During a conference, I once suggested the following as a topic for discussion: How do you see the Arab region without the Arab-Israeli conflict in 2010, assuming that the issue has been solved pursuant to a formula that is acceptable to the Arab side?
The idea was not welcomed, not because it was an unacceptable wish but because it was difficult to imagine. How can a nation that has lived for seven decades with a distinct enemy and with one [dominating] issue imagine otherwise?
The truth is that I had begun to doubt that the region can live without coming up with a necessary enemy to divert attention away from local and regional issues. The Israeli enemy has always been a false target for regimes and organizations, and Palestinian liberation remained the project that topped all issues. In the name of Israel and Palestine, many crimes have been committed, civil life disrupted and terms and powers of regimes extended. In the name of this cause, the rights of citizens were seized and wars fought. Saddam invaded Kuwait (to the south) in the name of Palestine (to the east). Furthermore, Also in the name of Palestine, the local situations in both Jordan and Lebanon were abused, demonstrations in Sanaa for food were suppressed, the emergency regime in Syria remained and statements by Arab countries from Bahrain to Morocco were enriched with promises to confront the enemy. All surrounding issues were linked in the name of Palestine. Professional associations publicly abandoned their duties in the name of the issue. So, having based their existence, positions, leaderships and literature on the enemy, how can we imagine that those institutions can adapt when the day comes that we no longer have an enemy?
We have nursed animosity to the extent that anything else is almost impossible. Animosity has developed into a complete institution without which survival is not possible. It is not concocted animosity considering that Israel is not a peaceful state and has forced itself into the occupied territories in front of the world that it has defied for over four decades. Israel itself is benefiting from the state of animosity with the Arabs by unifying Jews and profiting from Western support in the name of confronting the Arab enemy.
We can understand Israeli adherence to animosity as it wants to keep the stolen land, retain the US $3 billion in annual aid from the United States and continue to receive Jewish support from around the world. These are all real Israeli gains that justify the invention of a scarecrow enemy even though it could sign a peace agreement that is based on returning occupied territory and ending the entire crisis in one day rather than 40 years.
However, we cannot understand the Arab wisdom behind maintaining such animosity. The Arabs have neither fought to liberate their territories nor sought peace to regain these territories and continue to call for confronting the enemy. Therefore, territories in three states have remained occupied, with one million people in camps and another two million displaced people in different parts of the world suffering on a daily basis. Today, 40 years after the Six-Day War defeat, we can find no logic for those rejecting peace and no reason for blaming all these sins on the [Palestinian] issue and the [Israeli] enemy.