June 23, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 107

AU Professor Against Normalization with Israel

June 23, 2000
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 107

Laura Drake, Adjunct Professor of International Relations at the American University in Washington, DC, analyzed recent steps towards normalization with Israel by Arab countries on the geographic periphery of the Middle East such as Mauritania, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen. In her article in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly [1], Professor Drake responds to the arguments of "moderate"[2] Arab intellectuals who claim that since all the border states are engaged in the peace process with Israel, the periphery states should not be expected to be "more Catholic than the Pope."

Professor Drake contends that peripheral Arab states resent the border countries for reaping or, in the cases of Syria and Lebanon, preparing to reap the financial rewards of the peace process and then "preaching abstinence and national duty to everybody else."

She argues that the only solution under this "unfortunate set of circumstances" lies in "inter-Arab resource-sharing… to make up for the small amounts of economic aid the peripherals might hope to receive from the United States if they take steps to normalize their relations with Israel. The responsibility for this will fall equally upon Egypt and post-agreement Syria and Lebanon on the one hand, and on the Arab Gulf states perhaps together with Iran (and post-embargo Iraq) on the other."

Regarding the rest of the Gulf states, Drake states that they do not need the money, while the US does need them, so, they "have no excuse for… normalizing with Israel under any circumstances -- even if Syria does achieve a Golan withdrawal, and even …[if] final status agreement is reached on the Palestinian track. This expectation is… contingent on Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians not taking the normalization [any] …further than is absolutely and minimally required of them to achieve the territorial withdrawals. …Post-Sadat Egypt has proven to be a good example in this regard."

Drake's "desired outcome" for such inter-Arab American aid and general resource-sharing is that "once arrangements are made, nobody beyond the front-line should feel compelled to normalize for any reason, even after all the front-liners have completed their withdrawal agreements." According to this plan, "the financial incentives offered to the periphery by Washington [in return for normalization with Israel] will be offset by the front-line states, the Arab Gulf states, and Iran each doing their part in upholding the forthcoming national (and Islamic) duty." Arab civil society "and especially the anti-normalization movement" will have the supporting role of launching "direct diplomatic initiatives with the foreign ministries in the periphery states concerned."

Explaining her objection to normalization with Israel even in the case of comprehensive peace Drake states: "The goal [of the front-line countries] would be to convince the periphery states -- by presenting details of their own experience as front-liners with normalization to date -- that whatever benefits the peripherals might hope to achieve from the United States will be vastly outweighed by the damage that Israel will inflict upon their economies and their national independence if they succumb to the pressures of normalization."

According to Drake, unless her plan is adopted, periphery Arab states are likely to end up like Jordan, which she describes as suffering from economic "carnage" -- caused by Israeli capital: "Anti normalization forces need look no further than their own front yard for concrete evidence to support their warnings: they need only demonstrate the carnage currently being inflicted on Jordan's… economy by the invasion of Israeli capital..."

[1] Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt), May 18-24, 2000.

[2] The quotation marks are in the original.

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