Elias Akleh: Arab Summit and the Carrot of Palestinian State

By Elias Akleh

Wednesday March 28th had witnessed the nineteenth Arab Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Such summits had been a source of anxiety for the Arab population, since they had been accustomed to see these summits coming out with meaningless patriotic rhetoric reflecting the status quo of Arab political situations, more political concessions to Israel, and more complicity to the hegemonic American policies for a “Greater Middle East” (Greater Israel). This summit has proved to be no different than its predecessors.

The Arab leaders were supposed to deal with political crises in the Arab World such as occupation of Iraq, political division in Lebanon, and the Palestinian problem. Yet, as usual, they failed to come up with positive action plans to remedy any of these problems.

As for the occupation of Iraq, the Saudi King Abdullah acknowledged in his opening speech the fact that there is an illegitimate foreign occupation of Iraq, and the existence of an “ugly sectarianism threatening civil war”. His acknowledgement of this very-well known fact aimed to divert any popular blame from the Arab leaders toward foreign powers. He was trying to deny the fact that the forces of this foreign occupation had been launched from Arab countries, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, in 1990 and again in 2003, to murder Iraqis and to destroy Iraq as a sovereign country. Late conservative counts of the murdered Iraqis reached to one million. Two other millions had evacuated their homes and ran away to adjacent countries. The rest of the population are facing gradual annihilation due to violence, lack of sanitary water, shortage of medications, lack of electricity, chaos, and a devastated economy. Despite all that destruction and devastation the American-puppet Iraqi president Jalal Talabani tried to paint a rosy picture of a “liberated” Iraq, who got rid of the tyrant Saddam Hussein, established a “democratic” government, and is rebuilding new infrastructures.  Despite their “sympathy” towards the Iraqi plight Arab leaders could not deny that they had deserted the Iraqis to be completely manipulated by foreign powers. 

As for Lebanon, the Arab leaders had done nothing besides acknowledging the status quo. They have not even mentioned the Israeli aggression against Lebanon last summer leading to the destruction of civilian infrastructures, Qana massacre, and the spreading of the American supplied cluster bombs.  The political crisis between the American supported government and the Hezbollah supported opposition, leading to the paralyses of the government, was totally ignored. Lebanon was left to the international forces to control Southern Lebanon in an attempt to weaken Hezbollah by preventing arms shipments to them.

The main goal of the summit was to revive the five years old Arab peace initiative offered to Israel in 2002. This peace initiative offers Israel a comprehensive peace with full diplomatic relationships with all Arab countries providing Israel withdraws back to its 1967 borders, accepts the creation of a Palestinian state, and agree to a “just solution” for the Palestinian refugees. The initiative was immediately rejected, in 2002, by the then Israeli Prime Minister “Ariel Sharon”, who drove his tanks and armored vehicles into all the major Palestinian cities.

Meeting all Arab peace initiatives with more state terrorism has been a typical Israeli response. Accepting any permanent peace agreement with the Arabs would put a stop to Israel’s expansive ambitions and would end the “Greater Israel” dream. Arab leaders’ anticipation of Israel’s rejection was reflected in the comments by Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign minister, stating that the Israeli rejection was not surprising. “This has always been their approach. Whenever the Arabs come up with resolutions … offering peace, they (the Israelis) reject them categorically” he said.

Wanting to keep the occupied land and their illegal colonies Israel opposes the return to 1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capitol, and the right of return for the Palestinian refugees to their homes inside Israel.

One wonders why would the Arab leaders revive their peace initiative since they know very well Israel’s response to it. Some attributed this to what they think is the American failure in Iraq. They think that the American administration needs Arab’s help in order to withdraw honorably from Iraq. They believe that Americans have a change in foreign policies due to the Democratic Party “taking over” the Congress. Although the Democrats had called for withdrawal from Iraq, a proposal they know very well would be vetoed by President Bush, they are in fact a different mask to American corporatocracy that controls both parties. Both the Republicans and the Democrats serve the interests of oil companies and military industrial complex. They do not serve the interests of the people. Both parties have placed the Israeli interests over the American interests. 

Some Arab leaders had stated that President Bush has re-affirmed his commitment to the two state solution to end the Arab/Israeli conflict, and that he is applying some pressure on Israel, through his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to accept the peace initiative. They cited Rice’s trips to the region meeting both Israelis and Arabs to encourage them to revive the peace treaty. Arab leaders pointed to the alleged “weakness” of the Israeli government, after its defeat by Hezbollah last summer, and to Bush’s low popularity and the defeat of his party by the Democrats, and think that both are now ready to accept and to support the peace initiative. Those leaders had built the illusion that European Union would adopt the peace initiative, and that they would apply pressure on Israel to accept it. European pressure on Israel, who had always broke international laws and violated UN resolutions, had always failed to come up with any positive results. Arabs should have listened to the speech given by the democratic Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the American House of Representatives, to the Israeli Knesset last weekend asserting, one more time, the American unconditional support to Israel.  With such support what kind of pressure would force Israelis to accept a treaty they had violently rejected in the past?

Many Arab leaders are trying to reflect to their already agitated populations that they are trying to unite under the leadership of Saudi Arabia to make their own political decisions and to stop any foreign interference in the Arab World. They claimed they are motivated to end the Palestinian suffering by ending the financial and economic blockade against them through the only choice they have; a peace initiative that recognizes Israel’s right to exist on 78% of Palestine proper, and substitutes Palestinian refugees’ right of return to what they called a “just solution” to the refugee problem.

These leaders are trying to divert the attention of their people away from the fact that many Arab countries had been willing contributors to this financial blockade in order to topple the democratically elected Hamas government. They wanted to mislead the people into believing that Palestine could not be regained since all the Arab armies combined are no match for the “undefeated” Israeli army. History shows that this “undefeated” Israeli army had been defeated many times; in March 1968 battle of Karamah against Palestinian and Jordanian resistance, in October 1973 against Egyptian army, in May 2000 in Lebanon by Hezbollah forces, in July 2006 in Lebanon again by Hezbollah, and in Palestine failing to defeat Palestinian resistance.  These defeats, except October 1973, were accomplished mainly by resistance groups rather than by formal armies.

The peace initiative and the false hope of ending the Arab/Israeli conflict through the two states solution are just a political trick against Arabs to introduce the false hope that peace with Israel, Arab’s mortal enemy, is now possible through the present American administration, providing the Arab countries do not oppose the American policies in the region especially its aggression against Iran. US and Israel are planning to hit Iran shortly, and they want to neutralize any Arab opposition to US using Arab Gulf States as its launching pads, and to prevent any retaliation against Israel. The carrot of establishing a Palestinian state had been successfully used to neutralize Arab opposition to the American aggression in the region in 1990 Gulf War and in 2003 invasion of Iraq when some Arab countries were used as launching pads for the American forces to invade Iraq.

This carrot is being used now, through the revival of the peace initiative, to allow the use of Arab Gulf states again as launching pads for the American forces to attack Iran. Nuclear “Shiite” Iran had already been portrayed as greater threat to “Sunni” Gulf States than Israel. The presence of two American nuclear aircraft carriers with their accompanying military vessels in the Arabian Gulf is not there for mere diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

-Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent, born in the town of Beit Jala and lives in the US.

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