Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh
It is not easy for an Arab today to be a peace advocate. The present Israeli government, as well as that of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have, through a series of systematic provocative and subversive acts, made a mockery of peace. Peace advocates find it both embarrassing and ludicrous to even talk about peace ? let alone assert their belief in it or call for action.
It’s been clear for a long time that the Israeli establishment want peace less than they want to control Palestinian land.
Throughout the long years of the Arab-Israeli conflict, even during those moments when Israel’s violence and arrogance were at their height, many in the Arab world thought peace was possible. First, wars did not solve problems; second, peace was (always is) a necessity for Arabs and Israelis alike. All one had to do was to sit down in good faith and negotiate.
After a long delay, the Arabs and the Israelis sat down. With some encouragement and pressure from peace patrons (primarily the US), they negotiated and concluded some agreements. Peace sounded possible indeed, even when it materialised at the peripheries of the Arab-Israeli conflict (the peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, and a small fraction of Gaza and the West Bank). The momentum of peace proceeded at a pace and in a manner which promised to encompass both the centre itself (Palestine) and the remaining peripheries (Lebanon and Syria) ? until Netanyahu came to power.
Netanyahu, a few years ago, and Sharon, now, came not only with the intention to halt the momentum of talks, procrastinate and then subvert peace, but also to complicate matters, escalate the conflict and either delay peace for decades to come or, worse, kill it.
This is no light matter. It took the Arab world a great deal of effort, argumentation and time to persuade itself to come to the negotiating table. It was not easy for Arabs to trust, sit face to face and then negotiate with an Israel which mercilessly and ruthlessly attacked and defeated them, usurped their land and caused so much suffering to their people, and to its own. And yet, the Arabs did it, out of a genuine desire for peace and on the assumption that once they face the Israelis and negotiate with them in good faith, the Israelis will reciprocate and be serious about peace making (after all, Israel and the US kept continually telling the Arabs that negotiations are the only alternative ? as opposed, for example, to the enforcement of UN resolutions which all were on the side of Arab rights ? and that Israel was ready to negotiate and deliver).
Ehud Barak may have forced Yasser Arafat into the negotiating room in July 2000, but the Oslo peace process was already finished.
The Arabs who believed in peace and took Israel’s and America’s words at face value could not imagine that once peace talks began, Israel would start playing games, and that it would eventually make fun of and insult peace seekers. In this sense, Arabs suffered twice: in war and in peace.
It has to be remembered in this context, though, that even though Arabs are the weaker side and that Israel can impose its will and whim any time it chooses to do so (because of its military power and the unconditional support it gets from the US), Arab consent is essential for peace making, should peace be sought at some point in time. There can be no peace, in other words, if Arabs say no to it, no matter how weak they seem to be and how strong Israel is. Injustice can be imposed; justice cannot.
What Israel has done, especially during the Netanyahu and the Sharon eras, will go down in history as grave mistakes. First, they stopped the momentum of peace making and subverted all peace efforts, at all levels and on all fronts. Second, they increased violence and suffering in Palestine and Israel to unprecedented levels. Third, they re-erected all kinds of physical and psychological barriers between Arabs and Israelis which were overcome and eliminated during the few years when Arabs and Israelis were seriously engaged in peace making. Fourth, they endangered and escalated tension in the whole Middle Eastern region, not just Israel and Palestine. Fifth, they insulted, embarrassed, humiliated and, ultimately, disarmed peace advocates, thus promoting tension, violence and occupation, but also enhancing the position of the hardliners and extremists.
Some call radical Palestinians extremists. Whatever your terminology, a day is fast approaching when Israel will have no-one else to talk to.
The matter goes beyond freezing peace making. What the Netanyahu and the Sharon governments have succeeded in doing is complicating matters, perhaps beyond repair. Through a stupid policy which Israel has adopted for years, these two governments spared no efforts to create new “realities” on the ground ? confiscation of more Palestinian land for so-called security, destruction of entire Palestinian neighbourhoods or communities, expansion of existing settlements, erection of new settlements and of a “security” wall, etc. ? all with the intention of swallowing up more Palestinian land.
Land, it must be remembered, is crucial ? the most crucial matter in peace making from an Arab viewpoint. The Arabs have made it clear, and international resolutions did too, that there is a bare minimum land quota which is acceptable to Palestinians and Arabs ? the territories, all territories, occupied in the 1967 war, which is already much less than Arabs feel they are entitled to.
What is the outcome of these new “realities”? The reduction of this bare minimum to a level which can never be acceptable to Arabs, and thus the destruction of all hopes for peace.
The Israelis may have prided themselves, at some point in time, in creating realities on the ground which have, in their lopsided, short-sighted logic, “strengthened” their negotiating position. This may have been true at some point in time. At present, however, such philosophy or policy is disastrous, for there is no way Arabs, now or in a million years, will accept anything less than the bare minimum spoken of.
Things do not look good at all right now. And there are, among the many casualties of Israel’s continued arrogance and aggression, at least two which are worth pondering seriously: peace itself and peace advocates. Mideast peace is damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Not a light matter at all.
Article courtesy of Jordan Times