President George Bush delivered a severe rebuff to the Arab League in remarks made by him at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 10 January 2008 (“the King David Declaration”).
The President had already made it clear in April 2004 that the Arab League needed to abandon its long standing demand that millions of Arabs be allowed to go and live in Israel when he stated :
“It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”
The Arab League has failed to embrace this suggestion as the solution to the refugee issue.
The King David Declaration has now raised the diplomatic bar even higher with the President stating :
“I believe we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue.”
These well chosen and carefully crafted words make it clear that President Bush is proposing additional “international mechanisms” to solve the refugee issue - other than resettlement in the proposed new Arab State. One of those “international mechanisms” will be “compensation” - and Israel won’t be the only country asked to pay it.
The President has thereby tacitly acknowledged that Israel cannot be held solely responsible for what befell the Arab residents who left Palestine in the wake of the Arab-Jewish conflict in 1947-1948.
Other countries - including members of the Arab League who have perpetuated the refugee issue for the last 60 years - will also be expected to contribute generously to an internationally administered and funded compensation package.
Any other “new international mechanisms” contemplated by the President were unidentified by him. The possibilities however are ominous and they do not bode well for the Arab League.
One could involve a demand that the refugees be given the option of being granted full rights of citizenship and equality in the Arab states where they have been kept stateless and in refugee camps for the last 60 years - dependent for survival on hand outs by the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA) running into hundreds of billions of dollars.
Generations of dysfunctional human beings have been the end result of this inhumane policy - resulting in bitterness, hatred and despair as persons of all ages turn themselves into human bombs - choosing to kill Jews and achieve martyrdom as their way out of this pitiless existence.
The denial of citizenship and equality by their own Arab brethren has been buried in Foreign Office and State Department filing cabinets as nations have bent over backwards in their desire to maintain good relations with despotic Arab oil suppliers and cashed up Arab buyers for military equipment - tangible benefits flowing to these nations for their continuing silence or just looking the other way.
Now with oil hitting US$100 a barrel, the US economy facing recession and the Arab League having done nothing to endorse the President’s 2004 proposal for solving the refugee issue, President Bush has been forced to rethink this earlier policy - which had left the Arab States relatively free of any responsibility for solving the refugee issue.
That problem had been caused initially by the Arab League decision to refuse to accept partition of Western Palestine between Arabs and Jews pursuant to United Nations Partition Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947 followed by the subsequent Arab League decision to invade Palestine on 15 May 1948.
The grounds for that invasion - as contained in the declaration issued by the Arab League on the actual day of the invasion - still remain dominant in Arab League thinking today and have acted as the major cause for the refugee problem remaining unresolved 60 years later :
“The Governments of the Arab States emphasise, on this occasion, what they have already declared before the London Conference and the United Nations, that the only solution of the Palestine problem is the establishment of a unitary Palestinian State, in accordance with democratic principles, whereby its inhabitants will enjoy complete equality before the law, minorities will be assured of all the guarantees recognised in democratic constitutional countries, and the holy places will be preserved and the right of access thereto guaranteed.”
The King David Declaration reiterated once more for the benefit of the Arab League that the President’s Roadmap envisioned not one but two States - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security and that there will be no withdrawal by Israel to the pre -1967 armistice lines.
This message - and warning - was conveyed to the Arab League by President Bush from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 10 January:
1. Wake up to reality and abandon the idea of a unitary state - unequivocally and without reservation - and get the PLO to explicitly excise this objective from its Charter.
2. End the conflict by agreeing to the creation of an Arab state between Israel and Jordan in that part of the West Bank which leaves Israel with secure, recognised and defensible borders.
3. Accept resettlement of the refugees in this new State or alternatively receive compensation from an internationally sponsored and supported fund if they are not willing to emigrate there.
4. If you fail to endorse this solution over the next twelve months then you can say goodbye to a new 23rd member State called Palestine joining the Arab League. My successor will certainly not want to be publicly humiliated by the Arab League as has happened to me over the last 5 years.
5. Expect that it will then become your obligation to solve the refugee issue and the ongoing conflict without any further diplomatic or financial support from the United States.
6. Don’t be surprised if the United States then calls on you to resolve the refugee issue by demanding that you grant citizenship and equal rights to all refugees living within the borders of your member States and that you pay for their rehabilitation out of your own oil-bloated revenues.
This is the legacy President Bush has bequeathed to the Arab League for 2008 - and beyond.