In 1979 when Egypt signed its peace treaty with Israel, Egypt became a virtual pariah in the Arab world and was shunned for having made peace with “the Zionist state”. However, that set a precedent and teaches us a valuable lesson: today Israel and Egypt have a partial free trade deal and since Israel gave back the occupied Sinai and withdrew its forces, there has never been a break in that peace ever since.
That’s why it was considered so remarkable in 2002, When the entire Arab League came together and for the first time in history unanimously proposed a comprehensive peace plan put forward by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Immediately after the proposal became public, Raanan Gissin – Sharon’s spokesman – was quoted as calling the proposal “a very interesting development, something that should be pursued.” As we now all unfortunately know, those turned out to be the most empty of words because Sharon did not in any way pursue the unprecented offer of full recognition from all the member states.
Just imagine all the lives that could have been saved and the positive effect on the economy the increase in trade could represent for Israel. I’m sure Israel’s high-tech, medical industries could use a few hundred million consumers to market to. There is a geo-political theory which says that the more trade interdependence there is between nations, the lower the chance of war breaking out becomes because of the economic harm that would result. Why don’t we try that approach out, since fighting has worked out so poorly for settling the conflict ?
In the spirit of “everything old is new again”, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that the Arab League has decided to relaunch their 2002 initiative which offers Israel normal relations in return to the 1967 borders.
Hawkish Israel “supporters” will undoubtedly claim that the 1967 border is “indefensible” but as Ronald Hatchett so insightfully noted in the Houston Chronicle in 2002:
“The reality is that Israel’s security ultimately rests on the good will of its neighbors, its own military might (including nuclear weapons) and its special relationship with the United States. Hanging on to 10 percent of the West Bank — as the Israelis proposed in the Camp David talks in the summer of 2000 — would add little to the security of Israel.”
Will Sharon do what he has to do to become a real historical figure and make real peace ? Or will he twiddle his thumbs again and let this chance slip away like the last one while women and children continue to die ? I cannot escape my underlying cynical doubt of Sharon’s good intentions, but simultaneously I continue to hope, and dream of the day when someone in a position of authority will care more about the people than the land..