Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Will the Initiative Change the Course of History? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I have never come across an experiment similar to the endeavor of the [Arab] task force which is entrusted with marketing the Arab initiative to [establish] contacts with Israel.

The negotiation situation between the Arab and Israeli sides has been problematic. It was based on the spear of one arrow. Each side used to talk directly about its own rights, not those of the entire Arab society. The Egyptians negotiated on behalf of Egypt, the Jordanians on behalf of Jordan, the Palestinians on behalf of the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], and the Syrians on behalf of Syria and Lebanon.

The Arab initiative committee is made of a big number, 13 ministers representing 22 Arab countries. The committee includes ministers such as Prince Saud al-Feisal who did not fear any idle talk about the inclusion of his country in a committee whose task, among other ones, is to hold contacts with Israel, even though he did not go [to Israel] as such. The minister plays a major role in pushing this initiative forward, and giving it wheels that will take it as far as possible to test its success or failure. The committee also includes Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu’allim whose participation has silenced left-wing Arab critics who went on mocking and holding anyone who embarks on a conciliation project as a traitor, without even offering an alternative. One should also point to the role of Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa whose influential personality and Arab position carry an impotent symbol. In my view, this is one of his most important political projects ever. Should this be crowned with success, it will be the most important achievement the Arab League will have scored since its creation in 1954.

In other words, we are witnessing a new course of history in motion. There are many reasons for optimism, chief among which Israel’s absolute realization that bilateral conciliation is only an agreement, but peace requires a collective agreement, which gives better guarantees than bilateral peace deals. The Arabs have also noticed recently that fires are flaring up everywhere and that their main issue [the Palestinian problem] is no longer as central as they used to think. The Palestinians, with all their different factions, have also realized that the Arabs have been auctioning their cause for the last 50 years without reaping any benefits, not even a minimum level of human treatment. The world has realized that one of the conditions of cordoning off violence on the planet is solving the Palestinian tragedy: that of the land, the people and the state. At last and for the first time, the Arabs have submitted a practical solution after having waited for external initiatives.

I will pause at what Prince Saud [al-Feisal] said about no normalization with Israel before the initiative is accepted in full and in detail. With this, he has given future political action a framework that does away with outbidding. He also avoided the mistake of the roadmap project which was based on the principle of interrelated steps. This is faced with the risk of interruption at any time, as happened since the beginning of the project in 2002 which set itself the objective of establishing the Palestinian state in 2005. As we have seen, it was possible for any team to procrastinate and block the project in its entirety, and here we are five years later with a map that has not made a single step on the road.

Contrary to the roadmap, the Arab project is founded on a wholesale principle. It promises Israel to meet its utmost political wishes: [Diplomatic] relations and normalization, and, in exchange, it gives the Arabs all their major requests: The land, the state and the people. I do not think that we will ever reach a collective cohesive and realistic solution as the Arab initiative and the Arab initiative committee, which deserve to be pushed ahead as far as possible before we enter the tunnel of the US elections.