The National
March 27, 2009 - 12:00am

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Yasser Reda marked the occasion by stating that while the signing of the treaty was a courageous act by the leaders of both countries, the peace never developed into a warming of relations as was intended. Considering how the peace process has languished over the past 30 years, this is hardly surprising. As Mr Reda said, the goal of the peace treaty was intended as the first step towards a comprehensive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, “in particular the Palestinian quandary”.

Decades after the first step towards peace were taken, only one other Arab nation recognises the state of Israel, Jordan. In some ways, peace seems farther away than ever. The new Israeli government is not likely to make any progress towards peace. Mr Reda nearly boycotted the celebrations in Israel to protest the expected appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as the next foreign minister. There are, however, some encouraging signs from both the Palestinians and the wider Arab community.

The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah are due to resume talks in Cairo to establish a unity government at the end of the month. The previous round of negotiations ended after little progress was made. But there is very real pressure from within the Palestinian community to get a deal done. The inability for Palestinian politicians to overcome their divisions is regularly used by Israel to justify its policies in the Territories, and is highly embarrassing to the Palestinians. The resumption of the talks will come on the heels of the Arab League summit in Doha, where restarting the stagnant peace process is expected to figure prominently in discussions. The delegates at the summit will probably urge Fatah and Hamas to set aside their differences for the sake of peace.

However, the Arab League nations also have much room for improvement in this department. The invasion of Gaza highlighted just how disjointed the Arab community has become. Four separate summits were convened to protest the assault. In the wake of this debacle, Saudi Arabia engaged in a flurry of diplomacy to stem the increasingly factious debate. Central to this is the reintegration of Syria into the Arab fold. It remains to be seen whether these efforts will be successful, but the upcoming summit will probably seek to cement these efforts.

In the end, both the cause and the solution to the perennial problem of Arab disunity is the Palestinian peace process. Sixty years of suffering has worn thin the slogans of support for the Palestinians in the Arab world. It is not that Arab nations are not working for peace, it is more than they have not worked together to achieve it. The Saudi-authored Arab Peace Initiative represents the most comprehensive solution to decades old conflict, but it must be embraced by all Arab nations.

Peace will require difficult concessions from all parties, but almost everyone knows exactly what that solution will look like: a contiguous, viable Palestinian state must emerge. It took 15 years before Jordan followed Egypt’s example and made the hard choice for peace; now 15 years later, the Arab world is reaching out once again. The decision is Israel’s. This summit should send a unified signal to Israel, that if it is willing to give justice to the Palestinians, then it will find a partner for peace in the Arab world.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017