According to a new poll three quarters of Israelis support a peace deal based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Arab league presented in 2002 an initiative for peace and normalization with Israel from the Arab and Muslim world. The agreement, according to former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, would have been an ”opportunity of historic magnitude ”, that would ”provide Israel with the security and recognition and acceptance in this region, to which Israel has long aspired.”
Well isn’t that just charming. Israel will ”just” have to give up disputed land and is promised peace and security by Arab states. As an extra bonus even Iran signed the deal.
In 2005 Israel gave up land and left Gaza. Tens of thousands of missiles against Israel from Gaza was the bitter result of that.
The Arab Peace Initiative might sound great as it is prepared for Israelis and Israelis are prepared to live in peace. But are the in fact two Palestinian Authorities (Fatah and Hamas) and their population prepared? Is the vast majority of the population in the Arab World ready for genuine peace with Israel?
The truth is that the Arab world is not ready for peace. Anti-Semitism is still strong in the Arab world and it will take decades and generations of hard work from the democratic world to remove it and replace it with not only democracy but with genuine democratic values of coexistence.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) still glorifies terror against Israel and teaches Arab children, that fighting Israel is the only way ”to liberate Palestine”. The PA teaches children at school, that this is part of their not only national duty but also part of their religious duty and goal. The war against the Jews is not only taught by the Hamas as many in the Western world thinks.
The Palestinian media development and media education, which my country Sweden has the intention to use as a tool to democratize a future Palestinian state by funding it with aid, have showed very little or no signs at all to be part of building the democratic structure for a future Palestinian state.
Rockets have continued to fall in 2013 from Gaza into Israel and resulted in Israelis being killed. In Israel Palestinian individuals living in Judea and Samaria have killed Israeli citizens and some terrorists even stated they have attempted to carry out terror attacks to end up in Israeli jail, in order to get paid salaries by the PA and to be honored as heroes with a hero’s privileges when they return after enjoying the Israeli prison standards.
So there is the aspect of the Arab hostility to the existence of Israel and to the existence of sovereign Jews, that both Hamas and Fatah represent and there is also the democratic aspect that talks against that genuine peace and a democratic state can be established in a very close future.
In order to have a genuine peace the entity that you can have peace with should show it embraces democratic and peaceful principles within itself.
Hamas uses the death penalty. In 2013 at least five individuals were executed in Gaza for cooperating with Israel according to Amnesty Internationals annual report. A government, that is ready for peace and the establishment of a state, does not sentence its own people to death nor prison for cooperating with Israel. It should give such brave men and women a hero’s status. Yet another sign that the representatives of the Arabs in Gaza are not ready for peace.
In the PA controlled parts of Judea and Samaria and Hamas controlled Gaza freedom of press is limited and journalists who are critical to Hamas and Fatah are jailed. If an Arab journalist wants to work freely as a journalist in the Middle East he has no other option than leaving for Israel.Furthermore hundreds of Fatah members and Hamas members were jailed in 2013 by the PA in Ramallah for political reasons.
How is then a state of peace built between people?
Naftali Bennett from Habait Hayehudi, who is part of the Israeli government, has stated many times that peace must be built bottom up.
This has not been how the reality has looked in the Middle East, where hate against Jews has been built from the top to the bottom. European countries and the US have contributed to preserving generations kept in the shackles of hatred towards Israel and Jews by providing financial aid to countries and authorities that kept their people in hatred.
But in Israel, where about twenty percent of the population are Israeli Arabs, a change has taken place and the change takes place bottom up.
Despite the fact that the Israeli Arabs today have Arab political representatives of whom a majority is in anti-zionist parties, since 2005 the annual number of Arabs enlisted in national service has increased from only 270 in 2005 to 3,611 in 2014. People like political activist and Arab Israeli zionist Anett Haskia and father Gabriel Naddaf continue to encourage their communities to enlist in the IDF and integrate in the Israeli society.
Arab Israelis who are brave and embrace coexistence, normalization and integration within the democratic Jewish State are representing the true examples of how peace building must happen. That is how we, in many cases, have built peace in Europe and it will be how peace has to be built in the Middle East as well. In Judea and Samaria this bottom up peace is built from engaging Arabs in Israeli businesses in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, like Ariel and from continued strengthening of trade cooperation between Arabs in Judea and Samaria and Israelis.
The US and European countries and all of us have to learn from, listen and consider Naftali Bennett’s idea of bottom up peace building and we have to study the work of genuinely pro-Israel Arabs and Israeli Arabs if we consider that we want to be part of making genuine peace happen in the Middle East.