Israel-Palestine: Now is the time!
"Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party".
Many Israelis believe, erroneously I think, that they are surrounded on all sides by enemies (as NowPublic's Rhonda J Mangus pointed out, on April 6th). The Egyptians made their own peace with Israel thirty years ago. In 2002, the Saudis got the Arab League to present their own overtures in a proposal that is still on the table. And again, in July 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak met with Jordan's Foreign Minister, Abdul Ilah Khatib and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghait to discuss the Arab proposals.
Arab Peace Initiative: Now Jordan has taken an initiative, in conjunction with the US, to offer a new far reaching intiative for lasting peace. King Abdulla has been working with Barak Obama since April this year on an initiative that covers all 57 Arab States, in which the entire Muslim world would recognise Israel and would finally settle the conflict with the Palestinans and Syria and Lebanon. This was outlined in the London Evening Standard yesterday evening and has been touched on in this morning's The Independent.
A timetable: All of us know what the main outlines of the Peace Deal will need to include. The problem is in getting both Israel and the Palestinians to seriously commit to it. But that could start with Barak Obama's meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington next week. (What a shame the Pope was not more outspoken on the details of a two-state solution this week). The initiative could then form the centerpeace for Barak Abama's meeting with the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4th. It seems that Barak Obama is carefully building up meetings with the right people in the right succession to achieve the right outcomes to his plans for peace.
As King Abdullah said: "if there is procrastination by Israel on the two-state solution or there is no clear American vision for how this is going to play out in 2009, then all the tremendous credibility that Obama has worldwide and in this region will evaporate overnight". On Israel's rejection of moves towards the two-state solution, the King said: "we are offering a third of the world to meet them with open arms. The future is not the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or the Sinai - the future is Morocco in the Atlantic and Indonesia in the Pacific. That is the prize". Israelis would be offered the possibility of visas in any of these countries as well as the right of Israeli airline El Al to fly over any Arab country as well as the recognition of Israel by all Muslim countries. Israel would need to halt all the current construction and expansion of the illegal settlements on the West Bank, and to agree to withdraw from land taken since 1967, and to return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
But King Abdullah also issued a warning.
What if? If this initiative fails to work, it could end in a new war in the region in the next 12 to 18 months. The King was wise to include this in my judgement. For too long, this conflict has festered; for too long the relations between all sides has deteriorated, and for too long hate has been actively encouraged on both sides. That level of abuse cannot go on for ever. Today, it is incumbent on all of us to press all sides to grasp this fleeting opportunity and to come to a sensible agreement, in spite of all the difficulties.
Today, we must spread the warnings that people cannot continue on these riunous paths to disaster. Now is the crucial time to grasp the opportunities that exist. Now is the time for peace.
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