I wonder what full diplomatic ties with the Arab world are worth to Israel. The prospect of a new Arab invasion has never been lower, with Syria in turmoil and Iraq in ruins. Yet, the democratic swell from the Arab Spring has cast future relations with Egypt in doubt and thrown the region into confusion. Elected Arab leaders are more dangerous to Israel than kings and dictators because they must answer to their people who are stridently opposed to Israel’s occupation of land seized in the 1967 war. If Israel could get diplomatic relations with the Arab world at an early point in this democratization process, it could be a huge boon. Without it, Arab politicians may vie with each other to be the most anti-Israel.
I also think that there is an economic component that should be considered. Diplomatic ties can lead to economic ties, and Israel has a lot of potential for growth. It might be more convincing to the Israeli electorate to make an economic argument for peace than a security argument. And I believe that the biggest obstacle to peace right now is the Israeli electorate. The Arab League is making a reasonable offer to do land swaps rather than insisting on the pre-1967 lines. Yet, the reaction hasn’t been all that receptive.
Israel will keep refusing to negotiate on the basis of a total withdrawal from land it seized during the 1967 Six-Day War, a minister said Wednesday after the Arab League modified its peace plan.
“If Israel agrees to come to the negotiating table while accepting in advance that talks would be held on the basis of the 1967 lines, there wouldn’t be very much to negotiate about,” said Gilad Erdan, a minister in the security cabinet and considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We cannot start negotiations after agreeing in advance to give up everything,” he told public radio…
…“I hope that Abu Mazen doesn’t think that Israel will give up its positions and agree to hand over all the land where we believe we have a right to settle,” said Erdan, referring to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Obviously, Israel’s “right to settle” land they obtained in the 1967 war is the key bone of contention, but the whole point of the Arab League’s new proposal is that they are giving up on asking Israel to give up “all” of it. The problem for Israeli leaders is that a lot of the voting public is currently residing on occupied land, which makes it politically difficult to say ‘yes’ even to reasonable offers.
It’s a problem of their own creation, but a problem nonetheless.