to take historic steps for peace, just as his country had done in 1979, referring to Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which was based on the core principle of land for peace.“If by our combined efforts and real desire, said Alsisi, we can all achieve a solution to this (Palestine) problem and find hope for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis, history will write a new page that will be no less and might even be more of an achievement than the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel forty years ago”.Tel Aviv certainly heeded the call. Immediately after the Alsisi address, Mr. Natanyahu, the much frustrated Israeli Premier , responded that he is open to working with Egypt and other Arab nations to advance a diplomatic process to end the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.
As referenced before, the French initiative offers, in the first phase, an international conference attended by the foreign ministers from 20 nations excluding Palestine and Israel. The conference, originally scheduled for May 30, was rescheduled, for lack of John Kerry’s availability, until sometime in June. But, in its second phase, the larger Paris international conference is scheduled for some time this summer. The French position is clear that, in case the larger conference fails, France would recognise the state of Palestine. The US position is still not clear over the French initiative.
The Egyptian initiative does not oppose the International conference on Palestinian statehood but” it speaks of reviving, as Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry clarifies, peace talks between Palestinians, and Israelis to end this conflict, and establish a Palestinian state”. Not only Natanyahu warmly appreciated President Alsisi’s initiative, he pointed, in no uncertain terms, to the ability to discuss the Arab initiative for peace which was introduced in 2002, and which includes the diplomatic recognition of Israel by Arab countries in return for establishing a Palestinian state”. Yet, he qualified, in the same breath, his statement that “we are willing to negotiate with Arab states’ revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002 but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples”.
The time has certainly changed. As opposed to the old Natanyahu, who was, once, a diehard dismantler of the two states solution, the new Natayahu, like a born-again Christian, seems all geared to re-embrace the idea of a two state solution along the lines of the 2002 Arab solution-the same solution that he had, for the most part, disdainfully undermined in Bar-Lien University address in 2009
The perils that are propelling the new peace proposal are much too obvious. Can Israel afford IS, or Daesh’s expanded military operations at its borders or inside its territories, knowing it all too well that already IS ,or Daesh is maintaining a powerful organisational, and military presence not only in Syria, and Iraq, but, also in Libya, and to some degree, in Sinai. The answer lies in Natanyahu’s warm reaction to Egypt. What also explains some forward movement or the sudden burst of diplomatic activity from Ramallah , Cairo, Paris, and Washington is,partly, the fear of the IS expanded influence-Paris attacks etc.coupled with the crushing pressure of Israel’s continued brutal occupation of Palestine, and the world-wide impact of the historical injustice to the Palestinians.
It seems that the days of Israel’s intransigence are numbered under the present scenario. Either, the Israelis accept (a) president Al-sisi’s initiative, one that would naturally include the 2002 land for peace formula, also known as the Saudi peace plan for the Middle East-one that the Israelis have already referred to, or the Israelis agree (b) to the French sponsored plan for international conference on Palestine which Natanyahu has apparently dismissed. Still, the conference is likely to be held in Paris, as announced, and will be attended, inter-alia, by Egypt and the Arab countries. That Paris would move to recognise the state of Palestine in the event the Israelis fail to accept the decisions made at the International conference, will be a major diplomatic blow to TelAviv, or (c) in case the first two options yield no results, the third, option, and an unsavory one, would be Israel greeting the menacing presence of IS at its borders that would confer on IS the golden opportunity of her exploiting the Arab sensitivities over the Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine. Not a desirable option at all.
The latest developments confirm that there is only so long the Israelis can stonewall on the creation of a viable, independent state of Palestine with Al-Quds (Jarusalem), as its capital. The confluence of multiple forces such as the intense Palestinian struggle, the Egyptian initiative, the French led Euro diplomacy, the quite US pressure, and pressure from the collapsed 2014 US- led initiative, the overwhelming global support, and the IS factor are all constituting for Israel an inescapable corridor of regional, or global diplomatic solutiontwo sovereign states, Palestine, and Israel, living side by side in peace. Not the aggressor Israel, but the world would write for her a new, and permanent destiny. — The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.