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memri
January 24, 2018 No.
7296

Owner Of Egyptian Daily: The Arabs Should Respond To The Trump Declaration With A 'Comprehensive Peace Offensive'

Salah Diab, an Egyptian businessman and the owner of the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, who goes by the pen name Newton, published a series of four articles in which he expressed his longing for a visionary leadership that would extricate the Arabs from the sorry state in which they have been mired for decades due to intellectual rigidity, and claimed that former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who initiated the 1973 October War against Israel and later signed a peace treaty with it, furnished an example of such leadership. He claimed that any person could be a visionary, as shown by the example of the Norwegian researcher who initiated the Oslo Accords.

Newton urged the Arabs to think in a Sadat-like manner by exploiting the international outrage over Trump's Jerusalem declaration and responding to it with a "comprehensive peace offensive" that would rapidly achieve results, instead of submitting to the radical ideology that views normalization with Israel as a crime. Such a peace, once obtained, would remove Iran's pretext for intervening in the Arab countries and allow the Arabs to end their justified state of alert in response to this intervention, he wrote. He concluded that, after the Palestinian problem finds a just solution, the region will be able to engage in development and advance itself in the modern technological world.


Salah Diab, aka Newton (image: Arabinternationallawfirm.com, May 8, 2017)

Below are translated excerpts from Newton's series of articles.

We Need Someone With Vision To Revive The Oslo Accords

In the first article in the series, from December 12, Newton wrote: "Sadat surprised twice: the first surprise was the military attack in [October] 1973, and the second, in November 1977, was diplomatic, when he decided to go to Israel and deliver a speech at the Knesset. The surprise of going to Israel was the product of vision. Vision is creativity, originality and a form of inspiration. It is a talent that leads to the discovery of something new. A person who works 15-20 hours a day is not interesting as long as he is totally bereft of vision, because vision can, in a single flash, render superfluous dozens of hours of work and endless meetings.

"The Oslo Accords were born thanks to the vision of a sociologist whose wife works with the Norwegian diplomatic corps. The two visited Egypt, Gaza, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and witnessed the first intifada. Closely studying the situation, they discovered a young Palestinian throwing a stone, and confronting him, a young Israeli firing a rubber bullet. Both shared the same facial features and the same fear. Here the [Norwegian] husband's imagination began working, and he asked himself, 'Why should we not bring the two sides closer', especially as Norway is reputed to be a neutral country, as opposed to the U.S., with its reputation for [pro-Israel] bias? He decided to carry out his plan through diplomatic channels in the most secret fashion, and arrange meetings between representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Both sides were very strict about preserving confidentiality, because, had it become known that Arafat was negotiating with the Jews, his rule would have ended, and had it become known that Yizhak Rabin was negotiating with the PLO, which the Israelis viewed a terrorist organization, it would have killed any chance his party had of winning the next elections.

"Peres was the foreign minister and Rabin the prime minister, and they were feuding, vying for the leadership of the Labor Party. Peres began the Oslo talks without Rabin's knowledge, [and kept him in the dark] until the results of the adventure became clear. Norway [too] began mediating between the two sides without the knowledge of its foreign minister; the only one  privy to it was the deputy foreign minister. Both sides, along with the mediators, took strict pains to keep the U.S. in the dark about what was transpiring. The meetings took place in small villages around the capital Oslo, and finally they reached an agreement which was announced in the White House [Rose] Garden under the sponsorship of President Clinton. Afterwards, normalization became something acceptable and was no longer shameful. The agreement resulted in Arafat, Peres and Rabin winning the Nobel Peace Prize, [although] later [the peace agreement] ran into difficulties. The Oslo Accords formed a natural sequel to the Camp David Accords, and enabled Palestine to regain the seat that it had left empty at the Mena House [Hotel] talks in Cairo. Following Sadat's visit to Israel, on December 14, 1977, a peace conference opened at the Mena House Hotel in Cairo with representatives of Israel, Egypt, the United States and a UN observer participating, [but the PLO refused to participate].

"What is presently needed is a visionary who can revive the Oslo Accords, before some Arab state becomes entangled in the hasty establishment of relations with Israel just in order to use its help against Iran."[1]

No Peace Scenario Is Impossible, But Realizing It Requires Taking Action On The Ground

In the second article of the series, from December 13, Newton responded to an article published in his paper three days earlier, by Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, a former diplomat and political science lecturer. Fishere envisioned a utopian scenario in which the Arab leaders react to the Trump Jerusalem announcement, as part of which they "slam the door to Trump but not to the U.S."  They recall their ambassadors from Washington, expel the American ambassadors from their countries and threaten to shut the U.S. embassies completely if the U.S. transfers its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; at the same time, they maintain economic and military relations with the U.S. and renew the call to Israel to negotiate on withdrawal to the 1967 borders in return for peace and normalization. In the meantime, the Riyadh Summit passes three surprising decisions: to establish a forum for Arab-Iranian-Turkish reconciliation, which would formulate understandings for ceasing the violence in contested areas in the region (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Hamas and Qatar); to form a delegation comprising Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Qatar that would announce its readiness to come to Israel to present the Arab perception of peace,  including turning both parts of Jerusalem into  capitals – of Palestine and Israel; and to establish a Middle East peace and security organization that would propose security arrangements to cease the violence, build confidence and reinforce cooperation between the region's countries in light of the various security challenges, including the war on terror. This organization would include Iran and Turkey (and Israel too would be invited to join it immediately upon the signing of the peace agreement). As a result, the Middle East security situation calms down and the atmosphere improves. This prompts Russia and China, followed by the European Union, to pursue economic and strategic cooperation with the Middle East, and once the U.S. observes that its standing in the region has eroded, it mends its ways in order to defend its interests. Feshere concluded his article with the words "and then I awoke from my dream."[2]

In his response article, Newton claimed that this dream was not so far-fetched, but that action was needed to realize it. He wrote: "In my estimate, this article, which ended with the author awakening from his dream, does not describe an impossible dream but rather a scenario that ought to be realized. This is how things should be. It was a well-structured scenario [reflecting] a fertile imagination. Is it possible that, [one day], we will go to sleep and upon awakening discover that it is actually being realized? Do we want our grandchildren, at least, to attain this? Generally speaking, in order to combat the situation on the ground, it is not enough to dream and enjoy the pleasures of the imagination."[3]

We Made Peace Without Normalization; Shaking Hands With An Israeli Is Still Considered A Crime

In the next article, published December 14, Newton continued: "Vision exploits every event and transforms it into an opportunity. The event [that can currently be exploited] is the arrogant decision by Trump [on the Jerusalem issue], which all the world's countries opposed. This [opposition] embarrassed the U.S., just as it embarrassed Israel and deepened its isolation. Vision decrees that the Arabs should now carry out a comprehensive peace offensive. This is not impossible, as demonstrated by Oslo, which was the result of an ordinary person's vision. The Sadat peace initiative was a product of vision [as well]. But… the visionary does not have to be a president or a senior position-holder, because the visionary of Oslo was merely the member of a research center, yet he proposed a most notable and important peace initiative. Why shouldn't we think in a Sadat-like manner, transcending the usual expectations, traditional thinking, the interest groups, [all] those who benefit and profit from the continuation of this tragedy, and the [standard] Arab response, which we have been trying from 1978 to this day?

"I am talking about achieving a permanent peace, in one shot. [Let us remember that], after the Palestinians,  the first and last people who suffer from the current situation are the Arab peoples. [But] the Arab rulers do not seem to be affected by this to the same extent; on the contrary, the Palestinian cause has become an excuse for the tyranny that some of them exercise, as well as a pretext for Iranian intervention in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza and Lebanon. A single comprehensive solution is required. The problem is not confined to the refugee camps; it has to do with the pervading atmosphere in all Arab countries, not only in the states in confrontation [with Israel]. True, we made a peace [agreement], but without normalization. Shaking the hand of an Israeli is still considered a crime [here]. The longed-for peace will not be obtained except by a vision that transcends all the traditional axioms.

"When Trump announced his decision to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and view Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he said that this measure would move the peace process forward. Liar, liar pants on fire. Let us call him out on his lie; let us seize on his false claim while he is still on the defensive and faced with international anger. Let us exploit the mess that he gotten himself into and start adopting serious and vigorous measures via a rich and creative vision to actualize peace – a comprehensive peace in one shot.

"If this actually happens, all the excuses for the Iranian intervention in the Arab states will die away, along with the motivation for legitimate Arab vigilance in opposing these interventions. After justice is done with [the Palestinians], the region will take an interest in correct development, to advance us towards tomorrow, which is moving much faster than all our ideas."[4]

We Have Left The Arena To The Extremists For Whom Normalization Is A Crime

In the last article of the series, from December 24, Newton wrote: "The details of Camp David and of Sadat's visit to Israel are rich in dramatic elements that could have been exploited to resolve the issue of normalization, which froze in place and stopped. We could have started, for example, with the idea that Sadat broached spontaneously in [the Egyptian] parliament... [Until then], the last thing anyone expected was that he himself would go to the Knesset. [This was accompanied by other] contacts that took place before and after Sadat's announcement: the mediation by then ruler of Romania [Nicolae] Ceausescu; the meeting and conversation between Sadat and Golda Meir; his discussions with Israeli leaders and his forming genuine relations with them, as human beings and not only as bloodsuckers; the details that reflected the hopes and aspirations of each party; the drama of his dispute with the Israeli side in Camp David and his threat to leave; and the role played by [U.S. President Jimmy] Carter and his intervention. All these measures helped to bring peace closer to [people's] hearts and minds, and if this had been done when the problems became worse, then an agreement would have been reached on the two-state solution, and Jerusalem would have become the capital of both [states].

"[Additional elements in this context were]: the Arabs' abandonment of Sadat; the refusal of Hafez Al-Assad to participate in negotiations for returning the Golan after Sadat asked him to do so; the resounding speech by Sadat at the Knesset; his words regarding a comprehensive solution that would begin with [the establishment of] a state of Palestine; the Palestinians' abandonment of Sadat and their refusal [to join] the negotiations; and Sadat's explicit and forceful [insistence on] talking with the Israeli defense minister about the 'Arab-Israeli' issue, rather than the 'Egyptian-Israeli' [issue], for he did not envision restoring only Sinai but wanted to restore all the occupied Arab lands…

"All Sadat's measures to obtain peace were replete with drama that failed to be leveraged. All these issues require massive, dramatic action capable of transmitting Camp David's goal and message to every average Egyptian citizen. Although there is a peace agreement between us [and Israel], and [Israel] has a resident ambassador here, to this very day we regard any contact with this country as suspicious and dubious. Even contacts at the level of the state and its institutions are secret and may not be spoken about, as if they were a conspiracy or a crime."[5]

 


[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm  (Egypt), December 12, 2017. The Mena House peace conference, held December 14, 1977 following Sadat's visit to Israel, was attended by representatives of Israel, Egypt, and the U.S., along with U.N. observers. The PLO was invited to attend but refused to send a representative. 

[2] Al-Masri Al-Yawm  (Egypt), December 10, 2017.

[3] Al-Masri Al-Yawm  (Egypt), December 13, 2017.

[4] Al-Masri Al-Yawm  (Egypt), December 14, 2017.

[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm  (Egypt), December 24, 2017.