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A few comments on Satloff‪’‬s assessment of the Arab-Israeli scene

Friday 19 September 2014



In his nuanced and fair assessment of the Arab‪-‬Israeli arena‪, Robert Satloff writes‪:‬

"Is there a regional option? Could Israel and the Sunni Arab states who see eye to eye on so much these days find a way to create a new plan based on the Arab Peace Initiative first proposed in 2002, now lubricated by this significant Israeli concession? Is the appeal of going to Dubai or, even better, Jeddah enough to ‏overcome the rightist tilt of Israeli politics ..? This is an idea I hope creative Arab and Israeli minds consider pursuing. To a great extent, it depends on my final point.

‏and ‪(‬referring to Benjamin Netanyahu)‪:‬

‏"We know what he ‏isn’t, but Israelis are still, after all these years, figuring out what he is. Perhaps the allure of a regional peace ‏initiative that would anchor Israel more firmly as an accepted piece of the Middle East — even before the ‏details of a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians are finalized — would clarify this identity problem".

‏Well‪,‬ Arabs‪,‬ as well‪,‬ are figuring out what Bibi wants‪! And, frankly, to me, Netanyahu does not seem to be a visionary who would seize the historical moment to "anchor Israel more firmy as an accepted ‬‏piece in the Middle East". Let us hope I am wrong.

‏I differ with Robert Satloff’s assessment of the prospects of a " reinvigorated peace process": ‪"..In my view, such an initiative would be the result of bad analysis — Sunnis are largely focused elsewhere, and ‬‏Israel has its own contacts with Sunnis these days"!

Israel might have its own contacts with Sunnis these days‪ but it should strive for a full ’recognition’ and a full ’normalisation’ (‬the magic word‪)‬ and not be content with under‪-‬the‪-‬table arrangements or even for a ‪"cold peace’ à l’égyptienne . Only full recognition and normalization‬ would‪ "anchor Israel more firmy as an accepted ‬piece in the Middle East".

‏Are Arabs ready for such a historical compromise‪?‬

For many years, ‏Liberals have understood‪‬ that building democratic and progressive societies is not compatible with a state of permanent war with Israel‪. Only peace with Israel can put an end to the militarization of Arab societies and the subsequent dispotic regimes (and cultures) which flourished upon the myth of the liberation of Palestine. Peace with Israel is essential to the liberal project of destroying the ’culture of hatred and death’ targeted against all ’others’, Jews, Christians, the West, America, etc.‬

‏However, I claim that even more traditional Arab public opinions and even traditional Arab regimes are now aware of the need for a historical compromise with the Israeli people and even ready for such a compromise.

‏Though not privy to Saudi policy considerations, it is my impression that the excellent and repeated initiatives of Prince Turki al Faisal go in the sense of a full compromise.

‏Why Should Saudi Arabia and similar Arab regimes accept such a compromise? Simply, because they already did in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002,

‏But, more, they would accept a historical compromise for two reasons.

First: the ’culture of hatred and violence’ has become too heavy a burden (politically, economically and from a ’security’ point of view) even for such conservative countries as Saudi Arabia. Whilst the present king of Saudi Arabia is seeking to improve the education of Saudi new generations (more that a 100 000 Saudis were sent to study abroad, that is in "Infidel lands"), and to bring his country more into the modern world, a vehement opposition is coming from the ranks of the same forces which had been pillars of the Saudi regime.

Interestingly, a Saudi writer writing in a Saudi paper called on the Saudi regime to cut the relation between the ’Najdi creed’, i.e. Wahhabism and the Saudi state as the only way out of the permanent conflict between undeniable aspects of real-life modernity in Saudi Arabia and an ideology which refers to earlier ages. (Read story on Shaffaf)

‏Recently, Shaffaf covered the outcry against the former Imam of the Mecca Sanctuary who wrote on his Twitter account that "Daesh is a Salfi plant", meaning a derivative of Salafism (read ’wahhabism’). (Read on Shaffaf).

‏And, second, Arab regimes (as well as liberals) are quiet aware that the real beneficiary from the permanent hostility against Israel is the Mullas regime in Iran. From Lebanon to Syria to Iraq and even Yemen and Bahrein the Mullas hegemonic projects find their raison d’être in the myth of ’Resistance to Israel’. Is it not significant that there are almost no palestinians among the ranks of Lebanon’s so-called ’Resistance’, meaning Hizbullah?

‏In fact, Iran’s enmity to Israel is not a function of what Arabs call ’the Palestinian Cause’. Iran’s Pasdaran chiefs rather talk of the "insignificance of Israel" compared to Iran’s "5000 years civilization"!

‏The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 did not get off the ground as its initiaters, Saudi Arabia in particular, shied away from being in the front ranks. They, too, preferred to ’lead from behind’! The Arab league chose, as the emissaries of the ’initiative’, diplomats from Arab countries (Jordan, Egypt) which already had diplomatic relations with Israel! Not very convincing!

Times have changed since 2002: One cannot but hope with Satloff‪ that ‪"the appeal of going to Dubai or, even better, Jeddah (would be) enough to‬ ‏overcome the rightist tilt of Israeli politics since the guns fell silent in Gaza? This is an idea I hope creative Arab and Israeli minds consider pursuing."

‏On their side‪‪,‬ Arabs feel the appeal of peace‪,‬ modernity‪,‬ progress and ultimate liberation from the curse of ‪’‬the sick man of the modern world‪’!‬

Peace is not an Arab favor, it is an Arab interest!


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