Peace & Peace Initiatives by Israel*
Peace is Israel’s dream, the dream of all Israelis and actually of all Jews, having suffered so much for want of it, praying for peace traditionally three times every day.
Israel’s Peace Process is an important part of the frequently mentioned ‘Mideast peace process’ - but not equivalent to that. Many other conflicts exist in the Mideast and wider region, which are not connected to Israel at all; like between Syria and Lebanon, Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites, Iraq vs. Iran Kuwait and Jordan – actually, where not in the Middle East?
Israel was, unfortunately, born amidst wars, not peace. After WWII the Arab world did not accept any peaceful partition of the British Mandate’s land, and immediately after the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, based on UN resolutions, all Arab neighbors attacked the new state.
Israel seeks peace with its neighbors since its birth; through direct negotiations and mediators alike. These contacts led to periods of relative calm. Until Israel’s neighbors initiated the next war: in 1956, 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
For long time no real peace efforts appeared on the Arab side, among others because Arab personalities propagating co-existence with Israel had been assassinated. The historic change came when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat accepted Prime Minister Menahem Begin's invitation to Israel. This led to the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Israel Egypt Peace Treaty. Since then peace prevails on this border and cooperation between the two states is growing.
In 1989, Israel presented a new peace initiative. In October 1991 a conference was held in Madrid to inaugurate peace talks with all Israel’s neighbors and the PLO headed by Arafat.
Two remarks are due here. One; despite widespread beliefs, both Israel’s left and right-wing governments promoted the peace process always; the peace treaty with Egypt and the agreements in Madrid were signed by Israeli right-wing PM-s. Two: peace negotiations in the ME, with extremist counterparts like Arafat or Hizbullah, are much more risky than usually understood in the first world (read also Hudna), mostly not kept by one’s counterpart.
Following Madrid, bilateral negotiations with Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians lead to Peace Treaty with Jordan in 1994, signed by King Hussein and PM Yitzhak Rabin, and to interim agreements with the Palestinians, called ‘the Oslo Accords’. It is disputed until today in Israel; whether the concessions given to Arafat were worth the risk, or not, because there was no chance at all.
One thing is in consensus: Arafat turned out to be a treacherous partner, demonstrated clearly when in the Camp David Summit in July 2000 he turned down bluntly PM Ehud Barak’s most generous peace offer (transfer of almost all territories, parts of Jerusalem). Instead, Arafat launched a huge wave of Palestinian violence in October, called the Second or Armed Intefada.
This broke peace talks for seven years between Israel and the Palestinians, who were involved in internal violence between Fatah and extremist Hamas. In 2005 Israel, led by PM Ariel Sharon, unilaterally drew out all military and civilian presence from Gaza. But it didn’t lead to the desired calm; Gaza under Hamas is more extremist and belligerent than ever. They shot thousands of rockets at civilian concentrations within Israel.
In 2007, new peace negotiations started with the Palestinian Authority in the framework of the Roadmap, supported by US President George Bush. Israeli peace efforts continue, but in the shadow of many odds: the powerful Iranian-led terrorist entity, Hamas, rules now Gaza; even the so-called ‘moderate’ Abu Mazen pays respect to past Palestinian suicide murderers, propagates Palestinian ‘right of return’ and ‘territorial continuity’ – consequently Israeli non-continuity. And, how long would a paper signed by Abu Mazen be valid at all?
Recently a “Saudi-Arabian peace initiative” is talked about. The very fact of an Arab initiative with such a name is positive. But ithe plan suggests also Palestinian right of return to Israel, for all the millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees for three generations, including those who have already other citizenships. This demonstrates not much sincerity of their desire for peace – more for Israel’s destruction.
Are there alternatives? Beyond the non-viable one-state solution, the two-state vision is the only alternative getting publicity, as if a good solution. But the Palestinians haven’t yet show many signs of being mature to lead a state responsibly. A far-reaching autonomy given to Palestinian Gaza under Egyptian auspices could possibly help Palestinians to reach economic and social self-rule, and maturity for peaceful co-existence faster. This may bring peace one step closer.
*A Take-A-Pen editorial from "ISRAEL 60 - A to Z; A Mini-Encyclopedia of Israel in the Middle East"