Arabs dream up their own 'peace' agenda

First, the dream. If you believe what Amr Moussa told us yesterday, the "peace process" is still a rosy option for the Arab world. The foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo, he said, was smooth, positive, a joint effort for "a just and lasting peace". There was no end to the amount of obligations, rights and legitimacy that would be invoked, no limit to the promises that today's summit would go to to avoid "a message of threats and warnings".

Only when the Egyptian Foreign Minister - Cairo's top spin-doctor - insisted that he alone would brief journalists after each session of the Arab potentates did it become clear that Egypt intended to keep the lid on suspicion and mutual animosity. On the 25th floor of the Egyptian foreign ministry yesterday, you might almost have believed Shimon Peres was still prime minister of Israel.

Now, the reality. A five-page draft communique for the Arab summit - which Mr Moussa would not reveal to us yesterday - calls for a "just and lasting peace" in the Middle East based on land for peace, the very formula Mr Netanyahu has already rejected. Delegates will be asked to condemn "terrorism" but to differentiate this from "legitimate resistance" (i.e. Hizbollah's war against Israeli occupation forces in southern Lebanon). There will be no condemnation of Iran but there will be support for Bahrain against any "foreign interference" - unspecified - in its internal affairs.

Iran will be asked only to abide by the decision of international mediation in its territorial dispute with the Emirates. Arab leaders will express "deep concern" about Turkey's new relationship with Israel. And, almost at the end of the unpublished communique - again unrevealed by Mr Moussa - comes the assertion that Mr Netanyahu's post-election policy platform is "very upsetting and very threatening to the peace process".

Both Mr Moussa's platitudes and the actual communique reflect the dangerous world in which the Arabs - as well as the Israelis - now find themselves in the aftermath of the Netanyahu victory. As the nation which wishes to remain the United States' best Arab friend - and wishes to continue to receive Washington's annual $2.1bn (pounds 1.3bn) of aid - Egypt has to put a brave face on the death of the "peace process". Any hostile words about Israel, and the US Senator Alfonse D'Amato and his friends might pull the plug on the cash flow. The Arabs don't want to be blamed for the collapse of the American-Israeli "peace".

The communique embodies equally deceptive words. The "just and lasting peace" must continue to be based on UN resolutions 242, 338 and 425, which were the basis of the US- organised 1991 Madrid peace conference and which call for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land in return for peace. This was the American deal, and it is this which the new Israeli government now intends to set aside. Syria wished to call for a halt to "normalisation" between Arab states, and it was King Hussein - America's new favourite Arab leader, who is normalising all Jordan's relations with Israel - who threatened to denounce "terrorism" in general and, reportedly, the Syrian- sponsored variety. Thus the call for no further normalisation was dropped in return for the distinction between the murder of civilians and attacks on occupation troops by Syria's Hizbollah allies. Syria's Iranian ally was protected from condemnation by Bahrain but the Emirates were supported in their dispute with Iran over offshore islands by the call for international arbitration.

The "deep concern" over Turkey's new military alliance with Israel was generally accepted because - although Syria is threatened by Israeli F-16s flying in Turkish airspace - all the Arab Mediterranean nations, including Egypt, have been angered by the pact. "We wish to have the best of relations with a sisterly country like Turkey," Mr Moussa said yesterday, without mentioning the distinctly critical clause in the communique. But at the very end of his press conference in the morning, the Egyptian Foreign Minister did level with us.

There were undertakings and principles and signed documents between the Arabs and Israelis which must be respected, he said. The enlargement of settlements on occupied Palestinian land would be "not only an obstacle to peace but also an illegal act". As for the future of Jerusalem, the return of refugees, Jewish settlements and Israeli withdrawal from Arab land, these were the most important issues for Arabs. They are also the very issues Mr Netanyahu has said he will not discuss in his "no-precondition" talks with Arab leaders. And still Amr Moussa believes the "peace process" is alive.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence