine.
Tel Aviv has turned West Bank into a buffer zone, in an effort to contain violence induced by Palestine. It is important to keep in mind that, no nation has ever been successful in “completely removing a certain section of the ethnic group”, those who have either “gulfed” in sectarian violence or continue to face “ethnic-tensions” today.
*Anant Mishra is a strategic affairs analyst with specialization on Afghanistan.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team.