Barry Werner – The international versus the local character of the Arab/Israeli conflict
It is a mistake to view the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as a dispute just between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis. It started long before there was such as thing as Palestinian identity and it has never been just a local conflict. Until the PLO was given the role of the sole representative of the Palestinian People, there was no such thing as a Palestinian People. The Arab world as a whole started the conflict to prevent a sovereign Jewish community from being established in the lands that the followers of Mohammed conquered in the 7’Th Century. The Arab war aim was to merge Palestine with “Greater Syria,” not to create an independent state for the Arabs of Palestine. Most of the Muslim world joined in, and it became a wider Arab/Muslim conflict against Israel.
The conflict became internationalized even further. The Middle East was a locus of competition between the West and the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Soviet Union armed the Arabs against Israel and the Kremlin demonized Zionism (the political left in the Western world still repeats that propaganda today). The Non-Aligned group of countries used opposition to Israel as a way to express their anger over past Western colonialism and sided with the Arabs. The West’s geopolitical and economic interests were severely affected, and so resolving the conflict became an obsession for them and the UN.
After the combined Arab countries (and Cuba) failed to destroy Israel the Arab world created the PLO to continue the fighting. Reframing the conflict as a struggle for Palestinian nationalism rather than as a war by the Arab World against the Jewish People so soon after the Holocaust was intended to make the Arab cause more palatable to the West, but only as long as the ultimate goal of destroying the Jewish state was accomplished.
The international character of the conflict can be seen clearly in the 1970’s worldwide Arab rampage of terrorism and plane hijackings and the attack on the world’s economy by use of an oil embargo. It was a global Arab attack on the Western world. The Arab world learned that terrorizing the west was a winning strategy that turned the West against Israel. (In recent years the Islamist jihadi rampage in the West is more about demonstrating the dominance of Islam than it is in the Arab conflict with Israel. Israel is now a secondary target; jihadis attack Jews everywhere without regard to their relationship to Israel. The Islamist jihadi movement is about world domination.)
As a consequence of the Western world trying to appease the Arab/Muslim world, the conflict over the land of Palestine was not allowed to be resolved normally. The background to the conflict over the land of Palestine is as follows. In 1948 Jordan and Egypt illegally occupied the West Bank and Gaza. In 1967 Israel liberated the occupied land. But even though the Arab world had seized the land illegally they wanted the land back. The Western world wanted to appease the Arabs and tried to give the West Bank and Gaza back to the Arabs in various “peace initiatives” of its own and UNSC Resolution 2334.
It is very important to see how the international character of the Arab/Israeli conflict changed with time.
The Arab world’s goals changed drastically with the Six Day War. A new Arab goal emerged, namely erasing the Arab world’s dishonorable defeat in that war. Russia massively resupplied the Arab armies and the Arab world started yet another war in 1973, the Yom Kippur War, but lost again. In 2002, the Arab League proposed the “Arab Peace Initiative,” offering Israel normalization in the region if, but only if, Israel agreed to erase every centimeter of territorial gain it made in the Six Day War. Since the intention was to erase the Arab world’s dishonorable defeat, Israel was either to give back every centimeter of territory conquered in the Six Day War, or there would be no deal. (In recent years, the Arab League softened the terms and allowed for an equal exchange of land, and Israel agreed to accept the offer but only as the start of negotiations.)
In recent years the situation changed drastically again. Now the major Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, and Morocco) see Israel as a potential ally against the religious fanaticism that threatens to destabilize them, the threat of expansionist Iran, and the many severe economic and ecological threats the Arab countries face.
However, the PLO, and its “rejectionist” offshoots, such as Hamas, etc., keep on fighting and expecting the Arab world and the West to back them up as before (Hamas also looks to Iran for support).
The Western world is still trying to appease the rejectionists as if there has been no change in the goals of the moderate Arab governments.
Two conclusions can be drawn.
First, the West should respond to the new international reality and shift its emphasis from supporting the rejectionist war against Israel to encouraging and supporting cooperation between the moderate Arab world and Israel. The West should encourage the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel and partner with Israel and the moderate Arab governments in addressing the many serious problems that confront the Middle East.
Second, to finally bring an end to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict it should be disentangled from the web of international intrigue and resolved on its own merits. The Arabs waged an “all-or-nothing” war to destroy Israel and lost. An objective peace initiative would emphasize these points:
- Israel has by far the strongest claim to the land liberated in the Six Day War of 1967 (the West Bank and Gaza);
- It is reasonable for Israel not to allow the hostile, antisemitic, Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza to return to Israel or to become citizens of Israel because they have been taught antisemitism and hatred for Israel for as long as the Palestinian Authority, the PA, has been given the authority to do so by the Oslo Accords. (Not preparing its people for peace was an essential violation of the Oslo Accords by the PA, it’s reasonable that they should have to pay the price for violating the fundamental intention of the Oslo Accords.)
- For humanitarian reasons, unless the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza can be relocated to other Arab countries (not a likely scenario since all the other Arab countries don’t want them and they have good reasons to be afraid of them) they should be given an independent but disarmed state of their own, or several small independent disarmed states, or whatever, where they presently reside, on only whatever land it takes to maintain them in Gaza or the West Bank. But they should not be given the whole West Bank.
- The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab/Muslim world as a whole should agree to an end of claims against Israel and publicly recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
- The Arab/Muslim world should acknowledge Israel for its democratic, inclusive multi-cultural character and its defense of Arab rights and Muslim religious sites.
The Western world should restrain the antisemites among them from supporting the extremist Arabs’ attempt to polarize the world to the exclusion of Jews and Israel.