Dr. Nassif Hitti

The Arab Summit… The Day After

Along with many others, I underlined the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to resolving the Palestinian issue on the eve of the 33rd Arab League Summit. This effort requires holding an international conference attended by all the international and regional actors who yield influence in the Middle East. I also suggested that Arab leaders develop an action plan (road map), thereby adding weight to its efforts to translate the Summit's decisions regarding Palestine into a viable and promising political path to peace through which relevant Security Council Resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, which is founded on these Resolutions, are implemented.
Doing so would amount to a realistic diplomatic initiative that complies with international law, with the aim of reaching a comprehensive and lasting peace and strengthening regional stability. We stress the need for this comprehensive approach despite being aware of the old and new obstacles standing in the way- obstacles rooted in the experiences of the distant and recent past. The most prominent of these obstacles is the war Israel is waging, which seeks not only the destruction of Gaza but also the total erasure of Palestinian people’s national rights, most notably their right to an independent state.
A prominent example of its actions to deny the Palestinians their rights is the aggravation of its policy of Judaizing the land and people in the West Bank, to accelerate the integration of the West Bank into a greater State of Israel. That is evident from the escalating military, security, administrative, and economic (among others) pressure it is exerting to achieve this end. The dominance over the executive of the fundamentalist religious right and its allies on the extreme nationalist right, has created additional impediments to reviving the peace process. Although it would be difficult- many believe almost impossible given the current balance of power- resuming the peace process remains the only path to resolving this historical conflict.
This conflict returned to the forefront, becoming the most heated issue in the region once again. Given its nature and its political, social, and geographic significance, it has the potential to become a central flashpoint of regional and international conflicts, cold wars, and proxy wars, and to be used to further strategic goals that are unrelated to Palestine.
Amid the impasse in efforts to end the fighting, and given the prospect that this could become a long war of attrition marked by cyclical escalations and lulls, it is crucial that the world heed the Summit's call for an international conference aimed at ensuring a peaceful settlement of the conflict premised on international law and principles, and relevant Resolutions of the United Nations. This decision, or the Arab call for it, should not be replaced (even under the guise of laying the groundwork for it) with provisional arrangements purportedly aimed at ensuring the conference is eventually held. Such approaches often serve no other purpose than to allow those who are uninterested in peace to bide their time and diffuse the sense of urgency.
Indeed, this kind of foreign policy approach ultimately delays the inevitable explosion rather than addressing its root causes, which only complicates matters further over time.
What we need is for Arab leaders to reach out to international actors (specifically the permanent members of the Security Council) as soon as possible, developing several formulas to persuade them to endorse this initiative (international conference). Despite the many difficulties that reaching a settlement within the framework of an international conference would run up against, the fact remains that holding it once the frames of reference and final objectives are agreed to, is a necessary, though insufficient, requisite for launching a track that leads to a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the conflict.
Some argue that Israel is principally opposed to the peace settlement, its goals, rules, and steps. However, Israel has hit a dead end. Its declared and undeclared (though they have become well-known) goals are clearly and credibly opposed internationally. Its failure to achieve its objectives and entanglement in a costly war of attrition has exacerbated its domestic crises. With time, this will compel Israel to come to terms with the immense costs of its policies and abandon its unattainable declared goals.
There is no doubt that this shift will take a considerable amount of time, but with the cost potentially becoming unbearable, Israel will have to change course. This shift will not be easy on Israel, and it will have domestic repercussions.
Reaching this point in which Israel feels pressured requires vigorous initiatives on the part of various Arab actors. Regardless of this or that actor's degree of involvement, engaging with global leaders is crucial. They can be approached collectively or each could be approached within a different framework, to encourage their endorsement of an international conference. This demands crystallizing practical ideas, formulas, and proposals through meaningful dialogue with the global stakeholders expected to organize, support, and oversee the conference, as well as guarantee that a comprehensive peace settlement is reached.
Despite the many obstacles and difficulties, this remains the only viable path to achieving comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East. The responsibility to ensure the implementation of the Summit’s decision in this regard is a fundamental Arab responsibility. There is no serious and realistic alternative to achieving a final resolution to this ongoing, broad conflict except by launching a proactive Arab initiative to translate the Summit’s decision into action. This path furthers regional stability, and it is imperative that we act today to avoid the risks that could emerge tomorrow.