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What should be the role of the Arab states?

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Dr. Shehab Al Makahleh

Achieving peace requires compromise and mutual confidence-building measures by both Palestinians and Israelis. Just as Israel is prepared to take Palestinian rights and interests into consideration, Israel also has legitimate rights and interests to be taken into account. Peace can only be achieved through negotiations aimed at bridging gaps and resolving all outstanding issues.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, American media referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “Middle East Peace Process,” a testament to the positive political developments achieved in Wye River and Oslo under the stewardship of former President Bill Clinton. Arab States could take positive steps to help create a constructive atmosphere and could contribute to the promotion of multilateral contacts that promote regional cooperation. Moving forward and cooperating in areas that affect the lives of all those living in this region will psychologically contribute to the complex political issues that must be addressed and resolved.

In the political process, there are three circles. The first circle represents the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The second includes the Arab countries, while the third includes the international community and the United Nations.

The internal circle includes Israel and the Palestinians. Both parties are at the core of the conflict. Extremists who refuse to renounce violence and reach a peaceful solution are the main obstacle to peace. On the other hand, we find moderates with whom a peace treaty can be reached, provided they agree to make concessions.

The Israeli strategy is a dual strategy in which Israel deals in a single way with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and differently with the more moderate Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian government appears to have agreed to the three conditions set by the world’s states: renouncing violence, respecting past agreements, and accepting Israel’s right to exist, making it a potential partner for peace. Israel is therefore looking for tools to support moderate elements, including financial aid, security assistance, easing living conditions and creating a “political horizon.”

The middle circle, which includes the Arab states, must become a party to this process. The problem of choosing between Israel and the Palestinians is no longer a problem at present, but rather a choice between standing with the moderate Palestinian Authority or extremist terrorist elements. The Arab states must support the realistic elements of the Palestinian government and reject the radical movements. If they act in this way, the Arab countries will be able to play an important role in the peace process. In the past, there has been no constructive contribution by representatives of the region that could have helped the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Arab League proposal provides an opportunity for constructive regional engagement.

With regard to the third segment, which includes the countries of the world, it began to play a positive role when the Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union) defined its three conditions for recognizing the Palestinian government: renouncing the use of violence, Israel’s right to exist. The nations of the world must stand by the right side in the conflict between extremists and moderates.

In order to achieve peace, there is a possibility that the moderate Arab states will make an important and positive contribution to the peace process and that they will be able to change the face of the region to better than it is. This has prompted the American administration under President Donald Trump to initiate a peace plan which hinges on normalisation of ties and amity to resolve the pending issues, considering Iran as the real enemy.

Thus, the policy of confrontation will soon be replaced by a policy of dialogue. As negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians progress, the need for such change becomes more urgent. By now, Arabs realised that Israel does not accept warnings that peace can only be reached if Israelis respond to all Arab demands and conditions. Israeli rights and interests cannot be ignored at all and the need to make concessions for the purpose of resolving outstanding issues cannot be neglected. The same applies to Palestinians and Arabs.

Many decades ago, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan showed genuine leadership when they concluded peace with Israel. Moderate states in the Middle East can contribute to leading the peace process by establishing cooperative relations with Israel provided that peace prevails and prosperity for Arabs and Israelis. Any delay in reaching agreements to achieve peace is attributed to abstinence of rightists from both sides: Arabs and Israelis who are