Thursday , September 20 2018

Still life in ‘Astana’

Ahmed Al-Jarallah – Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

FOR the past 30 years since the issuance of the UN Resolution No. 194, which ruled on the division of Palestine into two countries – Jewish and Arab, Arabs have been rejecting every peace initiative with Israel.

Due to this, Arabs, instead of liberating the land which was occupied by this new state in 1948, ended up losing the entire land of Palestine as well as significant chunks of land in Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

For decades, Arabs have been unrealistic in their approach concerning the Palestinian issue. After every defeat in their wars against Israel, the stances taken by Arabs became more extreme, starting with the late Jamal Abdul Nasser’s chant “Striving to cast the Jews into the sea” and reaching the chant “Liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea”.

Even after the initiative of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, which was characterized by realism, the Arab countries, parties and organizations continued to reject every peace initiative with Israel to the extent of disagreeing on the Arab Peace Initiative, which was endorsed during the Beirut Arab League Summit in 2002.

In 1977, Anwar Al-Sadat realized that Arabs are incapable of liberating Palestine following the change in the international political balance. He realized that the 1973 war, despite its huge success, will never help in completely resolving the issue, and that Arab nations perhaps needed several wars to regain at least what it lost in 1967, rather than what it lost in 1948.

Based on this realization, Al-Sadat then threw the ball in the Israeli court when he visited Israel and announced his support of the peace process.

At that time, Al-Sadat, who was accused of treason, was fully aware of what it meant to convince and bring Israel to the negotiation table and urge it for peaceful withdrawal.

At “Camp David”, Egypt regained Sinai with its oil and wealth, and went on to reopen the Suez Canal. When the wheel of internal development started rolling, extremism and ignorance assassinated Al-Sadat.

Now after 20 years, Arabs including Palestinians are convinced about the correctness of Al-Sadat’s approach towards the Palestinian case.

In the past two days, conflicting Syrian parties have been meeting at the negotiation table in the capital city of Kazakhstan, Astana.

During the negotiations, the Syrian opposition faced the real challenge, which is its ability to protect its people from murders and displacement, and prevent the division of Syria. The opposition needs to learn from the experience of Al-Sadat, and how his approach embarrassed Israel and forced it for peace negotiations.

If the opposition succeeds in that, it will bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, the gruesomeness of which intensifies on a daily basis without hint of a complete ceasefire.

Even after six years of war, Al-Assad has not fallen. Syria appears to be a horrific mosaic of terrorist groups and foreign military forces which threaten the existence of Syria as a unified country.

The international community, which has started feeling the heat of terrorism, has not yet figured out a sound alternative. Even the armed factions are unable to agree on a unified vision.

Undoubtedly, every Syrian is against the idea of the division of their country, regardless of their affiliations. Because of this, the opposition must do everything at its disposal to ensure that an end to the war trounces any other demand. It should strive for peace without holding on to unrealistic chants for reaching the power or even for political participation.

If the opposition fails to end the conflict or to even agree on a peaceful solution, this will represent an opportunity for the occupying forces of Iran and its terrorist groups to prolong their stay in Syria and continue shedding the blood of Syrians in order to cement its existence in that country.

The people of Syria are no longer interested on the form of regime or government. They are in dire need for the restoration of stability and peace in Syria and an end to useless deaths. This is the reality for which the opposition ought to work towards achieving before its popularity starts fading away and it eventually is shunned.

So far, the achievements gained in Astana by the concerned parties represent opportunities that should not be wasted. In fact, it can be the basis for a new start, as Moscow can play the role of “Camp David” where Washington had imposed the signing of peace agreement over the most complicated conflict in the world.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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