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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2007



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The Undertones of a Peace Plan
by Karen Nakamura

On March 28, the Arab League met in Riyadh and re-iterated its support for the Arab Peace Initiative.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia originally submitted this plan in 2002. Twenty-one nations voted yes with
one dissenter, Libya, who said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepared the results beforehand and

Arab leaders should not "obey orders" from the Americans.

A week before, Secretary Condoleezza Rice began her fourth visit to the Middle East in an attempt to get

the Israeli/Palestinian peace process off the dime. The outcome was predictable. The Israelis brushed off

the initiative as "interesting" but needing "adjustments." As for the Secretary's visit, perhaps Donald Trump was right when he accused Rice of sitting for Middle East photo-ops but never reaching

diplomatic conclusions.
Nevertheless, is there something going on here? Yahoo News reported March 21 that Sec. Rice was hoping to re-activate the "long-dormant" Arab plan to "breathe

some life into her own endangered efforts to rekindle Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."

The previous year, Rice tried to strengthen Palestinian President Abbas in Fatah's power struggle

with Hamas by negotiating between him and Israel. Critics saw it as a "divide and conquer" attempt to

weaken the Palestinian government. The maneuvering collapsed when President Abbas agreed to a unity

government with Hamas. Yahoo quoted Aaron Miller, an Israeli-Palestinian affairs adviser. "This is a very

awkward ...situation...it's going to muddy ...the short-term diplomacy waged by Rice."

So Rice revived the initiative. First she met with the "Arab Quartet", leaders from moderate Arab countries; Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates,

and Qatar. She then talked with Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert before meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II. During these meetings, Rice was supposed to have pushed for the initiative.

Here's the rub. Sec. Rice's office website states the United States is committed to a two state solution yet she's hesitant to endorse, even tentatively, the Arab Initiative.

Then why did she push the Peace Plan? During her March 25 visit to Ramallah, , the Secretary stated:

"The President [Abbas] and I discussed ...the Arab initiative ...perhaps it does offer an opportunity ...for

Arab-Israeli reconciliation... But... I've made very clear that it is not the position of the United States that

the Arabs need to make changes to their initiative. I hope that it will become ...a way for active diplomacy.

...it is an Arab initiative; others will have ...other proposals. But the important thing is to get a

conversation started." Later, she solidified her own position: "... I think a bilateral approach in which I talk in parallel to the parties from a common approach is the best way."

So what does this important 2002 Initiative document say? The points are fully listed at mideastweb.org.

"Emanating from the conviction of Arab countries that a military solution ...will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties," the council requests Israel reconsider its policies.

Calls on full Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories, including the Golan Heights, to the 1967

lines. It also calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In return, the Arab countries will consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended and enter into normal

relations with Israel, "thus providing security for the region and enabling Arab countries and Israel to

live in peace, good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity."

Israel rejected the 2002 plan outright because it insisted on withdrawal to the "Green Line" and because

it recommended giving the Palestinian refugees the right of return. It's still rejecting both points.

Israel's Likud party spokesman, Zalman Shoval, told the BBC. "If 300,000-400,000, or maybe a million,

Palestinians would invade the country, that would be the end of the state of Israel as a Jewish state," he

said. "That's not why we created the state." But the 2007 conference didn't just include the 2002

Initiative.
While Riyadh strongly condemned terrorism and noted Arab states are effectively participating in

anti-terror efforts, it drew a line between terrorism and legitimate resistance against Israeli occupation.

It called on Arab countries and the world not to "cede to siege measures imposed on the Palestinians" and

respect Palestine's democratic decision. It condemned all hostile actions by Israel and holds Israel

responsible.
The conference also asked to free an estimated 10,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, including

the speaker of the legislative council, plus some of its members and ministers and women and children. It

called for the UN to send observers to protect Palestinians and to pressure Israel to halt military

attacks. Lebanon issues are listed at the mideastweb.org website.

Israel praised the broad land-for-peace offer but says it won't accept the plan without changes. Israeli

spokeswoman Miri Eisin said Israel would be "happy to hear the ideas of the Arab initiative. ... Our position has remained unchanged, we will not dictate to them what to tell us and we will express our position in response." Therefore, to be acceptable for Israel even as a starting point, Rice will have to convince Arab allies to amend the plan.

The Associated Press suggested on April 19 that the plan could be used to drive a wedge between Abbas and Hamas. Others see it as a way to counter Iran. U.S. officials caution the plan, even if revised, would

only be a start. Arab nations urged Israel not to immediately ask for amendments as it did five years ago.

An editorial in the April 16 Daily Star of Beiru stated. "For decades, Israelis have tried to convey

the fictitious and somewhat paranoid idea that their tiny, helpless Jewish state is perpetually under

threat because it is surrounded by perennially hostile Arab regimes. At no point in history has this idea

seemed as absurd and out of touch with reality as it does now. Quite the contrary, the Arab League summit

in Riyadh this year extended a hand of peace to Israel yet another time.

"But as in the past, Israel's response ...has been remarkably cold. Israel... initially rejected it out of

hand... Premier Olmert later tried to soften Israel's stance and ...said he would be 'willing to hold a

dialogue with ...Arab states about their ideas.' But there is little point in discussing the details of the

offer, particularly since it is straightforward, arguably even generous, and more importantly, grounded

in international law. Instead of jostling to secure themselves a better deal (and more Arab land), the

Israelis ought to accept ...the offer as it stands. As Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad put it, 'the

Israelis should realize that antagonizing the Arabs and delaying the delivery of their rights is not in

their interest.'"


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