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memri
April 17, 2019 No.
8007

Arab Writers: The Arabs And Palestinians Must Stop Rejecting Every Proposed Settlement With Israel; Sadat Was Right In Making Peace

Against the backdrop of U.S. President Trump's March 25, 2019 recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, and the 40th anniversary of the peace accords between Israel and Egypt, the Arab press, and especially the Egyptian press, published articles criticizing the Arabs' and Palestinians' handling of the conflict with Israel. The writers  argued that the "all or nothing" attitude to the conflict, which has led the Arabs and Palestinians to reject every proposed solution,  has caused a steady erosion in the proposals presented to them, while allowing Israel to consolidate its control of the occupied territories. They added that the U.S. recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan proved the wisdom of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's decision to make peace with Israel and thereby regain Sinai, as opposed to the folly of the peace rejectionists, whose obstinacy has left the Golan and Jerusalem in Israeli hands.

The following are excerpts from the articles:

 

In A Bid To Get Everything, We Rejected Good Proposals; We Must Reassess Our Approach

Ahmad Al-Tawwab, a columnist for the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, criticized the Arabs and Palestinians for rejecting every proposed solution to the conflict with Israel out of a misguided belief that, by digging in, they will eventually get the best possible deal. He wrote: "We must reassess the bizarre belief that has prevailed for many years among many Arab politicians and intellectuals, especially Palestinian ones. [I refer to the belief] that time necessarily works in our favor; that, despite Israel's power and the success of the Zionist enterprise, the natural course of events will eventually lead to the fulfilment of all of the Palestinians' national demands, and that Israel's demise is a forgone conclusion because it is an alien corn [in the region], etc. This outlook is one of the reasons that the Palestinians have repeatedly missed opportunities [to resolve the conflict], on the grounds that [the proposed solutions] did not meet their aspirations, and based on the belief that the future would bring better opportunities or even eliminate the problem altogether.

"But although opportunities were missed and better alternatives failed to materialize, and although each subsequent solution offered was worse than the one before –  and the contrast between the recent proposals and those offered in the late 1940s is sufficient [proof of this] – most [Arabs] continued and still continue to count on the future, while attacking anyone who thinks differently and calling him names ranging from 'idiot' to 'traitor.' This [attitude] silenced all those who warned, decades ago, that history [indicates] that rights alone to not guarantee justice for the oppressed...

"It intellectuals have a duty to undertake an in-depth reassessment of this entire issue, especially after the two hard blows recently delivered by [U.S. President Donald] Trump: the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of Israel's annexation of the Golan, which has been occupied since 1967. Moreover, we can expect additional blows, some of them beyond all imagining."[1]

Fatah member and former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister Nabil 'Amr made similar statements in his column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. He wrote: "Seven decades after the Arabs and Palestinians rejected the [1947] Partition Plan, the question is whether they were right or wrong in doing so. There are different answers. Those in favor of 'all or nothing' still think that rejecting [the plan] was the right decision. But those who believe in agreements and in the principle of 'saving what can be saved' consider this a bitter mistake that led to losses and no gain. The past is past and talking about it will not change it, but it may help lead [us] towards the right decision in the future.  The best proof that the opponents [of the Partition Plan] were wrong is that, today, [the Palestinians] are demanding less than a quarter [of the territory] that they rejected at the time, and there is no guarantee of attaining even this small territory..."[2]

Trump's Decision On The Golan Proves That Sadat Was Right To Make Peace

Several columnists in the Egyptian press wrote that Trump's recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan proved that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had been right in going against the Arab consensus and signing the peace accords with Israel. Had he not done so, they said, Israel would have held on to Sinai and Trump would have likely recognized its sovereignty over it as well.

Egyptian author and journalist Salah Montasser wrote in his column in the government daily Al-Ahram: "When Anwar Sadat felt, in late 1977, that the effects of the [1973] war were evaporating, he initiated the peace agreement with Israel. Before making his historic visit to Jerusalem, he visited Damascus and offered [then-]president Hafez Assad to join him in making peace, as he had joined him in making war. But Hafez Assad, as well as [Iraqi president] Saddam [Hussein], [PLO leader Yasser] Arafat, and [Libyan president Muammar [Qaddafi] attacked Sadat's [initiative], and he had to choose between appeasing the rejectionist Arabs or carrying on alone. At the time Egypt was accused of excluding itself from the Arab-Israeli conflict, and these accusations are still being heard today... as though the Arabs were doomed to wage endless war and could not seize an opportunity [to end it], [an opportunity that came] before Israel had built any settlements in the occupied territories and made all the changes it [later] made.

"We can only imagine what would have happened had Egypt not excluded itself from the Arab-Israeli conflict and Sinai had remained in Israel's hands. [In that case] Egypt would have been at the mercy of Israel and the U.S., who may have handed parts of it over to the Palestinians, and perhaps Trump would have granted Israel sovereignty over [Sinai]..."[3] 

Dr. Gamal 'Abd Al-Gawwad, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and a lecturer in Political Science at Cairo University, wrote in Al-Ahram: "Defending his unusual decision [to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, Trump] said that he had only ratified the existing reality, referring to the fact that the Golan has been occupied by Israel for over 50 years... Less than two years ago, the U.S. president relied on a similar reality in declaring occupied Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The fate of Egypt's Sinai could have been similar to that of Jerusalem and the Golan, had Egypt neglected to liberate it through a combination of war and peace – the October 1973 war and the Egypt-Israel peace accords whose anniversary we are marking these days...

"Sadat had to seize the opportunity and capitalize on the outcomes of the October war to liberate all of Sinai, and that is why he initiated the peace [process already] in November 1979... The occupation of Sinai in 1967 was a sore blow to Egypt, and so was the reconciliation with its historic enemy in 1979. The Egyptians were torn between the desire to liberate the land [on the one hand] and their solidarity with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arabs and their reluctance to reconcile with those who had occupied land and shed blood [on the other]...

"The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most complex conflict of our times. It is emotionally and ideologically charged, causing both sides to consider peace as no less humiliating and shameful than military defeat. That is why the Middle East has long remained in a state of neither war nor peace. Bless president Sadat, who had the courage to save Egypt from the wretched fate that others in the region are still trapped in."[4]    

Nashwa Al-Hofi, a columnist for Egypt's Al-Watan daily, wrote: "Sadat... attained a victory for my country that restored [its] honor, humiliated Israel and ended its arrogance... He restored Sinai, whereas the other Arab territories we are currently demanding have not been restored. He regained the territory thanks to his foresight... He triumphed over the pen-pushers who do nothing but sit in air-conditioned offices and reject [every proposal] out of ignorance, narcissism or lack of vision. He fought calmly and patiently, insisting that Egypt's flag fly over all of its territory...

"[Today] we mark the anniversary of the agreement in which we raised aloft the slogan of peace with [Israel], which we know was an enemy and will remain an enemy, whereas the Golan is still occupied by [the enemy's] weapons and settlements..."[5]

  

 

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 25, 2019.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 30, 2019.

[3] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 1, 2019.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 28, 2019.

[5] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 24, 2019.