Revisiting Arab Peace Initiative is best hope to solve Israel-Palestine conflict

Ksenia Svetlova February 2020
Op-eds / Israel and the Middle East

The “deal of the century” is here, and so is the simmering, century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the publication of the details of President Trump’s peace initiative has not so far led to an outbreak of violence, as some experts predicted, there is little hope the new plan will help resume negotiations after years of estrangement. It takes two to tango, and if one of the partners refuses to dance, the outcome may be grim and grotesque.

It is time to revisit the one peace initiative that gained support from every Arab state in the Middle East: the Arab Peace Initiative.

Today, when uncertainly about the future of Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rising, the Arab Peace Initiative could serve as a good basis for relaunching negotiations between the two sides. Almost 18 years ago, then-Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud presented his peace vision during the Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon. This plan was adopted by the Arab League members and it is still valid today.

Sadly, no Israeli government has so far officially reacted to this peace proposal that aims at providing a just and acceptable solution for the conflict and establishing normal relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Almost two decades have passed since its inception, and while some updates may be required, this initiative is still by far the best platform for resuming the bilateral negotiations with much needed regional support.

What will happen if the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” does not take off? Many in Israel believe the status quo is not such a bad thing. We live our lives, there is no major violence, and the world seems to be less and less interested in what is happening in this part of the region. But, in fact, nothing can be farther from the truth, as the status quo is nothing but illusion.

Escalation is here already, even if it doesn’t affect daily life of the majority in Israel – yet. In recent weeks there were more attacks, more clashes in Jerusalem, and more desperate and disillusioned young Palestinians that increasingly support the one-state solution.

In fact, a status quo takes us back to the dangers of recent past when the two nations and their leadership lacked communication, understanding, and compromise. While the settlements will grow and the Israelis will be busy annexing segments of West Bank, more and more Palestinians will depart from the two-state solution and opt for one state where they will seek equal political and civil rights. The possibility to separate and draw the border between two warring nations will be lost forever.

Naturally, the Israelis and the Palestinians will be the biggest losers, but the consequences might be quite dangerous for the broader Middle East region, as well. As the situation in Israel and West Bank deteriorates – according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chiefs and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) leaders, it will, barring real progress with negotiations – it inevitably will affect the stability of the West Bank and Jordan, and also damage relations between Israel and the Arab world.

The dream of regional integration, as well as forging a powerful alliance between all those in the region who seek stability and peace will remain just a dream. No positive development between the Palestinians and Israelis will also mean no normalization, integration or advancement of cooperation. We don’t need a status quo, but a reasonable base to resume the negotiations and regional support of the process. The Arab Peace initiative provides this foundation.

Today we have a clear vision of how a partnership in the spheres of technology, trade, tourism and defense might look like between Israel and the Arab states. The only way of getting there is by first taking care of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Whoever emerges as the winner in Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections will need to focus on two issues: how to prevent the deterioration between Israel and Palestinian Authority, and how to promote Israel’s integration in the region. These two issues are interconnected, and the Arab Peace Initiative should be the key. It’s not too late for that today, however it might be too late tomorrow.

Ksenia Svetlova is a former member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Today she serves as Director of the Program on Israel-Middle East relations at the Mitvim Institute and is a senior research analyst at Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya.

(originally published in al-Arabiya)

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