Arab Peace Initiative and Truth About Israel's Intentions

  • 23 October 2008

In a remarkable turnaround—after a strong opposition against discussing any proposals for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East—Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently announced that Israeli leaders were willing to negotiate on the “Arab Peace Initiative” adopted by the Beirut Summit in 2002. Barak hinted at the Israeli President's approval of the move, and indirectly suggested that the matter was discussed with Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, who has currently been assigned the task of forming a new government. The Israeli offer raises a lot of questions on the motives behind this change in the Israeli position and the commitment of its leaders in taking real steps toward pursuing the peace process with Arabs, particularly their willingness to compromise on provisions in the 'Arab Initiatives'—that they had previously considered painful, especially the issue of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel is aware of the nature of the current regional and international developments and may have decided to reach a comprehensive regional peace deal to ward off the threats to its interests in the Middle East.

Undoubtedly, Arab position towards the peace process is clear and explicit and is stated in the provisions of the “Arab Peace Initiative,” which was endorsed by all members of the Arab League. However, Arab people should be mindful of the real motives of Israel behind its stated willingness to negotiate on “Arab Peace Initiative.” Israel would have to take positive and concrete steps to prove its sincerity in pursuing the peace process, without upsetting existing international resolutions and plans. One hopes Israel's announcement about its readiness to engage in a peace initiative would serve as a basis for regional peace negotiations.

Current developments in the region and the rising challenges confronting the world, mainly the ongoing “financial crisis” facing the big economies, underscore the need for peace and stability in the Middle East, not just because the region is beset with several chronic crises but because the world also needs peace and stability in order to be free to confront problems at the economic and security levels. In times of such regional and international concerns, Israel should take serious steps towards peace in order to realize the immediate demands of the people of the region, which includes Israelis.

Israel's seriousness towards the peace process could be gauged through its cessation to settlement activities in Palestinian Territories, release of Palestinian political prisoners, lifting of blockade on the Palestinian people and its willingness to lift the obstacles that hamper Arabs from fulfilling their legitimate missions. If Israel wants to opt for peace, one can find a positive Arab response to it on the basis of the “Arab Initiative”. However, if Israel seeks to make short-term gains by exploiting “The Arab Initiative” move, the road to peace between Arabs and Israel will remain long and tortuous.