Photo: AFP
The Arab League
Photo: AFP

Not a word about dialogue

Arab League makes demands but fails to mention negotiations with Israel

At the end of the month an Arab summit is set to convene in Riyadh to renew, in some way or another, the Saudi initiative that served as a basis for the Arab League's Beirut resolution in March 2002.


As is customary in our parts, the dispute over the Beirut resolution takes place on the traditional axis between the hawks and the doves, while clearly some of the debaters have not actually read the draft of the Beirut resolution. Because what is absent in the decision is a willingness to engage in talks with Israel.


The Beirut decision calls on Israel to accept three demands: Complete withdrawal from all territories; "a just solution" based on the UN resolution calling for the return of refugees to Israel; and agreement on establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with its capital in Jerusalem.


Only after Israel accepts these demands will the Arab states announce the end of the conflict and normalization of ties with Israel.


Let's leave the demands and the implications of normalization (such as the ties between Syria and Lebanon, for example?) aside for a moment. The question is more potent: The Beirut resolution presents Israel with Arab demands - but does not mention a single word about negotiations with Israel.


An Arab position that presents such demands as a basis for talks with Israel can be understood: Clearly, Israel would have entered such talks with demands of its own, and if a compromise was reached between the parties an agreement could have been reached.


Riyadh test

Yet this is not what the Beirut declaration states: It reiterates the traditional Arab demands and calls on Israel to accept them verbatim. Later (and only later) can conflict end and normalization begin.


This does not exactly constitute an ultimatum for Israel, but in essence it is quite similar. Peace was never achieved by such means.


There is peace between Israel, Egypt and Jordan because the parties entered negotiations in which each party received parts of what it asked for and relinquished others: This is the nature of diplomatic talks. The Beirut resolution probably shows that the Arab league in general - contrary to Egypt and Jordan - has not yet matured for talks, which naturally comprise elements of give and take.


The Riyadh test will not lie in whether one phrase or another in the Arab demands of Israel is amended; the test will be in whether the Arab leadership will be wise enough to shift its stance from presenting demands to Israel to engaging in talks, which will inevitably lead to a compromise.


Without negotiations and without a compromise peace will not be achieved in our region - and I am surprised that the Israeli government does not insist on it, as it is of essence to the nature of diplomacy and international relations.


פרסום ראשון: 03.20.07, 11:59
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