Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump and the Arab Peace Initiative

"Despite their frustration with Israeli behaviour regarding the Palestinians, the Gulf states recognize that Israel is a strong, advanced country with a military that could act against their common foes and that has intelligence capabilities that could mesh very well with the needs and capabilities of Gulf agencies."
Jason Isaacson, associate executive director, American Jewish Committee

"This younger generation [of Gulf State leaders] sees Israel much more in terms of practical alliances."
"So suddenly Israel is not seen in that one-dimensional term of being the occupier of Palestinian land, but rather as a potential partner against the greater evil, if you will, which is Iran."
Stephen A. Seche, executive vice-president, Arab Gulf States Institute, Washington

Suddenly -- as sudden as the change in administration of the United States of America -- Saudi Arabia is happily basking in the limelight of American trust and friendship again. In gratitude to the man who swiftly reversed the collapse of U.S. support and allegiance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during President Obama's eight years in the White House, on impossibly short notice, the House of Saud pulled out all the stops to demonstrate their blissful satisfaction, welcoming U.S. President Donald Trump as though he were the mountain moving to Mohammad.

President Trump, it seems, feels that the Arab Peace Initiative which the Kingdom had devised as a prod to solve the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, signed by the 22 members of the Arab League in 2002 seems the likeliest solution to settling disagreements, leading to a peace agreement and a two-state solution. This is a warmed-up, cooled-down, re-warmed and rejected 'plan for peace'. Calling on Israel to withdraw to 1967 lines before it had gained the opportunity to reunite Jerusalem after yet another combined Arab military attack which failed.

In exchange for peace between the Arab states and Israel, a Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. East Jerusalem -- the Old City of Jerusalem, the jewel in Israel's crown of its immemorial heritage, where its ancient Temples of Solomon stood and the Ark of the Covenant was venerated holding the original tablets of the Ten Commandments  -- according to the Arab League plan, to be handed over once again to Islamic stewardship (as it was when Jordan assumed that unauthorized role and Jews were not permitted entry).
Fate of Ark of the Covenant Revealed in Hebrew Text
This bas-relief image showing the Ark of the Covenant being carried is from the Auch Cathedral in France. A newly translated Hebrew text claims to reveal the locations of treasures from King Solomon's Temple and discusses the fate of the Ark itself.  Credit: Photo by I. Vassil

Also part of the onus of conditions to be met by Israel was a "just" solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees -- the original 700,000 of whom were said to have fled when Israel declared itself statehood after the UN's offer of Partition -- now grown to over six million declaring themselves Palestinian "refugees". That "just" solution has always been seen as inviting the "refugees" to return to Israel, their presence to obviously overwhelm in sheer numbers the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Nothing in the Arab League peace plan addresses the forgotten issue of the 800,000 Arab Jews who were summarily expelled, their properties confiscated from Arab lands when the State of Israel came into being. No compensation for them, no just solution considered, no invitation for them to return and retake possession of all that had been taken from them. The issue of the Jewishness of Jerusalem as the centre of life for ancient Israelites has its counterpart in the second most sacred place of Islam's heritage, Medina.

Medina was a place where ancient Jewish tribes had long been settled. When Mohammad was exiled from Mecca and approached the Jews of Medina to forsake Judaism for what he informed them was God's final iteration of Monotheistic piety and convert to Islam, the Jews refused. In response, Mohammad assembled his army of new-adaptees to Islam and besieged the Jewish tribes, slaughtering many, banishing many others.

Is the Kingdom prepared to exchange Medina for Jerusalem, the latter of which is declared the third most holy site for Islam? Where Islamic rulers, after conquering the city from the Christians who held it and who lived among the Jews who never left the ancient city, built their Islamic structures signifying conquest over the ruins of the second destroyed and looted (by the Romans) Temple of Solomon as though this symbolic act transformed the nature and the presence of a city ordained to Israel to one consecrated to Islam.

Under Jewish stewardship of Jerusalem, all faiths now have access to their sacred places of worship. Israeli authorities have sacrificed the right for Jews to pray at the Temple Mount to salve Muslim rage at any Jewish presence. Under Islamic rule of Mecca and Medina -- and Jerusalem, if the Arab League had its way -- only Muslims are permitted to enter those sacred precincts; non-Muslims are strictly forbidden entry.

Even as Saudi Arabia has been busy crassly destroying some of the ancient monuments held to be sacred to Islam to make room for luxurious new hotels and shopping malls.

When the Arab proposal was first announced in 2002, Israel saw no merit in it. The Arab world from the inception of Israel's renewal as a Jewish state to the present has always viewed Israel as an interloper in the Arab world, an aggressor, an usurper of Palestinian 'rights'. For the Koran states unequivocally that land once consecrated to Islam must never be permitted to fall into the hands of non-Muslims.

As for Israel's rights, there are none, but those the Arab world is now prepared, grudgingly, to permit Israel to assume, under Arab conditions.

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