ATbar Free Normalization between Arab States and Israel, Obstacles and challenges

Free Normalization between Arab States and Israel, Obstacles and challenges

24/09/2017 | by Amro, Rateb (Dr. Col. Ret.)  

The Middle East is a region that has been deprived of peace for no less than a full decade, all efforts, by the UN, superpowers, regional actors and mediators over the years to resolve causes of instability have failed.

The region remains a major source of widening instability well beyond the region’s borders ,it all started with the injustice planned, and later on planted, in Palestine in the middle of the last century, if the Palestinian people are deprived of peace, the region cannot enjoy it ,not just the region instability has been spreading

Palestinian –Israeli conflict , originally a native – settler conflict , is one of the most durable and intractable conflict , while the peace process between the Palestinians The and Israelis has started, no final solution has been reached , and Israelis still occupies the Palestinian territories, under these conditions , an interesting question is raised about normalization between Palestinians and Israelis .

The regional situation has changed considerably, even since last year, and there are new variables in play – including some wildcards that could potentially lead to major breaks with the past. One of the most important is President Donald Trump, who has made progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue a foreign policy priority, and the ascension of President Trump to leadership in the U.S. has greatly enhanced this development, as Trump is actively leading a campaign against Iran, which threatens Israel and the Arab states as well.

Never the less there are still major political obstacles to a public Arab rapprochement with Israel:

The Main obstacles:

Normalization under occupation:

The Israeli occupation and Palestinian injustice is the root cause, and the very origin of instability, conflict, radicalization, terror, extremist trends, and the list could expand indefinitely.

Ultimately, the road to normalization with the Arab states still runs through the Palestinian issue, and not the other way in the absence of progress in direct negotiations with the Palestinians – or any real prospects for progress.

A brief look at the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict offers a very clear example of such thesis.

1948 witnessed the first Arab-Israeli war that ended with the creation of Israel on 78 per cent of the land of Palestine, sending 750,000 Palestinians to uncertain destitution.

With time, the body of Palestinian refugees grew too close to 7 million. International failure to resolve the 1948 Palestinian catastrophe initiated a chain of major events that continues till this very day.

Then, another major war was started in 1967 by the Israeli invasion of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, ending in the occupation by Israel of Egyptian, Syrian and Palestinian lands.

By then, all of historical Palestinian land became occupied by Israel.

So why Normalization Remains Unlikely:

Because we believe that Peace for all or peace for none:

Although some Arab leaders’ attitudes toward Israel are changing; and the Arab desire to see an Israeli-Palestinian deal remains strong. Nevertheless, the vision of Israel normalizing its relations with Arab states without the agreement of the Palestinians is fanciful, and even modest steps toward normalization will require Israel to do much more than many Israelis seem to realize. Ultimately, the road to normalization with the Arab states still runs through the Palestinian issue, and not the other way around.

As we Know Arab governments, particularly in the Arab Gulf States, see security threats from Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Islamist extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State ISIS. , and they see threats to political stability from restive.

Meanwhile there are common interests between Israel and conservative Sunni countries, such as the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. And there are some kinds of cooperation between Israel and these countries, who are seeking to limit Iran’s encroaching influence.

But without a solution for the Palestinian issue, Israel could forget about normalization, or even tacit cooperation. The solution to all this lies in the adoption of international measures and of the Arab peace plan, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. This will provide Israel with natural good relations with its neighbors.

Anyone who thinks otherwise among Israeli leadership, or world leaders and politicians are “fooling themselves”, if they believe that the recent reports of closer ties and normalization between Israel and Arab countries has any substance. Without a solution to the Palestinian issue, there will be no warming of ties.

Previous Arab leaders who agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel – Egypt’s the late Anwar Sadat and the late King Hussein of Jordan – were strong. Today’s Arab leaders do not, for the most part, see themselves in a position to take such political risks, absent a valuable and certain payoff.

On top of that is an important regional dimension: at a time of intense geopolitical competition with Iran, will not want to cede the Palestinian issue to its rivals in Tehran, who would be sure to denounce them for any public rapprochement with Israel.

The Iranians in that case would claim to be the true defenders of Muslim rights in Jerusalem, and seek to portray Arab countries – even in the eyes of their own population – as “stooges” of the United States and Israel. This is a risk that Arab leaders cannot afford to run.

But I believe that many of the hopes placed on normalization in advance of a deal with the Palestinians are misplaced. While modest steps toward normalization by some countries may be possible if Israel also acts, genuine normalization between Arab states and Israel will only happen in the context of comprehensive peace supported by the Palestinians. Moreover, even the more modest steps under consideration will require more significant gestures from Israel than many Israelis seem to realize.

 Israel should certainly continue to pursue better relations with the Arab states for a number of political, strategic, and economic reasons. But those looking to the Arabs for a shortcut on the Palestinian issue – or who think they can establish closer relations with the Arabs without addressing that issue – are likely to be disappointed.

Accepting the others:

As far as Israel is trying to be part of the region and the Middle East, and despite  of singing Camp David Agreement with Egypt  since 40 years, and 23 years of signing of Wadi Araba Agreement  with Jordan, and 24 years of signing The Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, But the peace process between Israel and those countries remained in its place, and confined in many cases to remain peace between governments, and did not reach people to people peace, and this makes Israel's attempts to normalize with the Arab countries and specifically Arab neighbors so difficult.

The Jewish State:

Why Israel can't be a 'Jewish State'?

Cautioned by the Palestinians, the Arabs remain wary of making “permanent” steps toward Israel in exchange for “de facto” Israeli steps that could easily be reversed. For example, they are unwilling to formally recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or accept the legitimacy of Israelis remaining in the major settlement blocs, in exchange for expanded freedom of movement or autonomy for Palestinians that could easily be taken away in the future.

The Israeli demand to be recognized as a "Jewish state" by the Palestinians is an inherently problematic.

Democracy or a Jewish State:

Recently, however, The Israeli government's current mantra is that the Palestinians must recognize a "Jewish State".

The following questions have been raised:

*What about the Democracy, and the only democratic state in the Middle East …….?

*What about the other ethnics in Israel?

as you know at least one in five Israelis - 20 per cent of the population, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics - is ethnically Arab (and are mostly either Muslim, Christian, Druze or Bahai), and recognizing Israel as a "Jewish State" as such makes one-fifth of the population of Israel automatically strangers in their own native land and opens the door to legally reducing them.

So let us suggest also that having a modern nation-state being defined by one ethnicity or one religion is problematic in itself - if not inherently self-contradictory - because the modern nation-state as such is a temporal and civic institution.

Then the recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word "Jewish" to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word "Jewish" to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both, and in all of these cases, Israel is then no longer a democracy - something which has rightly been the pride of most Israelis since the country's founding in 1948.

Recognizing a "Jewish State" as such in Israel would mean legally that while Palestinians no longer have citizens' rights there, any member of world Jewry outside of Israel (up to 10 million people perhaps), should be entitled to full citizens' rights there, no matter wherever they may be in the world today and regardless of their current nationality.

What about the Palestinian refugees?

Before final status negotiations have even started, that Palestinians would have then given up the rights of about 7 million Palestinians in the diaspora to repatriation or compensation; 7 million Palestinians descended from the Palestinians who in 1900 lived in historical Palestine (i.e. what is now Israel, the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza) and at that time made up 800,000 of its 840,000 inhabitants; and who were driven off their land through war, violent eviction or fear.

Here we can say: As long as Israel seeks normalization with the Arab and Islamic countries, and be part of the region and the Middle East, and demands recognition as a Jewish state, did you ever hear that the neighboring countries thought one day to change their names to Islamic countries?

How Israel understands the Arab Peace Initiative:

Once more, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 is taking center stage, the initiative is the only solution on the table; asserting that it will not be changed or even tweaked.

But why is this initiative, which was put forward by Saudi Arabia 15 years ago, now infused back into the already congested Middle East’s political discourse, despite the fact that Israel has rejected it repeatedly and the US has shown little interest in enforcing it?

In March 2002, the initiative, made of a few sentences, was proclaimed in an Arab League Summit in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Arab proposal was largely a reiteration of United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. It promised complete normalization between Arab States and Israel should Israel withdraw from Palestinian and Arab land it occupied in 1967.

When the Arab Initiative was re-endorsed, this time by the majority of Arab leaders in the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia in 2007, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, had a most expressive response.

The question we must ask here is: How can the Arab states agree to normalize with Israel, while setting a key condition in the Arab peace initiative with Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories and return to the borders of June 4, 1967.

What about Jerusalem problem:

1.6bn Muslims and 2.4bn Christians regard Jerusalem as holy, which is about 55 per cent of the world's population [EPA].

Of course, the Palestinians have clearly and repeatedly recognized the State of Israel as such in the 1993 Oslo Accords (which were based on an Israeli promise to establish a Palestinian state within five years - a promise now shattered) and

Israel also agreed in the Wadi Araba agreement that Jordan would be responsible for the care of Islamic and Christian Holly places in Jerusalem.

A well-known Arabic proverb says a crazy person might throw a stone in the well, but it will take a hundred wise persons to get the stone out.

This proverb applies to the standoff regarding Al Aqsa Mosque, which has given more power to local Palestinians, and allowed them for the first time in years to be in the driver’s seat.

As long as the Arabs and Muslims view Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque as the first of the two Qibla, and the third of the two Holy Mosques and the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens, how can they normalize with Israel while Israel occupies Jerusalem, and controls places of worship for Muslims, and prevents them from praying, and visiting holy places there, how can these countries begin normalization with Israel.?

Culture:

The cultural difference:

The great gab of cultural differences between Israel and the Arabs is one of the main obstacles in the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arabs, and this is evident in more than one example. We all remember the incident of Al-Baqura on Jordanian Israeli Borders, when one of the Jordanian soldiers killed a number of Israeli women. His Majesty, the late King Hussein, visited Israel and offered his condolences to the families of the victims, in an appropriate manner to him as King, and in accordance with the original Arab customs. The opposite happened when an Israeli security officer in the Israeli Embassy in Jordan, Killed two Jordanian men.