Friday, March 30, 2007

The Arab Plan

The Saudi/Arab Plan that was discussed in Riyadh by the Arab League on Wednesday is not so much a "Peace Plan" as an Arab Plan for Israeli capitulation. If Israel were defeated completely in a major war, they could not come up with a more perfect plan for Israeli surrender to Arab interests. According to their Plan, as presented by the Head of the Arab League Amr Mussa, Israel must first withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, then allow the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian "refugees" to "return to their homes", and then the Arab countries will negotiate recognition of Israel's right to exist. But, by then it will be moot, Israel will no longer exist!
This is nonsense, and Israel rejected this Plan five years ago. So now why does PM Olmert find "some positive features" in it? Because times have changed and he is a weak and inept PM. What positive features could Olmert find in this plan, only two as far as I can tell, first, that all of the Arab States offer "peace and recognition" to Israel, but at what cost? Second, that the current fuss about this Plan is a means to outflank Iran from trying to hijack the Palestinian cause from the Arabs.
The Palestinian cause has been perhaps the one subject on which all Arab States could agree. Whatever their other major differences, this was the glue that kept them together thru thick and thin. But, the Iranization of the Palestinian conflict, thru the Iranian funding for Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, has taken the wind out of the Sunni Arab sails. They cannot outflank Iran by being more extreme than it is on this issue, so they must try to undercut it by taking back the initiative, particularly with the US as the peace broker.
Within the Arab world there has always been competition between the major capitals, Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad, for primacy. But, at the moment none of them has a clear edge. So the Saudis are making a play for once again being the leader of the Arab world, and doing so on the one issue that unites them, and with the support of its major sponsor, the US. So Olmert almost has to find something positive about this Plan.
The whole 22 member Arab League did not agree to a revised Arab Plan that would accomodate Israeli interests, by compromising on the "right of return" or the lines for Israeli withdrawal. But, as long as they are talking about this, and as long as Israel stands firm in the face of Arab and international pressure, then eventually this Arab initiative, totally one-sided though it is, might result in some progress.


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