The Arab Peace Initiative’s Role in the New Context and after the Deal with Iran

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 17 Aug 2015

Walid Salem – TRANSCEND Media Service

The significant characteristic of the Arab Peace Initiative since its initiation in 2002 till today, is its ability to continue  adapting itself with the different changes that take (and have taken) place in the region ever since. Along the way, it also continued as a plan of the Arab and Islamic consensus and not a plan of the moderates against the extremists.

This significance is valid also today, with its three major complexes: the nuclear deal with Iran, the increase of extremism in the region, and the full blockage in the Israeli Palestinian and the Arab Israeli peace process.

In regard to the deal with Iran, the API includes in its article 3a the phrase about “ensuring security for all the states of the region“. This phrase means that the API is not only about peace, but it is also about bringing security to the region. It is obvious in this regard that the idea of having a Middle East that is free from weapons of mass destruction represents one of the main components for a hovering security for all the states of the region.

This idea will now gain more momentum after the deal on Iran’s nuclear arsenal; the call for it will increase, and the  campaign led by the Arab League and the Egypt on this issue will become stronger with the aim of achieving two objectives:

  • One is about the creation of stability that is necessary for peace in the region;
  • The second is about creating symmetry between the Arabs and Israel by eliminating the Israeli nuclear threat.

It is not astonishing then that the Arab League released a statement after the agreement with Iran blessing that agreement in one hand and calling for it to be made as a first step towards a Middle East that is free from WMD.

The security phrase 3a of the API is also relevant to deal with the threat of  extremist groups in the region. In this regard the API will not suggest to wait on peace until extremism will be defeated, but it will  suggest that the end of the Israeli occupation will lead to stability and peace between the Arabs and Israel. In vice versa,  the API will suggest that the continuation of occupation will feed the extremist groups in the region with a justification to continue, moreover pressing on the Israeli strategic interests  that the continuation of the occupation will feed the extreme groups in Israel itself that are against the two states solution, and thereby present a threat for the Israeli future continuation of existence.

In regard to the Israeli Palestinian peace process, the API will suggest two ways of working with the current impasse: one of them about creating symmetry between the Palestinians and the Israelis by elevating Palestine in the ground, diplomatically, and legally based on the last Arab Summit in Cairo of last March resolution of establishing an Arab committee to elevate Palestine in the UN.

The second has to with the diplomatic work on the UN towards a new UNSC resolution that starts with the confirmation of the Arab commitment to to API, asking Israel to accept it, and appoint a UN special envoy for the API implementation.

Elevating Palestine to statehood includes the following:

  1. Elevate Palestine that is committed to peace and security with Israel on the 1967 borders to a full membership in the UN.
  2. Create UNSCOP II that will consider the fate of Palestine by the UN General Assembly
  3. Build Palestinian facts on the ground in Area C and East Jerusalem
  4. Establish a link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
  5. Proceed with effective reconstruction of Gaza
  6. Support the formation of a Palestinian unity government that is committed to nonviolence with elections to be held in 6 months
  7. Create a new momentum regarding the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees
  8. Press Israel to fulfill its obligations according to previous agreements including:
  9. Settlement freeze and dismantlement of outposts
  10. Re-opening and (opening new) Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem
  11. Creation of  free passage between the West Bank and Gaza
  12. Implementation of other obligations according to previous agreements

On the international and regional level, there should be more activity: 

  1. Push for a UNSC resolution based on the API and appointment of a UN Special Envoy to implement and promote the API (as recommended during the March 2015 Arab Summit).
  2. Hold an international peace conference and create an international follow-up committee based on the API
  3. Create symmetry between the Arab countries and Israel and initiate moves toward a Middle East free of WMD

Conclusion:

In conclusion to the above, the API capability to adapt is significant, leading it to become the only game in town to make changes in the region. In this sense the API should be understood as having two components and not only one, and that it has dynamic mechanisms.

In regards to its two components:

Firstly, it is inclusive as a “Peace deposit” that the Arabs can postpone paying to Israel — until the latter withdraws from the 1967 Palestinian and Arab occupied territories. In this sense, it is a carrot (promise of peace and normal relation), and a stick (continuation of diplomatic and economic boycott to Israel till it withdraws from 1967 Arab occupied territories).

Secondly, it is about creating security for all the states of the region as in article 3a of the API. As clarified above based on the agreement with Iran and the growing extremism in Israel and the region, the work on this article will gain more momentum being also one of the preconditions to get to peace in the region.

On the mechanisms, API has three:  Jordan and Egypt to communicate it with Israel; the API follow up committee with the international community; and the new committee of the last summit to elevate Palestine in the UN in order to create symmetry between the two sides and to save guard the two states solution.

This understanding of the API roles and mechanisms are shared by all the Arab countries. Besides the informal contacts that might take place by some Arab officials, semi officials, and former officials with Israel in order to move the Israeli positions forward, it is wishful thinking of the Israeli Government wishful that these contacts might lead to official cooperation before and without the Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 Arab occupied territories.

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Dr. Walid Salem is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. He was born in East Jerusalem in 1957 and teaches democracy and human rights at AlQuds University. He is a writer of thirty books and training manuals, and tens of research papers on Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, and Jerusalem. He is also a consultant, evaluator, and trainer for several public and private bodies. Salem trained more than thirty thousand Palestinians on these issues since 1990, and, since 1993, he is the Director of The Centre for Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem. He is the Coordinator of Middle East Citizen Assembly as regional network of experts and activists on citizenship issues that include participants from 19 countries from the region since 2004. He has lectured at several international conferences and seminars about democracy, Jerusalem, refugees, and development in Palestine.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Aug 2015.

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One Response to “The Arab Peace Initiative’s Role in the New Context and after the Deal with Iran”

  1. rosemerry says:

    If only. Netanyahu and so many others fight any possible step towards peace, Palestinian progress to Statehood or even reduction in the cruelty and land takeovers that the IDF and all Israeli governments inflict on the Palestinians.

    If the USA ever considered what polls show the US citizen population want-fair treatment for Palestine, less slavish support for Israel (in the UNSC and militarily), and Europe stopped being a weak puppet allowing Israel to ignore international law, the API could be considered and even implemented.