Arab League and Israel – (I)

 

BY ALAN HART

A thought constantly in my mind, and which was reinforced by the Arab League’s 25th Summit in Kuwait, is that with Arab leaders and governments as “enemies” the Zionist state of Israel does not need friends.

The Arab League was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945. Its six founding member states were Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan (renamed Jordan in 1949) Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Today the Arab League has 22 members (though Syria’s membership has been suspended since November 2011).

Question: In terms of significant, positive contributions to regional and international affairs, what has the Arab League got to show for its 69 years of existence?

Apart from its 2002 initiative for ending the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, the short answer is NOTHING.

That initiative, the Saudi-inspired Arab Peace Plan, was adopted by the Arab League Summit in Beirut on 22 March 2002. It offered Israel a full normalization of relations in exchange for Israel ending its occupation of all Arab territory grabbed in the 1967 war, Israeli recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem its capital and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem.

Because Israel’s leaders were fully aware that in negotiations Arab leaders were prepared to accept, as Arafat had, that the Palestinian right of return would have to be restricted to the territory of the Palestinian mini state, and that an option for Jerusalem was for it to be an open, undivided city and the capital of two states, it was a plan for a comprehensive peace which any rational government in Israel would have accepted with relief.

The Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon swiftly rejected this Arab initiative saying it was a “non-starter”.

At its Riyadh Summit in 2007 the Arab League endorsed its 2002 initiative and then sent the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt to Israel to promote it. Netanyahu, then an opposition leader, rejected it outright. Subsequently, as prime minister, he said, “The conflict isn’t over land but Israel’s right to exist.”

That was nonsense of the highest order because the conflict is obviously about land and, also, the Arab peace plan was about accepting and recognizing Israel’s actual existence (right or not) inside its pre-1967 borders and normalizing relations with that entity.

In the light of the above I think it can be said that the Arab League’s only significant contribution to developments has been to prove that Israel’s leaders are not remotely interested in peace on any terms the vast majority of Palestinians and the whole Arab world (and Iran) could accept.

Question: Is there anything the Arab League could have done in the past to limit Zionism’s arrogance of power and secure an acceptable amount of justice for the Palestinians?

The long answer as in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews is “Yes”. The short version of it is this.

In the weeks following the 1967 war, the Arab League could have sent a representative, authorised to speak for all the member states, on a secret mission to the White House, to deliver a message, one-on-one, to President Johnson. “Mr. President, if you don’t use the leverage you have to get Israel back behind its pre-war borders, we’ll turn off the oil taps.”

If such a message had been delivered to Johnson and if had believed that Arab leaders were united on the matter and serious, he would have replied to this effect: “Give me two or three weeks, perhaps a little longer, and I’ll do what you want.” (Johnson, who had given Israel the green light to attack Egypt and only Egypt, was fully aware that the conflict of June 1967 was a war of Israeli aggression not self-defense).

-to be concluded

-the writer is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent. He is author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews

-by arrangement with countercurrents.org