Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa must have had a brain explosion during a lunch time speech delivered by Israel’s President Shimon Peres to Nobel Laureates attending a conference in Petra to discuss the global food crisis.
Which particular comment by Peres caused the normally urbane and polished Moussa to grab the microphone and verbally attack Peres is unclear but his reaction was quite breathtaking :
“You are a maestro in talking, but don’t take us for granted because we are not fools … You talk about peace, but we did not hear Israel’s opinion about the Arab peace initiative,”
Surely Moussa is aware of Israel’s opinion about the Arab peace initiative first proposed by Saudi Crown Prince Adullah and endorsed by the Arab League in Beirut on 28 March 2002.
Any prospect of that initiative having any bearing in resolving the Arab - Israel conflict was doomed from the time it was announced since it called for:
“full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.”
When President Bush announced the details of his Roadmap on 30 April 2003 he stated it would:
…"resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties, and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah – endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit – calling for acceptance of Israel as a neighbor living in peace and security, in the context of a comprehensive settlement.”
These were fine sounding words but Israel was in no mood to accommodate President Bush and commit national suicide by agreeing to return to the borders where it had faced extinction at the hands of the armies of many Arab League members on 4 June 1967.
Israel accordingly presented President Bush with 14 reservations to the Road Map’s implementation.
One of those reservations required:
“The removal of references other than 242 and 338 (1397, the Saudi Initiative and the Arab Initiative adopted in Beirut). A settlement based upon the Roadmap will be an autonomous settlement that derives its validity therefrom. The only possible reference should be to Resolutions 242 and 338, and then only as an outline for the conduct of future negotiations on a permanent settlement.”
On 23 May 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made the following statement from the White House:
“The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace. The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap. The United States shares the view of the Government of Israel that these are real concerns, and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the roadmap to fulfil the President’s vision of June 24, 2002.”
On 25 May 2003, the Israeli Cabinet met and by a majority resolved:
“Based on the 23 May 2003 statement of the United States Government, in which the United States committed to fully and seriously address Israel’s comments to the Roadmap during the implementation phase, the Prime Minister announced on 23 May 2003 that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the Roadmap.
The Government of Israel affirms the Prime Minister’s announcement, and resolves that all of Israel’s comments, as addressed in the Administration’s statement, will be implemented in full during the implementation phase of the Roadmap.”
Israel’s rejection of the Arab peace initiative could not have been more clearly delivered or underscored.
So what was Moussa hoping to achieve by his petulance in Petra? Clearly he is very frustrated as he sees the Roadmap disappearing down the diplomatic drain as the Arabs continue their intransigent demands that Israel return to the 4 June 1967 borders and 450000 Jews pack up and vacate their homes.
Trying to distance the Arab League from any consequences for maintaining those demands must have been uppermost in his mind as he then publicly admonished Peres:
“Stop building settlements. You keep constructing settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes. What peace are you talking about?”
His remarks repeated the tired old mantra castigating the Jews for wanting to live in any part of their biblical heartland whilst serving to detract any attention from the ineffectual role played by the 22 members of the Arab League in realising the objectives of the Road Map in these four key areas:
1. Failing to prevent Gaza and the West Bank being split into two separate territorial units under two different power structures.
2. Failing to persuade either Egypt or Jordan to offer part of their lands to the Palestinian Arabs as an inducement to moderating the Arab League demand for 100% of the West Bank and Gaza
3. Failing to have the border between Gaza and Egypt opened to allow the humanitarian flow of food and medicine into Gaza or to allow Gazans the opportunity to emigrate through Egypt to other Arab States either temporarily or permanently.
4. Pledging no more than a miserly 20% of the total pledges made at the international donors fund set up in Paris to help their own brothers and allowing many pledges to still remain unpaid.
Arab League members no doubt will cheer Moussa for having stood up to the “Zionist aggressors”. Once again rhetoric has overcome reason and an occasion for goodwill, recognition and mutual respect has been turned into a dummy spit by the Arabs’ top diplomat and negotiator.
Moussa’s grandstanding has only lowered - not elevated - his own standing. The Arabs may not be fools - Moussa certainly is.