Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Arab Initiative

Is the Arab initiative the answer to bring peace to the Middle East? Alon Ben-Meir, professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, discusses it in an article in American Chronicle brought to my attention by Mahmoud El-Yousseph.

The Arab initiative would result in Israel withdrawing from the "occupied territories" and establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Professor Ben-Meir says,
Third, since there are many extremist Arab groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, that oppose the peace process, only the collective Arab political will can rein in by any means these groups. Moreover, without such a collective effort, it will be impossible to successfully combat terrorism unless the communities that support such terrorists groups are alienated from their leadership. Here too, only the Arab states working in concert can bring about the communal socio-economic and political change, in combination with force if necessary, to achieve that objective.
To be sure, the Arab states have decided to reintroduce the Initiative because of their heightened vulnerability emanating from the convergence of events resulting from the war in Iraq and its explosive regional potential. They see an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict as a precondition to effectively addressing many of the problems that have plagued the Middle East, stabilizing the region, and securing their regimes. But the Arab leaders, other than those from Egypt and Jordan, which are at peace with Israel, (assigned by the Arab League to pursue the Initiative with Israel), must not sit on their hands and wait. They too must reach out to Israel and demonstrate that their Initiative is genuine and are ready to engage the Israelis on any level while remaining true to the Initiative’s principles.
I remain skeptical that any such initiative could have a lasting effect. The problem lies in the roots of political Islam. How can Israel, the United States, or anyone else capitulate with a truce that, following the example of Muhammed, need last only 10 years and, it being a truce with non-believers, is not considered binding upon believers? In other words, Islam as believed by the radical elements (and perhaps by many who are not so radical) creates a situation that make long term trust of Islamic states very, very difficult if not impossible.

To make it work, to make it acceptable, the Arab states must find an extraordinary means to create a reason for trust. A daunting task to be sure.

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