“The President seems to extend executive privilege way out past the atmosphere. What he says is executive privilege is nothing but executive poppycock.” - Sam Ervin
Israel’s President -Shimon Peres - has seriously undermined Israel’s national interest in his endorsement of the 2002 Arab League Initiative proposing a comprehensive peace with Israel and the 22 members of the Arab League.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly Meeting on Inter-Faith Dialogue in New York on November 12 President Peres called the Arab League expressions of establishing normal relations with Israel in the Initiative as:
“inspirational and promising, a serious opening for real progress”.
He was moved by the Initiative’s call
“to stop the further shedding of blood enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity”
Fine sounding words indeed but the devil is in the detail of how this vision is to be realised.
Israel’s Government has made no bones of the fact that it does not consider the Arab League initiative as having any effective role to play in the current negotiations being conducted under the Roadmap adopted by America, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - dubbed the Quartet.
In agreeing to enter into negotiations under the Roadmap Israel made it abundantly clear to the Quartet on 25 May 2003 that its acceptance of the Roadmap was subject to the removal of all references to the Arab League Initiative from its terms whilst further stating succinctly that :
“A settlement based upon the Roadmap will be an autonomous settlement that derives its validity therefrom.”
Israel’s reasons for rejecting the Initiative were based on the following Arab League demands that were clearly expressed as the price Israel was required to pay for Arab League recognition:
1. Full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Lebanon which would have involved the uprooting of about 300000 Jews then living in those areas at the time and their resettlement inside the armistice line between Israel and Jordan on June 4, 1967 .
2. Achievement of a just resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed on in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 that would have involved the resettlement of millions of Arabs within Israel making the Jews a minority in their own country.
3. The establishment of a sovereign, independent and exclusively Jew free Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza - between Israel, Jordan and Egypt - with East Jerusalem as its capital.
President Bush accepted the strength of Israel’s rejection of the Arab League Initiative when he advised Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 that Israel could not be expected to withdraw from all of the West Bank and Gaza and remove every single Jew living there nor could the resettlement of millions of Arabs into Israel be expected outcomes of any negotiations under the Roadmap.
Indeed it appears that the Roadmap has come to an end precisely because the Palestinian Authority has refused to budge on these identical demands in its negotiations with Israel under the Roadmap.
What we then have at the present time are tenuous ongoing negotiations, meetings and press conferences which Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Quartet continue to attend for fear of being blamed for bringing the Roadmap negotiations to a crashing end if they don’t.
President Peres would have done well to take the opportunity to remind the Inter-Faith attendees that the belated Arab League Initiative and the Roadmap would never have been necessary had the Arab League:
1. Accepted the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947
2. Not attempted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth in 1967.
3. Not refused to negotiate with Israel for 25 years after the loss of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights
4. Accepted the provisions of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which recognised that Israel’s return to the June 4, 1967 armistice lines was not going to happen.
President Peres is not the Government of Israel. He is entitled to dream of peace. In that he is no different to all Israelis - indeed the whole world - who pray and yearn for peace between the Jews and the Arabs.
However if in doing do so he hangs the Government of Israel out to dry by adopting a stance that is completely contradictory to its stated policy, then he forfeits the respect of large sections of the Israeli population all of whom he is sworn to represent as their Head of State - as well as the continuing support of all Jews and persons of goodwill world wide who regard Israel as the national homeland for all Jews not only for this but for all future generations.
The Roadmap is doomed to failure. When that inevitability is finally recognised, the way forward will certainly not be realised by negotiating on the Arab League Initiative. The Arab League has not changed its negotiating stance on the demands embodied in the Initiative for the last 41 years. Expecting it to do so now is pie in the sky thinking.
If however the Israeli Government were to nevertheless decide to try and change the Arab League’s intransigent stance by entering into negotiations based on the Initiative then it would be right and appropriate to do so only after receiving approval of the electorate. It is extremely doubtful that any political party in Israel could win a mandate to negotiate with the Arab League on its Initiative.
President Peres’ disastrous foray into peacemaking with the Arabs whilst a politician is matter of historical record. It is totally inappropriate for him to once again try do so from outside politics in opposition to the stated policy of the Government whilst holding the office of President
President Peres should stick to inspecting honour guards and giving cocktail parties for visiting dignitaries and leave the conduct of foreign policy to the democratically elected Government of Israel.