Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Initiative and a Change on the Global Scene | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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If the Arabs were able to succeed in pushing forward the famous initiative approved in Beirut, and if they were to make it their project in Riyadh, this would be enough for the success of the summit, in fact it would change the history of the Arabs.

The world suddenly woke up and picked up on the Saudi-proposed [Peace] initiative in Beirut, in which it found solutions to all crises—a magic solution to the fast-proliferating dangers. Even the Israelis, who had previously stated that the initiative was not worth the paper it was written on changed their position and stated that there were important aspects to it that deserved to be a basis for negotiation. The Americans, who withheld their support for it when it was adopted in Beirut and who were at that time in sharp discord with the Ramallah-confined Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, backed down on their lukewarm position and the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, flew to Aswan to declare that the initiative was key to them and that she was willing to back it.

Everybody has realized that the initiative is the only way out of the tunnel. Israel considered last summer’s missiles the end of geographical remoteness, whilst the Palestinians viewed the winter battles as the collapse of any respect for the blood of brothers and the beginning of a long, absurd war. The Americans considered that the reform of Baghdad, Tehran and Damascus is through Jerusalem, and the world saw how Al Qaeda rapidly proliferated everywhere in the name of Palestine. We forget also, however millions of Palestinians do not forget, how Palestinians lead a subhuman life in Arab camps, where they are denied movement, work and an identity. It is a half-century-old tragedy; meanwhile the Israelis are expanding air-conditioned settlements and the Arabs – Shia and Sunnis, those in opposition and those who are loyal, Darfur and Baghdad and so on – are preoccupied with their battles.

The initiative derives its strength from two things; firstly, it represents all inherited Arab demands with a maximum degree of concessions and secondly (and most importantly), it was signed by all 22 Arab states, including those that are labeled extremist, hesitant, apathetic and enthusiastic. For the first time in Arab history, the initiative placed clear and collective responsibility rather than putting this responsibility solely on the Palestinian leadership as the case has been before; hence it became the project of the Arabs.

When King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz launched his initiative at that time, it was hoped that it would be a universal project, would receive international support and would be binding to Israel and the Arabs so that we could bring the world’s paramount tragedy to an end. It is a viable initiative because it includes all issues with its territorial, human, legal and military dimensions.

In Riyadh, the initiative is proposed anew because Palestine’s ruling party Hamas was reluctant to support it. Had Hamas rejected Arab consensus, it would have been to blame. We are facing a new and important global scene. Israel has given its initial support to the initiative and so has the United States. Now it is only practical for the summit to activate the initiative by removing it from the drawer of the Arab League and placing it on the negotiation table.