July 25, 2007

New Life For Mideast Peace Process?

The stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinians ironically started to melt when Hamas conducted a coup in Gaza. Now the Arab League, nervous about Iran's growing influence in the region, has decided to take the unprecedented step of officially sending representatives to Israel to begin peace talks:

Arab League envoys paid a historic visit to Israel on Wednesday to present a plan calling for a comprehensive regional settlement, saying they were extending "a hand of peace" on behalf of the Arab world.

The one-day visit by the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan marked the first time the 22-member group has sent representatives to Israel. The Arab League peace plan envisions full recognition of Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The visit highlights a dramatic change of direction for the Arab body, which actively pursued Israel's destruction after the Jewish state was created in 1948. The league refused to recognize Israel for decades afterward and suspended Egypt in 1979 for a decade after it become the first Arab state to make peace.

The instability in the Middle East has forced the hand of the moderate Arab states. They have realized, somewhat belatedly, that the greater threat to their fiefdoms comes not from Israel or the West but from the radicals they have nurtured as threats against both. Joining the threat from Islamist groups like Hamas and al-Qaeda is the ancient Persian threat of domination over the Arabs, risen once again in the near-nuclear mullahcracy in Teheran.

These states need to tend to their own back yard. They never really cared about the Palestinian cause, using it as a strawman to channel the rage their populaces felt at their oppression. Now that rage threatens to swallow their regimes, and they need to find a way to moderate their citizens -- and reaching accommodation for the Palestinians will bring them a measure of peace, and hopefully marginalize the radical Islamists they have unleashed.

And Iran threatens to use that weapon against them. With their influence over Hamas and control over Hezbollah, Iran has the ability to undermine most of the rest of the Gulf states, save perhaps Saudi Arabia -- which has its own issues with radical Islamists nonetheless. The Arab states can see a grand design of domination flowing from the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons and their stoking of Islamist rage in the region.

That doesn't mean that peace will drop like a ripe fruit from a tree. The conflict has critical obstacles, including what to do with the extensive settlements in the West Bank. However, agreeing to meet is the first step necessary for peace, and the fact that the Arab League is willing to do so openly is a significant development.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (15)

Posted by Scott | July 25, 2007 7:56 PM

I'm not buying a word of it, Captain.

When I see a representative from the Saudi entity, and Qatar, and the UAE, and Bahrain...perhaps I will have hope.

There is nothing new in this "peace" proposal. It's the same old crap about pulling back to the pre-1967 "borders" that were never "borders" to begin with.

Israel is not going to do this. This would leave Israel about 9 miles wide in the middle; and this is totally unacceptable for Israeli security.

"East Jerusalem" is also off the agenda. Never again will Israel turn over control of the Old City to the Islamic barbarians who desecrated Jewish cemetaries and historical sites for 20 years from 1948 until 1967. No means no.

WHEN the Arabs state clearly that they recognize Israel as an independent nation, as it has been for almost 60 years, then we may have some room to talk .

Until then...nothing.

Posted by ShrinkWrapped | July 25, 2007 8:21 PM

I'm with Scott on this, Ed. I quoted this from the J Post today on my blog:

[Quote] The Egyptian State Information service released a communiqué on Saturday saying Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit will be "representing Egypt and only Egypt, not the Arab League" during his visit.

The communiqué quoted Gheit as saying "there was no truth" in the statement issued by the Quartet last week that the two foreign ministers were going to Israel on behalf of the League. [End Quote]

The Arabs have perfected the art of telling the West what we want to hear while telling their own people what they really believe. Until the Saudis publicly sit down with the Israelis, it is all just a shadow play.
[Shameless plug] I write much more about the psychological processes necessary for peace in my post today: http://shrinkwrapped.blogs.com/blog/2007/07/making-peace.html

Posted by StargazerA5 | July 25, 2007 8:32 PM

Again the Arab world arrogantly expects Israel to trade land, which holds value, for a promise. A promise like the many others that have proven as quick to evaporate as water in the desert when it suits the Arab's needs.

Israel has a much clearer advantage at the moment, given that the Arab's have granted such a significant concession, and should hold out for something more concrete. It is time to break out of the box and turn everything on it's head. One idea that comes to me is for Israel to trade the land for a Palestinian Right to Return... to Arab countries. It would be called something else, of course, and not include Israel.

Other ideas could also be tried. Let's not go down the same old, tired, road reading from the same scripts.


Posted by Bennett | July 25, 2007 8:43 PM

I enjoy being an optimist whenever possible but I don't see anything new here. The Arab League by itself can't make peace on behalf of its members and the two reps who showed up are from countries that have already made peace with Israel. This sounds like more of a move to shore up the jittery left, in Europe and elsewhere, who must be finding it hard to justify their devotion to the oppressed Palestinians as they seem to enjoy slaughtering each other almost as much as they like killing Israelis. See everyone? The Arab states are ready to talk! They're being reasonable, diplomatic, making the first move.

Posted by Earl | July 25, 2007 8:52 PM

If one does not understand the essential dichotomy present in Islam between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb, one will be constantly beguiled by these idiotic "peace initiatives" in the ME. Israel's mere existence, ipso facto, means no possibility of peace. Ever. It is a basic Islamic tenet.

And the so-called "right of return" is both an aberration of the concept of convention refugee status (any other example anywhere of the "Palestinian" "refugee" situation?) and also an example of demographic jihad against the State of Israel.

Ah, well, Blair needed something to do in retirement. Pity Israel's citizens will bear the inevitable negative fallout from this misadventure.

Posted by patrick neid | July 25, 2007 8:56 PM

and the band played on.....

Posted by John Cross | July 25, 2007 9:38 PM

Hi, Capt'n!

When I was in Bahrain, in 1988, I was at the Regency Hotel, speaking to an Arab man while the band took a break. He told me that they would unite with the Israelis if they would agree to help fight the 'Persians'.

Honest truth.

Posted by crosspatch | July 25, 2007 11:56 PM

While I am skeptical as anyone with a land for peace deal, things must begin someplace. Israel took those lands in order to create defensible space. If a real comprehensive agreement can be reached, the need for those lands diminishes.

The possibilities of such a peace are nearly unimaginable. It could mean great prosperity for that entire region. But it would be wise to acknowledge that there would be die hard individuals who would never accept it and would continue to cause trouble for a long time; two, possibly three generations going forward. But it will diminish over time and our grandchildren's children could know a world without a constant middle-eastern crisis.

I will pray for success.

Posted by Ed Hausman | July 26, 2007 12:49 AM

If the Arabs really want peace, they can have peace for peace, not land for peace. Judea and Samaria are not the Palestinian Arab "West Bank", they are disputed territories. The Green Line is not a border, it is an armistice line that the Arabs never recognized in their incessant drive to destroy Israel.

The Arab League has clearly stated that Egypt and Jordan are two members of the League that are visiting Israel in their own right to explain the "Plan" but not as representatives of the Arab League, since the League itself does not recognize israel.

The "Plan" itself proposes no recognition or negotiations with Israel and represents no change in hostilities. It only suggests that the Arab League states would consider a change in that status if Israel satisfied the Palestinian Arabs' demands.

Since the Palestinian Arabs have not yet formed a functioning government, or prepared their people to accept Jews as human beings, this is an unlikely scenario.

A possible hope for movement towards a more stable relationship may lie with Tony Blair, if he can resist the temptation to expand his mandate, and can focus successfully on creating the working basis of a Palestinian State. His greatest handicap lies in the obvious unwillingness of the Palestinian Arabs to allow this.

Posted by hadsil | July 26, 2007 2:37 AM

Once again opportunity knocks, only this time the door is being answered.

Posted by davod | July 26, 2007 4:02 AM

With the Israeli Prime Minister and President now in place, the Arabs have never had a better opportunity to get everything they want.

Posted by Robin Goodfellow | July 26, 2007 4:15 AM

Arab violence in the middle east stems from oppressive regimes and stunted cultural, economic, industrial, and educational growth. Arabs need a scape goat for their lot and the Jooz are a perfect target for it. Peace in the middle east between Muslims and Jews will come concomitant with major breakthroughs in consensual regimes and personal freedoms in the region. Anything else will be at best an armistice, much as we have had on the Korean peninsula for the past 50 years, rife with potential to erupt into violence at the slightest provocation.

Posted by Otter | July 26, 2007 5:20 AM

That's Hilarious. Possibly the only Real reason they now want 'peace' with Israel, is that Israel is their only chance to survive nuclear Iran.

I'll believe it when I see it. And right now, I see a lot of Hell in the next 10-15 years.

Posted by mrlynn | July 26, 2007 8:07 AM

StargazerA5 has the glimmer of an idea: "Israel has a much clearer advantage at the moment, given that the Arab's have granted such a significant concession, and should hold out for something more concrete. It is time to break out of the box and turn everything on its head. One idea that comes to me is for Israel to trade the land for a Palestinian Right to Return... to Arab countries. It would be called something else, of course, and not include Israel."

Except that Israel should not give up any land except for Gaza, already abandoned. The Jordan River is a natural dividing line. Jordan can become the Palestinian State (it is mostly 'Palestinian' anyway). This may require a concerted military push by the Israelis, but as Rush is fond of pointing out, 'peace' comes with victory, not before.

Rather than forcibly expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank, Israel could offer them compensation (i.e. a bribe) for moving across the river. The US and the Europeans can redirect the money they now send to Fatah to the Jordanian government, and all will live happily ever after.

/Mr Lynn

Posted by LarryD | July 26, 2007 9:24 AM

Jordan gave up it's claim to the West bank, and Egypt to Gaza, to give legitimacy to the "Palestinian" cause.

Given what the Palestinians there have evolved into, after almost two generations of propaganda, no one really wants those people as citizens of their country. Egypt and Jordan would be fools to take them in.

This isn't a real step, although it may be an "intention movement" towards one. We'll see.