There are those who believe wholeheartedly that Israel simply wants to live in peaceful coexistence with its Arab neighbours. Others think that Israel is completely driven by Zionism. Its overtures for finding a peaceful solution amount to nothing more than empty rhetoric.
What’s the truth here? Few can deny that Palestinians have suffered from its occupation by Israel – from the thousands of Palestinians killed during occupations, incursions, air strikes, and operations in unoccupied or previously disengaged land, to the thousands of Palestinians forced to live in abject poverty because of the Israeli enforced financial blockade since 2006.Nor can anyone deny that the neighbouring Arab states are perhaps as much to blame for the Palestinian suffering.
If they had accepted the U.N. General Assembly partition plan in 1947, the Arabs of Palestine would have had far more land than they would happily settle for now, and there would scarcely be any Palestinian refugees at all. Of course, Israel could have attempted to gain land by going on the offensive, but would have surely received no support for an offensive war, without which they would almost certainly have failed miserably. Either way, things would probably have been far better for present day Palestinians. But what's done is done, and what is needed is a solution.
The latest hope for peace is the revitalization of the 2002 Saudi initiative. The Arab League rarely speaks with one voice, but it is now resubmitting the most comprehensive peace package ever to Israel – and the best chances of future security. Since it’s now being offered as a platform for negotiation rather than an easily rejected ultimatum, and given the current growth of Shiite Iranian influence in the region, as well as the world's focused attention on ending one of its longest running and most brutal occupations, if the Saudi initiative doesn't bring peace I find it hard to see what will.
For starters, the rare Arab unity presents the opportunity to offer Israel normalized relations with all Arab (League) states, which was never considered possible before 2002, and has been called a "political revolution". The initiative also offers a possible compromise on refugee issue.
Israel cannot grant full rights of return because that would drastically change Israel's demography, and it would no longer be a safe-haven for the world's Jews. Although the initiative mentions the implementation of U.N.G.A. Resolution 194, demanding all Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel, and those not wanting to return be given suitable compensation, it also suggests finding "a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem." As the initiative was originally offered as an ultimatum, Israel, with no room for negotiations on a just solution, was scared off by the mention of Resolution 194. Now that the initiative is being offered as a basis for negotiations, a "just solution" can hopefully be found quickly.
If Israel craves normalized relations with all surrounding Arab states and the Palestinians within, this is the ideal offer for them. And it couldn't have come at a better time, when Israel needs friends like it never has before, to stand up against Iran. The Arabs too, being of Sunni faith, are seeking to unite against the possible domination of the region by Shiite Iran, and my enemy's enemy being my friend, a peaceful alliance with Israel may not seem too distasteful. Therefore negotiations, for perhaps the first time, should stand on firm ground, with all parties wanting the talks to find a resolution to the conflict. Nonetheless, negotiations will be difficult.
The Arab initiative demands a Palestinian state on the land taken by Israel in the 1967 war, another demand to which Israel cannot capitulate. Israel has built settlements on the land and other fixtures near its borders. To ensure future security for all Israelis, it is widely agreed that a land swap will be necessary, giving back land equivalent to that taken in 1967. The Arabs also demand that the new Palestinian capital be east Jerusalem, which has previously stuck in Israel's throat, but hopefully, in the new light of mutual determination to find an agreement, these previous obstacles to peace can be ironed out through negotiations. A new issue for negotiations to deal with will be the security wall Israel has been building since 2002.
That said, if an agreement were to be reached on the Saudi initiative, Israel and the surrounding Arab states should enjoy a future of security and peaceful coexistence. Negotiations could secure an agreement on the wall being torn down after an agreed period of Israeli security.
With circumstances bringing all Arab states together in seeking an agreement with Israel, and Israel now eagerly seeking unity with the Arabs, it's now or probably never.Powered by Sidelines