FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Three Nos of Jerusalem

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
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
David Yearsley
Morricone: Maestro of Music and Image
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
Graham Peebles
Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?
Zhivko Illeieff
Can We Escape Our Addiction to Social Media?
Clark T. Scott
The Democrat’s Normal Keeps Their (Supposed) Enemies Closer and Closer
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
In 2020 Elections: Will Real-Life “Fighting Dems” Prove Irresistible?
David Swanson
Mommy, Where Do Peace Activists Come From?
Christopher Brauchli
Trump the Orator
Gary Leupp
Columbus and the Beginning of the American Way of Life: A Message to Indoctrinate Our Children
John Stanton
Donald J. Trump, Stone Cold Racist
Nicky Reid
The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)
Stephen Cooper
A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)
Hugh Iglarsh
COVID-19’s Coming to Town
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail