Globalist Perspective

Wake Up, Israel (Part II)

How can Israel work with Arab nations to bring about peace in the region?

Takeaways


  • Israel was meant to provide a home, a refuge for the Jewish people, not to rule other people against their will.
  • No party involved in the Palestinian plight is blameless: the Arab states, Israel and the Palestinians have all contributed to the tragic unfolding of events.
  • The Arab states, perhaps out of the desire for self-preservation, have come to accept the inevitable: Israel is here to stay and they must live with it in peace.
  • Netanyahu can no longer use the Palestinian disunity or Hamas as an excuse for not negotiating a final status agreement.

The Arab states came full circle when their League passed the Arab Peace Initiative, first in March 2002 and again in March 2007.

The initiative offered Israel a comprehensive peace with all twenty two Arab countries in return for territories captured in 1967 and a fair settlement of the Palestinian problem.

Regardless of the imperfections of this resolution (such how to deal with the refugees, which both sides know cannot be solved in their right to return to Israel proper) it represents nothing less than a historical transformation. This is especially true when compared to the 1967 Arab League resolution which proclaimed no peace, no recognition and no negotiations.

The Arab Peace Initiative should be a major triumph for Israel. After more than six decades of violent rejection, the Arab nations are ready to embrace Israel as a Middle Eastern state that can live with its neighbors in peace and security.

Israel must surely know by now the implications of making real peace with each and every Arab state — something that has eluded it for over sixty years.

True, the Israelis have many reasons to be skeptical, as decades of enmity and bloodshed have left an indelible mark in the memory of countless Israelis who have suffered tragic losses.

But now the Arab states, perhaps out of the desire for self-preservation, have come to accept the inevitable: Israel is here to stay and they must live with it in peace or continue a fruitless struggle that will only endanger the security of their own regimes.

In one form or another Israel, must face the reality of the Palestinian people and commit to finding an equitable solution that can endure long-term. Netanyahu must come to the same realization that many of his predecessors experienced: this is not a matter of blame, or right versus wrong. No solution will be based on such a judgment.

The Palestinians have been dispossessed, just as the Israelis have been denied the right to exist and had to assert their right. No party involved in the Palestinian plight is blameless: the Arab states, Israel and the Palestinians have all contributed to the tragic unfolding of events.

Now it is time to put an end to this saga that has dehumanized both the occupied and the occupier. Each Palestinian has an inherent right to his homeland, and no one can understand this better that the Israelis, who feel the same deep attachment to the land of their forefathers.

Now that the parameters of two-states have been repeatedly established and accepted by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians — as well as endorsed by the International community and the Arab states — the Israeli government is duty bound to move expeditiously to implement a negotiated agreement.

And if Netanyahu’s current right-wing coalition is not fit for the task at hand, he still has the option of forming a government with Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party on the premise of a two-state solution.

Netanyahu can no longer use the Palestinian disunity or Hamas as an excuse for not negotiating a final status agreement. The Arab states, through their Peace Initiative, are committed to providing Israel with the security it seeks. They have the ability to tame Hamas once the territories are evacuated.

However legitimate Israel’s national security concerns may be, the Israelis cannot live in fear with paralyzed leadership unable to act in the best interest of the country.

The process of developing adequate security and confidence building measures will take a few years to develop. Until such measures are in place, Israel will not be required to withdraw its forces from the West Bank.

Though Israel will not relinquish its national security to any other agent and must remain militarily vigilant, the Israelis must face the inevitable and begin to build trust with their neighbors.

But how they can engender trust by building more and more settlements, by impeding Palestinian movements with hundreds of road blocks, by incarcerating thousands of Palestinians, demolishing homes — and above all, by denying psychologically any prospect of letting the Palestinians live as they see fit?

Every day that passes will only add to the alienation and disdain toward Israel which has become ingrained in the Palestinian psyche. The zealot settlers have wrested the political agenda. Israel’s leadership has allowed itself to become woefully misguided by a group endangering the very premise of why Israel was created in the first place.

Israel was meant to provide a home, a refuge for the Jewish people, not to rule other people against their will. Why have there not been more demonstrations in the street by Israelis demanding an end to the occupation? How can Israelis revel in the plenty of today and forget the scarcity endured by multitude of Palestinians?

Imagine peace with 57 Arab and Muslim states and the renaissance that could usher into the region. Imagine Israel and its neighbors engaged in business, cultural and academic exchanges, imagine the power of Israeli and Arab resources put together and the incredible prospect of reaching a new high never known before between both peoples.

It is time for Israel to wake up. Do not allow this historic chance for peace to slip away because of complacency or lack of courage.

The United States and international communities are offering an unprecedented opportunity that cannot afford to be squandered this time around.

America has offered its utmost support, and the Arab states are ready to assume their responsibility. If Israel is destined to bring light onto other nations, this is the moment.

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About Alon Ben-Meir

Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute [United States]

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