The Arab peace initiative, adopted by the Arab League at its 2002 summit in Beirut, misses fundamental ingredients that would make the blood of vitality flow through its weak veins.
After long years of Arab marketing, repetition and explanations (often very boring), we are still at the starting line. Large segments of Arab public opinion view the initiative with suspicion and doubt, and the Israelis — for reasons beyond my comprehension — want to avoid it as much as possible.
The initiative’s creators have already mourned its demise (or at least they keep threatening to mourn it). Sadly, the great compromises the Arabs offered did nothing to end the conflict, which cannot be ended without treating its root causes. How ironic that an initiative full of compromise was thrown back in our faces to intensify our humiliation.
So it is time to withdraw the Arab Peace initiative — indeed it is a duty to do so — and put forward a new one that starts something like this:
The Arab peoples and nations — even though they understand the suffering of the Jewish people, and express their sincere wish to humanely find a peaceful solution — will not agree to a solution that compromises their own rights and interests and negates the suffering caused by the conflict.
No true Arab peace initiative could avoid including the following:
1. All land occupied in 1967 has to be returned completely, and this is not something to be compromised, and not tied to an equivalent Arab giveaway. Jerusalem can be discussed separately after full agreement of the Arab nations about it.
2. Every displaced individual (whether outside or inside the occupied land) has the full right to return. This is not limited to the land of 1967, and the rightful original land owners have the right to get their land back completely. The mechanisms for executing this can be negotiated and discussed as long it doesn’t compromise the right of any Palestinian, unless he or she positively agrees to exchange this right. The solution can be within one or two states, but the Palestinian state shouldn’t be necessarily limited to the land of 1967. The demographic balance is not a concern for the Arab peoples to worry about.
3. There must be international tribunals to try all those accused of planning, inciting and executing ethnic cleansing (according to the UN definition the forced displacement of people is ethnic cleansing), war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes carried out by the Zionist movement. These tribunals should have the full cooperation of international human rights bodies.
4. Israel must compensate for the human casualties (killed, wounded and homeless), economic losses (direct and indirect), social and other losses that its establishment and behavior brought to all the countries and peoples of the region. If Israel cannot do this then the countries that gave it unlimited support must themselves pay for the damage their support to Israel caused others.
5. The region has to be free of weapons of mass destruction and Israel must give up such weapons. If Israel refuses, then another solution is that no limits or restrictions will be placed on any other nation’s efforts to develop such weapons.
6. Arab recognition of Israel, not “full normalization,” is what Arab countries can offer after the aforementioned rights are fully restored by Israel. The Arab nations are not obligated to give Israel any preferential treatment that contradicts their own interests.
As Professor As’ad AbuKhalil has previously pointed out, recognizing Israel implies acceptance and legitimation of Zionist crimes. It is therefore very important that before any such recognition is granted, Israel admits, apologizes and compensates for all those crimes. Needless to say, true peace with the existence of Zionism (as a racist ideology based on hate and legitimization of killing and theft) is logically impossible.
The 2002 Arab peace initiative has demonstrated yet again what we knew about the mechanisms of negotiation that fail to utilize the full potential of the Arab peoples. Any undervaluation of the rights of the people, and misuse of their potential is a danger that threatens their very future.
It is up to all active powers — political, social, legal and economic — in the Arab world to understand this threat and to redraw their plans in a manner that secures the interests of future generations.
Ahmad Hijazi is Lebanese writer and researcher on the Arab-Israeli struggle and the effects of media and international opinion on shaping it.