Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
It’s your last chance to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch in 2017. Help us gear up to fight the status-quo in 2018! Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Three Nos of Jerusalem

by HENRY SIEGMAN

The Arab League meeting in Cairo yesterday was unprecedented in its overture to Israel, offering to meet Israeli representatives to clarify the peace initiative that the League re-endorsed at its meeting in Riyadh on March 28. The two events underscore the complete reversal of the paradigm that for so long has defined the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the effort by armies of several Arab countries to abort its birth, until well past the war of 1967 which left Israel in control of all of Palestine, Israel was seen by much of the world as both victim and peace- seeker. Arab countries were seen as warmongers and rejectionists. The paradigm was reinforced by the âoThree Nos of Khartoumâo when, in 1967, Arab countries pledged there would be no peace, no negotiations and no recog-nition of the Jewish state.

This image of the Arab worldâos total rejection of Israel persisted into the 1980s, even after it became clear that the prime minister, Golda Meir, had ignored peace initiatives by the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, for which Israel paid dearly in the October war of 1973. Nor did a change in Arab attitudes to the Jewish state implicit in the Saudi Fahd plan, adopted by the Arab League in 1981, prompt any rethinking of that image in Israel or in the west.

Since then âo” particularly in the aftermath of the Oslo accords in 1993 and the MENA Economic Summits hosted by various Arab countries âo” Arab rejection of Israelâos legitimacy has largely dissipated. Well before the Saudi initiative of 2002 senior Arab officials sought to persuade Yasser Arafat, former Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, to accept peace terms offered by Ehud Barak, Israelâos former prime minister, at Camp David in 2000.

Then came the Saudi initiative, in which the most conservative of Arab countries and the most conservative of Saudi princes, Crown Prince Abdullah, declared that Saudi Arabia would fully normalise its relations with Israel and welcome its embassy and flag in its capital as soon as Israel ended its conflict with the Palestinians, an offer endorsed by every Arab country.

The Israeli response to this tectonic change in Arab psychology and politics was worse than rejection: it was complete indifference, as if this 180-degree turnround in Arab thinking had no meaning for Israel and its future in the region.

Ehud Olmert, prime minister, and his government have reflexively rejected every Arab peace offer, whether from Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Arab League or Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Ariel Sharonâos and Mr Olmertâos policies these past seven years have shaped a new paradigm in which Israel is the rejectionist party. The Three Nos of Khartoum have been replaced by the Three Nos of Jerusalem: no negotiations with Syria, no acceptance of the Arab initiative and, above all, no peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Olmert and his associates devote their diplomatic skills to finding ever more tortured pretexts for blocking every opportunity for peacemaking, while posturing as peace-lovers in search of âoreasonableâo Arabs who qualify as partners for peace. Their goal remains to prevent a peace process that would require them to halt Israelâos expansion of its settlements and its effort to cut off East Jerusalem from its Palestinian hinterland.

This deception worked well for a while and perhaps still convinces president George W. Bush and those he relies on to understand the Middle East âo” the folks who gave us the Iraq war âo” but has worn thin with much of the rest of the world, including many Americans. Several US columnists who bought into the old paradigm, or avoided the subject for fear of be-ing labelled anti-Israel, now reject it.

Israel has lost the high moral ground. It will not regain it until its citizens elect a government that understands that the price of peace âo” whose outline was agreed to by both sides in the Taba talks after the failed Camp David negotiations âo” is far less than the cost of its current rejectionism.

To be sure, the moral high ground does not necessarily provide security. But for a western country âo” located in the heart of the Arab and Islamic world âo” that has been the beneficiary of vastly disproportionate US and western support because it has been seen as a moral avatar, the loss of that high ground could not be more devastating to its long-term security.

HENRY SIEGMAN is director of the US/Middle East Project and research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
December 15, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
What’s Not Happening With Mr. Jones
Timothy M. Gill
The Height of Racial Resentment: White Cops
Andrew Levine
Democrats Have Much to Learn and the Odious Have Much to Teach Them
Luciana Bohne
Operation Jerusalem Capital: Second Balfour Declaration or Arab-Israeli NATO?
Anthony DiMaggio
#Me Too: Women are Speaking Out, Are We Listening?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out Walked Monk
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
The Demoralizing Impact of Trump, But Hope Has Arrived
Samantha Paez – Sandra de los Santos
The Most Dangerous Place for Mexican Women is in the Streets
Martin Billheimer
Assassins of the Image: the CIA as Cultural Gatekeeper
Jérôme Duval
From Slave Trade to Debt: Occupation Disguised as “Discovery”
Vijay Prashad
The October Revolution
Steve Martinot
Twisted Thinking: Police Militarization in Berkeley
Robert Fantina
Juvenile Delinquency in U.S. Government
Dave Lindorff
Stupidity and Blindness Have Destroyed Whatever Democracy the US Ever Had
Pete Dolack
You are Working Harder and Getting Paid Less
Joseph Natoli
The Axioms of the Other
Susan Babbitt
Why Don Quixote?
Ralph Nader
What Does Trump Mean by “Make America Great Again”?
Ramzy Baroud
Towards a New Palestinian Beginning
Binoy Kampmark
Escaping Reality: Roy Moore and the Rage of Decency
Mark Luskus
Corporate Interests Are Warping the Internet
Ron Jacobs
Sinking in the Swamp
Brian Cloughley
Prepare! Peruse!! Prevail!!!
Jill Richardson
We Agree Assault is Bad, Now Let’s Agree on How to Punish It
Jeremy Corbyn
The Greatest Threats to Our Common Humanity
Walter Clemens – Stephen Advocate
The Amoral Code of America’s Dirty Old Men
Jessicah Pierre
Trump’s Cruel Policy on Haitian Refugees
George Wuerthner
Water Rights or Water Privileges?
Nick Pemberton
What I Learned in Ghana 
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s Capitalism
Tom H. Hastings
Stop Trump movement
Thomas Knapp
The Real Internet Censorship Threat
Robert Koehler
Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons
Kary Love
Christmas Letter to Jesus
Tom Clifford
China: From the Treasure Fleet to One Belt, One Road
Charles R. Larson
Trump’s Blueprint for State Capture
M. Shadee Malaklou
Jay-Z’s 4:44 Moves Black Radical Thought Through and Beyond the Classroom
Michael Dickinson
What About Our Debts, Pope Francis?
Phil Rockstroh
What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set to a Musical Soundtrack
Edward Curtin
A Man Turns
December 14, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Surveillance That Never Sleeps
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Roy Moore’s Loss: a Victory for the Young Girls of America
Eric Toussaint
Debt is a Determining Factor in History
Liaquat Ali Khan
Appropriation of Jerusalem
Kenneth Surin
Selective Impressions of the New Zealand-Aotearoa Conjuncture
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail