To the Israelis….Your security for Palestine’s
By: Jamal Khashoggi
When former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal published his famous article in Israeli daily Haaretz several weeks ago, he urged Israelis to accept the Arab peace initiative in order to enjoy peace and allow others in the region to do so as well. His article stirred a storm of criticism because its timing seemed inappropriate as it coincided with the launch of Israel’s war against the Palestinians. However, there is no better time than wartime to talk about the importance of peace.
This is what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry does: he modifies, adds and constructs an initiative for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. This initiative is not only based on the principle of “first the cease-fire and then we’ll talk,” which was rejected by Hamas. It is an initiative that is based on solving the roots of the problem, which for the Palestinians is the “occupation and blockade” while for the Israelis it is the issue of “security.” Kerry’s initiative was vetoed by the Israelis and Palestinians (Hamas, to be precise) who regarded the formula as inappropriate.
Israel believes that the blockade and the occupation are essential for its security. It even wants to go beyond this: It is calling for the destruction of tunnels that have become a nightmare for it and were behind the killing of half of the 50 Israeli soldiers who have died so far in the conflict. These tunnels mean Palestinian commandos have the advantage in terms of the element of surprise which compensates for their lack of advancement armaments that Israeli soldiers possess.
Israel knows that if Hamas succeeded in building an enormous network of tunnels stretching under Gaza and reaching the occupied, blockaded Palestinian territories of 1948, Kerry’s initiative would be of no benefit to it, especially with the lifting of the blockade, the opening of the port, the re-construction of the airport and the opening of the crossings, all of which are under international guarantees. Therefore, the Israelis are right and Hamas is stubborn and wishes to exterminate Israel. It has so far refused to recognize the state of Israel or even declare that it is ready to recognize it. Hamas still calls it “Palestine: from the river to the sea,” and believes that Palestine is an eternal Islamic endowment and no one has the right to waiver an inch of it.
Isreael seeks buffer zone
Israel also wants to demarcate the buffer zone between it and the Gaza Strip. And since Israel believes in its superiority and despises the Palestinians, as in the case of descriptions of the Palestinians as lacking a love for life (any reader can find such racist statements in Israelis speeches), Israel wants this buffer zone to be on the already narrow Gazan territory. It also wants to establish security measures that enable the Israelis to roam freely in regions like the areas “B” and “C” of the West Bank so that Israelis can storm into any Palestinian house and arrest him at any time, with the knowledge of the authority. It can keep him detained for years and the authority that is responsible for the protection of Palestinians will not be able to formally lodge a complaint, in accordance with the disgraceful Oslo Accords.
Also, Hamas strongly rejects this initiative and refuses disarmament, which is being demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is supported by the chorus of the Jewish lobby in Washington. This lobby has strongly criticized Kerry and the Obama administration. Its views were shamelessly expressed by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who stated on Monday that the United States should not be a mediator between Israel and its enemies as it should be Israel’s partner. He made things worse by saying that “Israel’s enemy is our enemy,” thus making all the Arabs, their nations and Muslims the enemies of the United States. Israel’s friends cannot even proclaim their friendship these days.
So, there is no hope in reaching any agreement. The head of the political bureau of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has even said: “We will submit our weapons when Israel does so,” and regardless of the debate over the balance of power in the confrontations and the quality of arms of both parties, Hamas’ weapon is what made the world re-experience the Palestinian cause.
‘Safety for safety’ principle
Leaders of major countries met in Paris last week in order to discuss this cause, so is there a solution that combines the right of Israel to ensure its security and the right of the Palestinians to be armed so that there will be a balance of power and mutual deterrence, a situation that is present all over the world where most countries live in peace despite being armed to the teeth?
Theoretically, the answer is yes. Any lasting peace project should be based on this mutual right. But who will convince the American “peace mediators – Israel partners”? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was close to achieving half the equation as “the root of the problem is the occupation” but he is still far from achieving the second half that is “security for security (mutual security or no security).”
Kerry is still far from achieving the second half of the equation: ‘security for security (mutual security or no security)
Hamas’ commitment might bring the U.S. and the world closer to this fact. Kerry has not given up until now on achieving peace in the Gaza Strip. He started to communicate with Hamas through other parties, and this is good news. It is true that he gave Netanyahu absolute power in Gaza so that he can perhaps achieve a victory over Hamas and entirely exterminate it from the Palestine political map but he knows well, like others, that this is impossible.
Therefore, he is still talking about a radical solution for the cause that he knows well to the extent that he believes that one day he will be able to resolve it. He started shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem as soon as he was appointed foreign minister last year and, in a surprise move, announced his intention to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. There were no favorable conditions for it. After a year of shuttling, he failed to achieve this but he certainly learned a lot about the cause.
Kerry talks today about the “roots” of the problem in Gaza, which is the occupation and the blockade, but at the same time he talks about the inherited theory of “Israel’s security first,” which stipulates that any peace process must be based on the protection of Israel’s security by confiscating the arsenal of its opponents “or destroying their tunnels.” It is time to put this theory behind us because there will never be peace in the region under it. Hamas’ ability to face Israel’s security in the ongoing battle proved that. This theory must be replaced by one based on “security for security” and the armament of both sides to maintain security and peace.
Israel will not be able to defeat the Arabs; it can defeat some of them but not all. Hamas, which is just a fighting faction and not a state, has demonstrated that no one can prevent an Arab resistance from developing its ability. A year ago, Hamas’ missiles were modest but today their range is farther and more threatening, so what will tomorrow hold? As long as there is “occupation and blockade” and others, Hamas will seek to possess the most powerful weapon; science, training and technology are accessible to everyone.
Here comes the role of the “Arab Peace Initiative” that Prince Turki al-Faisal tried to promote to the Israelis. It is time for Mr. Kerry, the Arab League and the international community to help him in that. The sacrifices of the Gazans and the lives of their children should not go in vain. The solution should not be restricted to the lifting of the blockade and opening of the crossings, the port and the airport. All of this will go in vain and war will relapse as long as the U.S. supports the racist superiority theory of Israel that gives priority to its security. Israel will surely repeat its hostility after in a year or two since this is its sole skill ever since it was established. Another Palestinian suicide attack will be Israel’s excuse and this will certainly happen again as long as there is an occupation.
“Security for security” is logical. John Kerry must accept it and seek to convince Washington about it if he wants to install peace in the region, even if it was suggested recently by Mohammad Deif, the leader of the “Izz al-Din al-Qassam” brigades. Kerry believes that Deif is a terrorist, but for his people he is seen as a liberation victor. Therefore I repeat: “security for security.”
(Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.)