Arab Experts Fault Saudi's Idea Based on Land-for-Peace Trade
February 17, 2002 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Arab Experts Fault Saudi's Idea Based on Land-for-Peace Trade Let's see if I have this right. Five arab nations attacked Israel a few times and Israel, winning, occupied land, waiting for a peace settlement. Now the very influential ruler of Saudi Arabia has a plan that will tgive back all occupied land to the Palestinians and give them a state and give them their place in Jerusalem. But other Arab "thinkers"--academics, so to speak, think this is unwsise because it would help Sharon. Instead, Israel, the victor in these wars, ought to give all back and them hope that the losers in the struggle will in turn recognize Israel's right to exist in peace. Seems a rather odd way to win or lose in warfare and suggest to mea certain intransigence when this might be the beginning of a breakthrough that the world has waited for. What think?
posted by Postroad (29 comments total)
I think that the author is right, to a point. In the same way the Israeli's won't go to the bargaining table when there is open terrorist action by certain specific groups (Force 17, Tanzim and the PA's security forces) because they're all answering to Arafat and therefore actually hostile action by the PA itself, the PA and the Arab world should avoid going to the bargaining table at a time of escalation by Sharon.

It's a tricky precipice, however - Sharon can rightly say that he's attacking pseudo-military targets since he's being attacked by a pseudo-military. Arafat can respond with suicide bombers and then lie to the west until he gets caught (witness the Karine-A, the recent firing of Qasem-1 and Qasem-2 rockets which Arafat swore he didn't have, nor was he receiving from Iran) and it can all go to hell.

That, of course, is the undesireable outcome.

So what else is left?

Security "buffer" zones that the Israeli's have built around their fragile nation could be returned. Sounds like a good idea on paper, although Hizbollah continues its mortar attacks even though who was it, Lebanon? was given back the security zone. My memory is a bit hazy on what they're fighting for (destruction of israel and the right for 16 year olds to think they have big dicks because they're firing missiles?) but didn't appeasement not work in Lebanon already?

True, the many oil producing Arab nations have an image of being fat and happy on oil money. Don't let that fool you. That's like suggesting that everyone in Texas is a millionaire because of Enron and W's collusion. It's simply not the case. There is a very large and very angry Arab population who just plain doesn't like Israel. And who can blame them, it's in their textbooks.

The only light at the end of this tunnel of thought, however, is that Crown Prince Abdullah's possible proclamation could be a Nixon-in-China. He's well known as a vocal critic of Washington's policies, he's respected in the Arab world (not like it's a monolith, but you get the picture) and he has no love for Israel. However, if I were a ruler in that area, and I saw how Egypt and Jordan were doing now that they'd won their peace through negotiations, I'd have second thoughts about the "drive them into the sea" provisions.

Sure, what T. Friedman said back in late September still holds true - Arab governments would be foolish to work with Israel, the "street" would eat them alive, and they'd have to focus on the corruption and problems that they have in their own governments. However, in this situation, it could help to finally stabilize the region enough to move the countries forward. Witness Egypt and Turkey and Jordan, three Muslim predominant nations that are moving forward at the pace of civilization, all have made their peace with Israel.

As to the question of "why give back land we took when you attacked us last" the answer is: because eternal war, for lack of a better term, sucks. At a certain time, you sue for peace. You get sick of seeing your children blown up in pizzaria's you get tired of them being blown up at the mall, and in discotheques. You admit that your vaunted military superiority isn't worth a hill of beans in the face of a country full of onanists.

Israel, as the victor in these wars of agression, bought itself peace for its civilians by taking land. But it was a hot peace, and it never gave them security. Certainly this doesn't help Sharon's position. Nor does the idea of carving away precious land in a desert, where suddenly the very important resource of water will change hands to potentially hostile governments. Nor does retreat. None of those things sound good to Sharon. None of those things make Sharon a hero. What would make him a hero is if he curbed the violence, but we're talking about Sharon here. Instead, the way, as the author pointed out, is to get people to the negotiating table. Especially if they're sitting with Peres, nobody can say that it's Sharon who is winning the war on the Palestinians through violence.
posted by swerdloff at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2002

Well, Abdullah's poison pill here is the Arab quarter of Jerusalem. Israel won't relinquish control there -- let alone sovereignty -- without a firm agreement, even though it's clearly the most provocative of all the square miles they occupy.

I also wonder (and wouldn't put it past certain parties) whether all of the US-Saudi friction below the diplomatic surface of the relationship -- spilling out in op-ed columns and the like -- has been coordinated to assist Abdullah's image here, so he can make a proposal that pleases Washington but doesn't come from there. Hmm.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 AM on February 17, 2002

Postroad: I think it's important to understand that the incidents you refer to were at the time only the latest part of a conflict that has been going on for thousands of years. Neither side has the modern western idea of "justice," they're following an ancient paradigm that includes a divine right to the land. The nations that attacked Israel felt they were trying to get land that should belong to them anyway; the fact that they lost doesn't mean that they now think the land isn't theirs.
posted by bingo at 9:59 AM on February 17, 2002

Great responses and most helpful and thus a hearty thanks, folks. As for what you suggest, Bingo, The land may well be traced to some ancient past by both sides byut it was the League of Nations and the Peel Report and finally the UN that gave one piece to Israel (1947) and another piece to the Palestinains by a vote of 33 to 13. The arabs would not accept this mandate and attacked. The Arab land, oddly, would have been substantiallyt larger than it has ever been since, and they would have had a control over Jerusalem that they will nto have in the futre: Jerusalem I believe was to be internationally run, and Israel accepted this. Now, all is different because when Jordan controlled Jereusalem they would not allow Jews to visit their holy sites (the Wall) and the Israelis will never give up control again on this control.
Another suggestion: let the Arab League and Israel declare at the same time and day the full independence of a state of Isarel and of Palestine, and let the Israelis withdraw from occupied lands... There are some arab states that still refuse the state of Israel to exist.
There will be crazies on both sides that will not accept anything but Israel can control its crazies; I am not convinced Arafat et al can.
posted by Postroad at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2002

Bingo, actually, the conflict is, as postroad said, fifty plus years old, not thousands of years. For thousands of years Arabs and Jews lived together in peace. Christians liked to slaughter them both equally (again over Jerusalem) but hey, you know, history's in the telling right?

I still think the demilitarized zone/UN World Capital should be moved to Jerusalem. Neither side can play nicely, it is historically one of the worlds greatest treasures of a city, let's turn it over to the whole world, and let neither side have it.
posted by swerdloff at 10:52 AM on February 17, 2002

swerdloff, I guess I should have said that the rationalizations behind the conflict, at least from the Israeli side, go back thousands of years. In terms of the more modern conflict, I might argue that it started around 1897 with the foundation of the World Zionist Organization, perhaps the first popular modern suggestion that Jews should not only live in Israel, but posess it as a Jewish nation.

I think that from an original Zionist point of view, the idea wasn't to shut out the Arabs so much as it was to establish a definitively Jewish space. However, I think it's a mistake not to draw a comparison between the 20th-century influx of Jews into Israel, along with the eventual creation of Israel as a modern state, and the biblical story in which the Israelites, more than once, claimed Israel because they had a divine right to it, regardless of who else was living there at the time. These were actions supposedly advocated by God.

My background is Jewish; I assumed that there was a similar argument going on from the Arab side, but if there isn't, I stand corrected. Perhaps it's accurate, then, to say that the Israelis are fighting a battle that began thousands of years ago, even if it was suspended for centuries, and their opponents are fighting battles more related to the specific time and circumstances in which they find themselves.

At any rate, from a Zionist point of view, the land belongs to Israel by divine right, period. Who they have to fight and under what circumstances, their opponents' claims to the land, etc. are all incidental. I'm not advocating this point of view myself, but I have come into contact with quite a few people who feel that way (and it depresses me).
posted by bingo at 11:33 AM on February 17, 2002

The idea of 'land for peace' works only when both sides have grown tired of the fighting. It may also work when one side has overwhelming advantage over the other, has displayed that advantage and has decided to give peace a try.

There seems to be very deep antagonism on the Arab 'Street' towards Israel. The Palestinians have not exhausted themselves fighting and the Palestinian protest movement seems in danger of fragmenting into different factions. There are also external pulls and pressures.

From the Israeli side, such measures can probably only be accepted by someone who have an overwhelmingly popular/moral mandate. Sharon doesnt seem to have either the inclination or the mandate to accept such a deal.

A 'Land for peace' is probably not practicable under such circumstances.

But it is very encouraging that such noises are being made in Saudi Arabia. The fact that one of the most orthodox Arab regimes are willing to talk, is an encouraging sign.

I also feel (strictly an opinion), that giving in to terrorism, if you want to maintain the sanctity of the state, is a very bad idea. If you look at the history of insurgency/terrorism/violent movements, you would see that peace - specially resolution of territorial disputes, work much better if you offer compromises after you have won the battle. If you offer the olive branch beforehands, it is interpreted as a sign of weakness by a vast majority on the other side who think in simpler terms and are liable to exploit you further. Israel -for good or for worse - is in the middle of an insurgency (that insurgency may have right on its side. that is beside the point). Unless you establish the supremacy of the state in the current environment, peace will prove to be fragile. Sharon appears to understand that. The trouble is - all 'counterterrorism' activities tend to be driven by military/paramilitary forces. Repeated efforts to handle such activities through standard law - enforcement mechanisms have largely failed elsewhere. The military almost always abuses human rights (becasue of the way they are trained to handle conflict etc.) And the longer the stay anywhere, the worse it gets. Is it right? No. But compromising in the face of terror is probably worse from a long term - security of state - perspective.

The Arab-Israeli dispute has grown much too worse in the last few years. I think Israel would eventually have to do a 'land for peace' deal, if they want true peace. But the time for that has not arrived yet.
posted by justlooking at 1:24 PM on February 17, 2002

Bingo writes:
[...] from a Zionist point of view [...] (and it depresses me).

Zionism depresses everybody. It is one of many singularities (formed by myth which has become impossibly dense), which dot the enlightenment timeline - these mini black holes allow the line to appear to grow, but in reality they merely shrink the surrounding space.

No, I'm not pro or anti anybody...just saying, is all...
posted by Opus Dark at 1:39 PM on February 17, 2002

It's going to take a Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela type person on each side of this issue to settle it. The Palestinians can't make it happen through terror and the Arabs can't make it happen through warfare. The UN can't make it happen with peacekeepers, because peacekeepers separate antagonists, which leads to partition, (ref: Cyprus) while peacemakers bring people together and make peace. The change in South Africa is a great model for what is possible when both sides put forward determined people who believe in peace.
posted by Mack Twain at 3:17 PM on February 17, 2002

Good idea, Mack. But the example of South Africa seemed to finally work when the world's economic powers began to put more and more pressure on South Africa.

If the United States had the internal political capital to put this kind of pressure on both sides, I'm sure it would be done. Surely it's what the state department, in their dreams, would do. However the realities of American politics mean that the US, unless there is a large public movement, will always be backing Israel regardless of who is in power and what doctrine they support.

In short, outside pressure is probably the best way to go, but it's unlikely because of American politics. This leaves things up to the internal players, and they've made a right mess of it for 50 years.
posted by chaz at 3:47 PM on February 17, 2002

It is one of many singularities (formed by myth which has become impossibly dense), which dot the enlightenment timeline - these mini black holes allow the line to appear to grow, but in reality they merely shrink the surrounding space.

What do you mean by Zionism? How does this differ from believing there should be no Israel?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:06 PM on February 17, 2002

I understand Zionism to the extent that any reasonably well-informed outsider can understand Zionism. And frankly, the topic does not lend itself to enlightening discussion. Imagine a blank hopscotch pattern laid out on the sidewalk. Countless factors compel one child to start at the north end, and countless factors compel the other child to start at the south end - with a predictable result. No amount of discussion from within the pattern is going to prove useful.

That being the case, I apologize for dabbling.

(Note that though one might argue that Zionism is a flawed, artificial construct, it does not necessarily follow that one believes that, from this point forward, "there should be no Israel".)
posted by Opus Dark at 6:29 PM on February 17, 2002

One of my favorite aphorisms, which seems oddly relevant here: "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound ... strive for obscurity."
posted by boaz at 7:53 PM on February 17, 2002

Sharon is a thug and a terrorist.

More interesting: the peace that nearly was.

(via the very worthy weblog @ shou)
posted by lagado at 11:20 PM on February 17, 2002

Sharon is a thug and a terrorist.

If that's the best you can do, then it'll be tough going for the Palestinians. After all, that was basically Arafat's job title for 25+ years.

More interesting: the peace that nearly was.

Negotiations are all well and good, but shouldn't we start by implementing what's already been agreed to? If you sign one agreement, and it isn't abided by, then it doesn't follow that you should sign a more comprehensive agreement.
posted by boaz at 5:47 AM on February 18, 2002

Let's see if I have this right... Gaza and the West Bank were taken from Egypt and Jordan. Since Israel is now at peace with both of these countries, why is Israel still holding the land? Why is the destiny of the Palestinians being used as a bargaining chip when they have nothing to do with Israel's remaining enemies? Postroad, your logic makes no sense. The Palestinian people did nothing to deserve being occupied.
posted by laz-e-boy at 9:38 AM on February 18, 2002

What Palestinian people?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2002

Let's see if I have this right... Gaza and the West Bank were taken from Egypt and Jordan. Since Israel is now at peace with both of these countries, why is Israel still holding the land?

The 1st short answer is: Because they're not at peace with the current residents of the West Bank & Gaza.

The 2nd short answer: Because Jordan and Egypt dropped their claims to those areas during their respective peace negotiations.

The long answer is: Because the West Bank & Gaza were never an official part of Jordan or Egypt; they were areas of Palestine that were conquered and occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948 and subsequently conquered and occupied by Israel in 1967. As such, the residents are not properly Jordanian or Egyptian but Palestinian, making it difficult to properly negotiate their fate with either Jordan or Egypt.

Why is the destiny of the Palestinians being used as a bargaining chip when they have nothing to do with Israel's remaining enemies? Postroad, your logic makes no sense. The Palestinian people did nothing to deserve being occupied.

The Palestinians' position is that of a remaining Israeli enemy, not of an Israeli bargaining chip.
posted by boaz at 11:33 AM on February 18, 2002

Why is the destiny of the Palestinians being used as a bargaining chip when they have nothing to do with Israel's remaining enemies?

I don't think the Palestinians, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, or members of the other surrounding Arab countries would agree that the occupied territories are just about Egypt and Jordan. It's an issue of Arabs vs. Jews. The fact that those areas ARE a useful bargaining chip suggests that I'm not just imagining this.

Anyway, surely you know that Israel is holding the land because they think they have it by divine right to begin with, and the way they acquired it most recently is incidental.
posted by bingo at 11:45 AM on February 18, 2002

What Palestinian people? (Parisparamus)

THE Palestinian people.
posted by igor.boog at 3:18 PM on February 18, 2002

No such thing. The Arabs of Palestine have a right, and should be allowed to live in decent, civilized, humane conditions. They are entitled to have their own government. But there's no Palestinian nation.

Conversely, Israelis' right to Israel stems not from some biblical decree, but Israel's creation in the 1940's. And yes, those Jewish settlers living in the West Bank are masochists, most of whom will have to leave to make room for a Palestinian State. As for those settlers in Gaza, they are masochists to the second power.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:39 PM on February 18, 2002

Let's not get hung up on semantics here, ParisParamus; there are plenty of peoples who do not possess nations of their own, from the Ainu to the Kurds to the Maoris. With that in mind, it sure as hell makes more sense to call them Palestinians than 'Arabs of Palestine' if there's no Palestinian nation.
posted by boaz at 4:14 PM on February 18, 2002

Boaz. As I said (I know some of you can't believe this, but), I have no problem with the Palestinians having their own little state. My problem is with the claims of Palestinian Arabs, and the larger Arab and Muslim world, that Israel doesn't have a right to exist, and that Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state. Well, no it won't, ever.

Most of the terrirories are negotiable; all of Gaza is on the table. But it that's not enough land for a Palestinan state, that's not Israel's problem. If a Palestinian state "needs" more land, let them get it from Jordan and or Egypt.

So get over it, Muslim World. If you're so right, you'll be rewarded in Heaven, OK?

To paraphrase columnist Michael Kelly,
most Palestinian Arabs would rather live in New Jersey.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2002

Whether there is something like a "Palestinian people", depends on how you define "people". Let's, for a change, use our common sense and use something like the following definition: "A named human population which shares myths and memories, a mass public culture, a designated homeland", which is part of one (A. Smith) of many often used definitions of the term "nation". Why not throw in a few other definitions of "nation"? Here's one: "Derived from the Latin 'natio' the basic term seems to indicate a people related by birth and the quality of innateness would seem to be vital in its meaning" - L. Snyder.

And then there are those most commonly used definitions of "nation", like: "A group of people who recognise each other as sharing a common identity, with a focus on a homeland. This identity does not have to be acknowledged by other political groups for it to exist." (Halliday.) And: "It is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign." (Benedict Anderson.)

Oh well, I digress. I was talking about "people". Eh... "No Palestinian nation"? Why not? Note: distinguish "nation" from "state", and (especially if you like Giddens), "nation-state".

Parisparamus, to see if the definitions of "nation" that I mentioned apply, read something about the "Palestinian people", who they are, where they come from. One of the most authoritative writers on this issue is the French Jew Maxime Rodinson. This text is compulsory reading for anybody interested in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

posted by igor.boog at 4:43 PM on February 18, 2002

So get over it, Muslim World. If you're so right, you'll be rewarded in Heaven, OK?

Please stop patronizing.

p.s.: There is no such thing as a "Muslim World". Using the term "Muslim World" in discussions like this is nothing less than dangerous simplism that can only lead to the strengthening of feelings like "it's us versus them", angering and frustrating Muslims who don't have anything to do with the conflict... well, I guess you know what I mean.

And no, I'm not a Muslim.

Good night.
posted by igor.boog at 4:57 PM on February 18, 2002

PS: "let them get it from Jordan and or Egypt." = ask them for additional land.

Well, i.b., I suppose if you wait long enough, the Palestinan Arabs of the territories will become a nation by common experience (and misery). But my point is that Yasser Arafat was born in Egypt, and a large percentage of those now living in the disputed lands are from other parts of the Arab world.

But again, all of that is beside the point. The Palestinan Arabs are THERE, and whether they are a nation or not, they deserve something better. They deserve to have a decent life and pursue happiness (which is more than can be said for the reality of Arabs in most places, at least from an American perspective). They just aren't entitled to overrun Israel, which is what many, and arguably most want to do (actually, we don't know if it's some; many; or most because there's no free press or free speech in the territories or elsewhere in the Arab world to really know).
posted by ParisParamus at 5:01 PM on February 18, 2002

OK: no Muslim world. So instead, lets say "a large number of countries with sizable populations, where Islam is the predominant, or exclusive religion, which do not have a free press or democratic government, which do not recognize Israel and/or make it official policy to call for Israel's destruction." Same result.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:06 PM on February 18, 2002

But my point is that Yasser Arafat was born in Egypt.

In 1929, born to Palestinian parents...

a large percentage of those now living in the disputed lands are from other parts of the Arab world.

ParisParamus, do your homework. Check out the excellent statistics of UNRWA and the Norwegian FAFO institute and find out that almost all Palestinians in the Occupied (not "disputed") Territories are originally from historical Palestine.

Well, i.b., I suppose if you wait long enough, the Palestinan Arabs of the territories will become a nation by common experience (and misery).

From this I understand you refuse to even consider my argument that there already IS a Palestinian nation (or "people"). When I make an effort in a discussion only to find that my arguments are not taken seriously, that is quite disappointing. Sorry ParisParamus, this closes the discussion for me.
posted by igor.boog at 5:33 PM on February 18, 2002

And for me too. From now on, it's bunnies and pancakes and complaining about the corporatization and Microsoftization of the Web. Weeeeeeeee!
posted by ParisParamus at 6:44 PM on February 18, 2002

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