Thursday, August 2, 2007

Compelling Israel to accept peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with US Secretary of State Condozeela Rice yesterday in Ramallah. (Omar Rashidi, Maan Images)

by John V. Whitbeck, The Jordan Times - August 3, 2007

In his eloquent speech before the US Congress in early March, King Abdullah emphasised the urgent need to achieve an Arab-Israeli peace this year. Sadly, there was little sense of urgency evident on July 25, almost five months later, when the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers visited Jerusalem. The impression conveyed during that rather awkward visit was, rather, one of resignation to further years of drift.

King Abdullah’s sense of urgency remains justified; acquiescence with further years of drift is not. The Arab world is not impotent. It has it within its power to achieve Middle East peace with some measure of justice — not in some distant future but soon, and not through enhanced violence but through the intelligent and responsible application of restrained but sustained economic pressure.

A concerted, concrete and effective plan of action could take the form of a simple, easily understood and ethically unimpeachable "carrot-and-stick" approach.

The "carrot" has already been on offer, and left dangling, for more than five years. It is the Arab Peace Initiative. First launched at an Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2002 and reaffirmed with great publicity at the latest summit in Riyadh, in March 2007, it offers full peace and normal diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and all Arab states in return for a total end to the occupation of all Arab lands Israel occupied in 1967.

Unfortunately, since this offer, the most generous that Israel can ever hope to receive from the Arab world, has never had a deadline for acceptance attached to it. Israel has been free to ignore it with impunity — and has done so.

If Israel is now showing any interest in the Arab Peace Initiative, it is only because the latest in the long line of "peace plans" exploited to kill time, the American-initiated "roadmap", is transparently shopworn. The clear, principled, unambiguous and inherently non-negotiable — but open-ended — Arab Peace Initiative is therefore timely as a potentially useful replacement which could be co-opted, manipulated and deformed, and around which Israel (with full American support) could pick, nibble and dance for the next few years, in a "resumption" of the perpetual "peace process" which is the antithesis of peace, while continuing to build more settlements, more bypass roads and more walls and, generally, continuing to make the occupation permanent and irreversible.

To prevent such a manipulation and deformation of the Arab Peace Initiative, the "carrot" must be complemented with a credible and effective "stick". The Arab League should make clear that if Israel does not accept the Arab Peace Initiative without reservations, by a specific near-term date, it would lapse and be "off the table".

At the same time, the major Arab and Muslim oil producers should state that if Israel rejects the Arab Peace Initiative, then, until Israel complies fully with international law and UN resolutions by withdrawing from all occupied Arab land to its internationally recognised borders, they will reduce their petroleum exports by increments of five per cent each month — month after month after month.

It would, of course, be preferable if the United States, whose unconditional support for Israel has made possible its continuing occupation of Arab lands, were to undergo a moral and ethical transformation and if Americans were suddenly to realise both that Palestinians are human beings entitled to basic human rights and that international law should be complied with by all, not only by the poor, the weak and the Arab.

Realistically, after so many years of antithetical attitudes, such a transformation is most unlikely to occur.

Source: The Jordan Times

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