By Eli E. Hertz, MYTHS AND FACTS
In March 2002, the Arab League met in Beirut and adopted a two-state solution proposal, based on normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal to pre-Six-Day War borders and the return of the 1948 refugees. This proposal was a non-starter, designed more as a positive image builder for Arabs and especially for the Saudis, who made up 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, than a genuine contribution to peace in the Middle East.
On April 30, 2013, Qatar’s foreign minister suggested the revival of the Arab Peace Initiative, introduced in 2002, and for the first time eased its demand that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders. Instead, the minister accepted the possibility of tweaking those borders with a comparable and mutually agreed “minor swap of the land.”
However, it is illuminating to examine the record of the League of Arab States’ resolutions, since the founding of the Arab League in 1945, which is hardly a model for peaceful settlement of disputes in the spirit of the United Nations. For instance, prior to the establishment of the Jewish state, the League took the following steps:
- In December 1945, the Arab League launched a boycott of “Zionist goods” that continues to this day.
- In June 1946, it established the Higher Arab Committee to “coordinate efforts with regard to Palestine,” a radical body that led and coordinated attempts to wipe Israel off the map.
- In December 1946, it rejected the first proposed Palestine partition plans, reaffirming “that Palestine is a part of the Arab motherland.”
- In October 1947, prior to the vote on Resolution 181 – the “Partition Plan” – it reasserted the necessity for military preparations along Arab borders to “defending Palestine.”
- In February 1948, it approved “a plan for political, military, and economic measures to be taken in response to the Palestine crisis.”
- In October 1948, it rejected the UN “Partition Plan” for Palestine, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 181.
- On May 15th 1948, as the regular forces of Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and contingents from Saudi Arabia and Yemen invaded Israel to “restore law and order,” the Arab League issued a lengthy document entitled “Declaration on the Invasion of Palestine.” In it, the Arab states drew attention to:
“The injustice implied in this solution [affecting] the right of the people of Palestine to immediate independence … declared the Arabs’ rejection of [Resolution 181]” which the League said “would not be possible to carry it out by peaceful means, and that its forcible imposition would constitute a threat to peace and security in this area” and claimed that the “security and order in Palestine have become disrupted” due to the “aggressive intentions and the imperialistic designs of the Zionists” and “the Governments of the Arab States, as members of the Arab League, a regional organization … view the events taking place in Palestine as a threat to peace and security in the area as a whole. … Therefore, as security in Palestine is a sacred trust in the hands of the Arab States, and in order to put an end to this state of affairs … the Governments of the Arab States have found themselves compelled to intervene in Palestine.”
The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, was less diplomatic and far more candid. With no patience for polite language, and on the same day that Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, at a Cairo press conference reported the next day in The New York Times, Pasha repeated the Arabs’ “intervention to restore law and order,” revealing:
“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”
The League of Arab States continued to oppose peace after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence:
- In July 15 1948, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 54 calling on Arab aggression to stop:
“Taking into consideration that the Provisional Government of Israel has indicated its acceptance in principle of a prolongation of the truce in Palestine; that the States members of the Arab League have rejected successive appeals of the United Nations Mediator, and of the Security Council in its resolution 53 (1948) of 7 July 1948, for the prolongation of the truce in Palestine; and that there has consequently developed a renewal of hostilities in Palestine.”
- In October 1949, the Arab League declared that negotiation with Israel by any Arab state would be in violation of Article 18 of the Arab League.
- In April 1950, it called for severance of relations with any Arab state which engaged in relations or contacts with Israel and prohibited Member states from negotiating unilateral peace with Israel.
- In March 1979, it suspended Egypt’s membership in the League (retroactively) from the date of its signing a peace treaty with Israel.
- On March 27th 2002, it adopted the Beirut Declaration, at the height of Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel, the Arab League declared:
“We, the kings, presidents, and emirs of the Arab states meeting in the Council of the Arab League Summit in Beirut, capital of Lebanon … have conducted a thorough assessment of the developments and challenges … relating to the Arab region and, more specifically, to the occupied Palestinian territory. With great pride, we followed the Palestinian people’s intifada and valiant resistance. … We address a greeting of pride and honour to the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and valiant intifada against the Israeli occupation and its destructive war machine. We greet with honour and pride the valiant martyrs of the intifada.”
Note, the League of Arab States, which has systematically opposed and blocked all peace efforts with Israel for the past 72 years, is also in a declared state-of-war with Israel.
When talks broke down at Camp David in 2000, Palestinian Arab leaders unleashed the al-Aqsa Intifada, which amounted to a full-blown guerrilla war against Israel.
Unfortunately, Arab leaders often turn to such violence to gain what they were unable to achieve at the negotiating table.