Photo: Yoav Galai
Yossi Beilin
Photo: Yoav Galai
September's window of opportunity
Time has come to create Israeli-Arab coalition of sanity
Arab foreign ministers are planning to bring the Arab peace initiative first proposed on March 28th, 2002 for approval by the UN General Assembly and perhaps even by the UN Security Council. However, Israel's Pavlovian conditioned response will be to reject it by all means and urge our supporters to oppose it.


In a joint press conference held by Ehud Olmert and British Prime Minister Tony Blair Sunday evening, Olmert announced his willingness to revive talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas based on the Road Map; that same plan Israel and the Palestinians have been paying lip service to for over three and a half years without any intention of realizing it.


If this is really the only basis for the meeting, perhaps it should not take place.


On the other hand, an attempt to convene a meeting based on the Arab initiative is likely to revive the political process that has been frozen for the last six years.


The Arab initiative, accepted the day after the deadly terror attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya on Passover eve, evaporated within the heavy atmosphere prevailing at the time and the ensuing Operation Defensive Shield.


Had it not, it would have raised a serious debate that may have led to a more significant development than that of the waning Road Map, which was proposed to the parties a year later. In a survey published in Israel's leading newspaper Yediot Ahronot on March 29th, 2002, the initiative was supported by 41 percent of the population.


A September surprise?

Saudi Arabia introduced the Arab peace initiative, which was led by the heir to the throne Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, who later became king. The initiative was accepted by the Arab League within a month.


Along with the call on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders on all fronts, the initiative included a commitment to establish normal ties between the Arab states and Israel. It also included an unprecedented statement pertaining to the Palestinian refugees, according to which this would be an agreed solution. Namely, those discussing an agreed solution could not demand the right of return.


The decision called upon Israel to accept the initiative in order to assure the chances for peace; to end the bloodshed; to allow peaceful living; to allow for neighborly relations and to provide security, stability and prosperity for future generations.


The fact that Arab foreign ministers are raising the initiative anew after years of Intifada, after the victory of Hamas and following the second Lebanon war – presents Israel with an opportunity to advance its national interests.


At a time when the number of world leaders raising questions pertaining to Israel's right to exist is on the rise, it is evident that only such a political move could re-legitimize Israel's right to exist in its Jewish national homeland and also attain world recognition for Jerusalem as Israel's capital and recognition of our borders.


Only such an initiative can put an end to the refugee issue and assure Israel's existence as a Jewish democratic state.


This is how Israel could create the September Surprise: It could come to the UN with a joint Israeli-Arab proposal that would assist in reviving the diplomatic process – whether by means of a second Madrid Conference or by some other less dramatic means. Instead, Israel suffices with the old and frustrating method of futile diplomatic efforts.


Should Arab foreign ministers decide to turn the Arab League's most positive decision since its founding into a UN General Assembly resolution, it will be widely supported and rightfully so. Should it be brought to the Security Council, it will receive a majority vote, and only an American veto will prevent it from being passed.


The abasement of the initiative was typical during Sharon's tenure. Today, we are paying the price. In light of the madness of fundamentalist threats, this is the time to create a coalition of sanity between Israelis and Arabs who wish to live. This can still become a reality in September 2006, but the window of opportunity will not be open for long.


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