There Could Have Been Peace -
The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002By Mark H. Gaffney
As I write, Israelis troops are massing on the Lebanon border. I feel a deep sense of deja vu, not
to mention about equal measures of frustration and exasperation. I suspect that many Americans share similar feelings. There
is nothing new, here, after all. We’ve seen it all, before. Is there no end to the conflict?
important to realize that this war did not need to happen. There was nothing inevitable about it. There could have been peace.
Few Americans probably remember, but in 2002 Saudi Arabia offered Israel a full peace treaty.
You are probably reacting. “You must be joking!”
No, I am not joking. Back in 2002 Saudi Arabia offered
Israel a full peace treaty. The offer was extraordinary in that it went much further than any previous Arab peace initiative
had, before. The Saudis offered not only to recognize Israel, they offered normalized relations, including full trade, economic
ties, cultural exchanges: in short, an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The only condition was that Israel must abide by
UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine.
The 2002 Saudi peace offer was a trial balloon, but it had broad support
in the Arab world. It had been drafted at an Arab League summit shortly before being announced. For more details go to www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm
An end to the conflict was within reach in 2002, IF the US government had prevailed upon
Israel to respond favorably. Of course, this didn’t happen. At the time the Bush administration had other priorities.
The neocons were busily preparing to go to war with Saddam Hussein. Toward that end Bush operatives scoured the Middle East
trying to drum up support. Everyone told them: “Don’t make war on Iraq. Saddam is no threat. Solve the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, instead.” It was excellent advice. Did the Bush administration listen? Of course not. Instead of a peace initiative
we got the disaster in Iraq.
For its part, Israel was also preoccupied in 2002: destroying hundreds of millions of
dollars worth of infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank built up during the failed Oslo process. Israel's PM Ariel Sharon
did not actually reject the 2002 Saudi peace offer. As far as I know he never responded to it at all. Sharon dismissed it.
And the US press quickly forgot all about it. Today, it's a safe bet that few Americans are aware that it even happened.
it did happen. In 2002 the Arab world extended an olive branch to Israel and Ariel Sharon dismissed it. This should not be
surprising. Over the course of his long life Sharon opposed, and on occasion worked to undermine, every peace initiative in
Sharon evidently decided that there was no need to sit down and negotiate a peace settlement,
given Israel's vast military strength, its nuclear supremacy, and the dutiful US protector at the UN to shield Israel from
Let’s face it, political negotiations are a messy business and they require painful
compromise. Why go that route when you can simply impose your will upon the neighborhood?
Israel’s massive nuclear
arsenal was supposed to make the small nation feel safe and give Israel the confidence to negotiate from strength. But it
didn't have that effect. It turned out that a strong Israel had no incentive to negotiate; period. End of story.
also evaded negotiations by perpetrating a lie: that there is no one to talk to. And he succeeded brilliantly. Why confabulate
a small fib when you can tell a whopper? The Bush administration bought the lie, and so did the ever malleable US media. This
explains Israel's policy of unilateral action in recent years: the expanding settlements and cantonization of the West Bank,
the security wall, etc. During the past year PM Olmert, Sharon’s successor, has simply continued the policies of his
There is only one small catch. Unilateral action doesn't lead to peace. It only breeds more conflict.
simplest of truths is that there is ALWAYS someone to talk to. If many Americans have not figured this out, it’s because
the US government and the US media have an ingenious capacity to shape-shift events. Time and again we've seen actual history
transformed before our eyes into kind of a virtual reality. Most Americans still don't understand that despite our free press
we do not get the news raw. We get it filtered through a glass darkly. This is why the “news” at times can seem
incomprehensible, especially when it comes from the Mideast.
A prime example occurred last year when Israel withdrew
several thousand settlers from Gaza. The US press trumpeted this as a noble step toward peace. It might have been true, IF
the Gaza withdrawal was motivated by a desire for improved relations with the Palestinians. Yet, the Palestinians were never
consulted, neither before, during, nor after the operation.
Events in recent days have shown that Israel’s Gaza
withdrawal was motivated more by military expedience than by a desire for peace. The withdrawal of a few thousand settlers
made it a lot easier for the Israeli army to seal off Gaza.
Recently, Ha'aretz reported that Israel's Gaza incursion,
which continues as I write, was planned many weeks before the capture of the Israeli soldier, which became the pretext for
what has transpired. Israel’s plan, all along, was to punish the Palestinians for democratically electing a more militant
You do this by closing the ports of entry, buzzing Gaza city with F-16s at rooftop level, breaking
windows and scaring everyone out of their wits, especially children, and by shelling the area indiscriminately with artillery
and tanks. It also helps to bomb Gaza's sole electric generation plant, so that in the heat of summer up to a million people
now have no lights, no refrigeration, no air conditioning, and no clean water. As a result, hundreds of thousands of children,
women, elderly, as well as the general population, will soon be – if not already – drinking unsafe water; and
this will continue for many months. Gaza today predictably faces a health crisis, on top of everything else.
how you terrorize an entire population.
In fact, Israel’s ongoing treatment of Gaza is comparable to the collective
punishment meted out by the Nazis to Jews trapped in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Yet, somehow the US press has
failed to report what is happening. We are expected to believe that Hezbollah’s raid on the northern border, which triggered
the current fighting in Lebanon, was an isolated act of terrorism, perpetrated solely out of hatred for Israel, when in fact
it was obviously an attempt to relieve the pressure on the Palestinians in Gaza, the world’s largest prison.
I write the US has granted Israel a license to kill in Lebanon. Washington’s refusal to press for an immediate cease
fire means the violence will continue. The longer it goes on the greater the chance the fighting will spread to Syria; which
has a security arrangement with Iran. Today the world can only hold its breath...Mark H. Gaffney's first book,
Dimona the Third Temple, was a pioneering study of Israel's nuclear weapons program. Mark's latest, Gnostic Secrets of the
Naassenes, is a scholarly study of Gnostic-Christianity. For more information go to www.gnosticsecrets.comMark can be reached for comment at email@example.com
The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002
Official translation of the full text of a Saudi-inspired
peace plan adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut, 2002.
The Arab Peace Initiative
The Council of Arab States at the Summit Level at its 14th Ordinary Session,
Reaffirming the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Extra-Ordinary Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace
in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries, to be achieved in accordance with international legality,
and which would require a comparable commitment on the part of the Israeli government,
Having listened to the statement made by his royal highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, crown prince of the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia, in which his highness presented his initiative calling for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories
occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference
of 1991 and the land-for-peace principle, and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem
as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel,
Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or
provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June
4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General
Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied
since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all
the states of the region.
II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab
5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for
peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness
and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and
the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at
all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation,
the Muslim states and the European Union.
For purposes of comparison, the following is an earlier draft discussed by Arab foreign ministers on 25 March, 2002,
in advance of the summit:
The Council of the Arab League, which convenes at the level of a summit on March 27-28, 2002 in Beirut, affirms the Arab
position that achieving just and comprehensive peace is a strategic choice and goal for the Arab states.
After the Council heard the statement of Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in which he called for the establishment
of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel, and that Israel declares its readiness to withdraw
from the occupied Arab territories in compliance with United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 and Security Council resolution
1397, enhanced by the Madrid conference and the land-for-peace principle, and the acceptance of an independent, sovereign
Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, the Council calls on the Israeli government to review its policy
and to resort to peace while declaring that just peace is its strategic option.
The Council also calls on Israel to assert the following:
Complete withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including full withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan
Heights and the remaining occupied parts of south Lebanon to the June 4, 1967 lines.
To accept to find an agreed, just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees in conformity with Resolution 194.
To accept an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip and with Jerusalem (al-Quds al-Sharif) as its capital in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1397.
In return, the Arab states assert the following:
To consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over and to enter into a peace treaty with Israel to consolidate this.
To achieve comprehensive peace for all the states of the region.
To establish normal relations within the context of comprehensive peace with Israel.
The Council calls on the Israeli government and the Israelis as a whole to accept this initiative to protect the prospects
of peace and to spare bloodshed so as to enable the Arab states and Israel to coexist side by side and to provide for the
coming generations a secure, stable and prosperous future.
It calls on the international community with all its organisations and states to support the initiative.
The Council calls on its presidency, its secretary general and its follow-up committee to follow up on the special contacts
related to this initiative and to support it on all levels, including the United Nations, the United States, Russia, the European
Union and the Security Council.