In their meeting in Washington, the representatives of the Arab League presented
US Secretary of State John Kerry with a “modified” version of the 2002 Arab
Peace Plan, proposing, for the first time, land swaps with
Israeli politicians on the Left, including a government minister
from Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s hodge-podge Yesh Atid party, enthused over
the supposedly “dramatic” and “historic” turnaround, while General (ret.) Ami
Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and later the
author of one of many earth-bound peace-projects, even referred in a Haaretz
op-ed to the original Arab plan as “Israel’s most important victory in the
ongoing struggle for Israel’s survival as a Jewish democratic state.”
is none of the above. Talk is cheap, but even a perfunctory examination of the
document termed the “Arab Peace Initiative” which the Arab League adopted on
March 28, 2002, at its meeting in Beirut shows that in effect it was no more
than a list of take-it-orleave- it demands requiring Israel to commit itself in
advance to, among other things, “full withdrawal from all territories occupied
since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights”; east Jerusalem as the capital
of a future Palestinian state; and the so-called “right of return” of Arab
refugees (though couched in somewhat different, supposedly more moderate,
language, viz. that it was “to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General
Assembly Resolution 194”).
There are those who mistakenly or deliberately
interpret this paragraph as if it were subject to Israeli agreement, but as
Professor Asher Susser, a senior researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center, explained
at the time, “right of return” was the only Arab interpretation of said UN
resolution. Needless to say, the “initiative” didn’t include any reference to
recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. There also was a thinly disguised threat:
if Israel did not accept the Arab terms, “steadfastness and struggle” – i.e.
violence and terror – would continue.
The US has usually preferred to see
the half-full glass rather than the half-empty one with regard to the “Arab
Initiative,” though former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was prescient
enough to declare “that the Arabs must, through words and deeds, show that the
spirit of the peace initiative can begin to govern attitudes towards Israel
now.” “Now” was exactly four years ago, and it hasn’t happened yet.
might not the Arab League now agreeing to land swaps be interpreted as a step in
the right direction? Though Secretary Kerry seems to see it that way (stating
that his efforts to move the peace process forward were “bolstered” by it), this
is hardly so.
Future political historians will probably be frustrated
when they attempt to unravel how the idea of “land swaps” between Israel and the
Palestinians ever achieved traction. After all, this wasn’t what UN Security
Council Resolution 242 had said about Israel’s future borders, the intention
never having been that Israel should return to the vulnerable pre- ’67
Indeed, it had specifically called for “secure and
recognized boundaries free from threats and acts of force.” The UK’s Lord
Caradon (Hugh M. Foot), the Resolution’s co-author, later specified that “it
would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of 4 June
1967.” In other words, the purpose of 242 was to make Israeli withdrawals from
territories it had occupied in exercising its right to self-defense contingent
on secure borders, not subject to territorial tic-tac-toe games.
beyond that, as Arthur Goldberg, the US ambassador to the UN at the time of the
Resolution’s adoption and its other co-author, has said: “it is clear that
Israel exercised the right of self-defense in the 1967 war,” as indeed it did by
all precepts of international law. Enemies of Israel often have a tendency to
disingenuously mix up cause and effect, so the approaching 46th anniversary of
the Six Day War gives us an opportunity to put things in order.
morning of June 5, 1967, the Jordanian Arab Legion artillery began to shell west
Jerusalem and Jordanian soldiers occupied Government House, which served as the
UN observers headquarters. King Hussein, fooled by false Egyptian reports of
victory in Sinai, cynically decided to join the supposedly victorious side, and
put his army under Egyptian command.
Jordanian forces shelled Jewish
villages along the road from the coastal plain to Jerusalem, even threatening
Ben-Gurion airport. Tel Aviv and its environs, as well as Israel’s northern
regions were also shelled, the attackers using long-range “Long Tom” guns, and
bombing other parts of the country from the air.
Only after fierce
fighting and many Israeli casualties were the Jordanian forces driven
It was an unprovoked, naked act of aggression against the State of
Israel, in spite of the fact that Israel’s then-defense minister Moshe Dayan,
de-facto supreme commander during the Six Day War, had at first ordered IDF
units to act only defensively. One may, therefore, be justified in asking why
Israel should now be required to compensate the aggressor with land? (There is
no evidence that the Palestinians in 1967, being part and parcel of Jordan, even
retrospectively distanced themselves from the aggression perpetrated by
To cite a perhaps extreme analogy, Germany after World War II
lost a great deal of territory to the victim of its aggression, Poland. Was
Poland asked to swap part of its own land with Germany? Still, taking all of
this, including the potential downsides into consideration, the very fact that
the Arab League has now taken the dust sheets off its erstwhile “initiative” may
perhaps be seen as a positive in the light of the new realities in the Middle
East – the so-called “Arab Spring” on the one hand, and the growing threat of a
rapidly nuclearizing Iran on the other.
Both of these developments could
potentially lead (and perhaps already have led) toward a strategic reassessment
by the more moderate Arab regimes as to their relations with Israel and their
own role in bringing about a settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli
Thus, their plan, provided it is rewritten as an open-ended
peace proposal to be discussed by the parties without prior conditions,
replacing its former ultimatory pretentions, could eventually have been of some
practical benefit – were it not for Palestinian intransigence.
Fatah Central Committee half-heartedly accepted the Arab League’s latest
proposal, the Palestinian Authority immediately reiterated its preconditions to
holding talks with Israel, i.e. Israel accepting in advance the ’67 armistice
line as the future border, stopping all construction across the “Green Line,”
including in Jerusalem, and releasing Palestinian terrorists from
The only purpose of the Palestinian tactic is to avoid meaningful
negotiations in which both sides, not just Israel, would have to make
compromises and concessions.
As long as PA President Mahmoud Abbas and
his group hold to this position, no peace effort will have the slightest chance
of getting off the ground.
Nor have the prospects of peace been enhanced
by the announcement that, with Salam Fayyad safely out of the way, Fatah has
concluded an agreement with the terrorist organization Hamas, which denies
Israel’s very right to exist, to establish within three months a Palestinian
The author is a former ambassador to the US.
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