Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, July 2014
Is Changing the Israeli Mindset Possible?
By Alan Hart
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 20, 2016
In a recent article, “Charting a new course”, Alon Ben-Meir made the statement that “Only the Palestinians can modify and subsequently change the Israelis’ mindset.” The modification and subsequent change he hopes for would climax with a majority of Israel’s Jews insisting that their leaders stop being the victims of their own propaganda and make peace on terms the Palestinians could accept.
As those familiar with my work know, I think most Israeli Jews have been brainwashed by Zionist propaganda to the point where they are and will most likely remain beyond reason on the matter of justice for the Palestinians. But in this article, and for the sake of discussion, I am going to take Ben-Meir’s argument a big step forward and explore how, perhaps, the Israeli mindset could be changed.
For those not familiar with the Baghdad-born, Jewish-American Alon Ben-Meir, he is a widely respected expert on the Middle East. He is also a self-declared “passionate proponent” of the Arab Peace Initiative, of which more later.
The essence of his case is that the Palestinians must recognize that the average Israeli believes they do not seek real peace and are still committed to Israel’s destruction.
Opening the Israeli mind to the truth
That is indeed what most Israelis have been conditioned to believe, so the key question seems to me to be something like this. What could be done and by whom to open Israeli minds to the truth?
The essence of the truth to which all Israeli Jews need to be exposed is in two parts.
Arafat’s historic compromise
Leaving aside the fact that despite some stupid rhetoric to the contrary, the Arab regimes never, ever, had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine, the first is that the pragmatic Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, prepared the ground on his side for peace on terms which any rational Israeli government would have accepted with relief as far back as the end of 1979 – more than 35 years ago! He did it by persuading the Palestine National Council (PNC), then the highest decision-making Palestinian body, to endorse by 296 votes to four his policy of politics and what until then had been unthinkable compromise with Israel.
From then on the deal available to Israel was peace based on an end to its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to create the space for a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem its capital or the whole of Jerusalem an open, undivided city and the capital of two states. Arafat subsequently informed Israeli leaders through secret emissaries that he and his senior Fatah leadership colleagues accepted that the Palestinian right of return would have to be restricted to the land of the sovereign Palestinian state. (It took Arafat 10 long years to sell the idea of unthinkable compromise with Israel first to his Fatah leadership colleagues and then the PNC. At the beginning of this demonstration of real leadership he knew he was putting his credibility with his own people and perhaps even his life on the line. Israel’s response was an invasion of Lebanon all the way to Beirut where the PLO was then based with the aim of exterminating its entire leadership and destroying its infrastructure.)
Arab Peace Initiative
The second part of the essence of the truth to which all Israeli Jews need to be exposed is that there is on the table, and has been since 2002, an Arab peace plan. Because I am going to suggest that a massive promotion of it offers perhaps the only hope for changing the Israeli mindset, let’s now take a look at it.
Formally known as the Arab Peace Initiative (API), it was first presented on 27 March 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League by then Crown Prince and today King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. (Arafat was unable to attend the summit because Sharon’s government told him that if he left the occupied West Bank he would not be allowed to return). The API has since been re-endorsed by Arab leaders on a number of occasions.
What’s in the API for Israel?
An end to the conflict and with the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement the establishment of normal relations between Israel and the entire Arab world (and also, although the API does not say so, the establishment of normal relations between Israel and the entire Muslim world including Iran).
What does Israel have to do to secure this deal?
It has to end its occupation of all Arab land (including the Syrian Golan Heights) grabbed in 1967. It has to accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem its capital. And it has to agree to a just solution of the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 194 of 11 December 1948.
This resolution states that
the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest possible date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss or damage of property which, under principles of international or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.
One of several given reasons for the instant, knee-jerk rejection by Israel’s leaders of the API when it was first presented was that the return of Palestinian refugees would swamp the “Jewish state” and turn it into an Arab state. From Zionism’s pathological perspective that fear was well grounded. But if Israel’s leaders had been interested in peace on terms other than their own – which require a Palestinian surrender to Zionism’s will – they could have discovered through back-channel exploration that the API was open to negotiation so far as Arab leaders were concerned. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, subsequently said so.
In particular, Israel’s leaders could have discovered that if they engaged in good faith negotiations for a comprehensive peace arising out of the API, the Arabs would effectively endorse Arafat’s pragmatism by accepting that the return of Palestinian refugees would have to be restricted to the territory of the Palestinian state – not Israel inside its borders as they were on 4 June 1967.
As I have pointed out in previous articles, Arafat was well aware that if his pragmatism on the matter of the return of the refugees had become public while he was preparing the ground on his side for peace, he would have been accused by some Palestinians of betraying their cause. When I discussed this with Arafat he made two comments. One was to the effect that it was better for the Palestinians to have “some justice rather than none”. The other was an expression of his hope that a two-state peace might lead eventually to a one-state by mutual consent. So he did not regard his compromise on the return of the refugees as necessarily closing that door for ever.
The other thing Israel’s leaders could have discovered about the flexibility of the API is that its requirement for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian state is not a take it or leave it option. If Israel’s leaders were prepared to negotiate for a real peace, Arab leaders would be very open to the idea that Jerusalem should be an undivided, open city and the capital of two states.
To sum up so far: in return for an end to its occupation of all Arab land grabbed in 1967 (in a war of Israeli aggression not self-defence) the API offered and still offers Israel a comprehensive peace with the governments and therefore the vast majority of the peoples of the entire Arab and wider Muslim worlds. (Within that context it’s reasonable to assume that violent Islamic fundamentalism in all its manifestations could be isolated, contained and defeated.)
The main reason why Israel’s leaders are not under any internal pressure to take the API seriously is, as indicated by public opinion polls, that the vast majority of (Jewish) Israelis have not been informed about it.
That being so the question arising is this.
Would the truth open Israeli minds?
Would knowledge of the API, I mean a real and true understanding of what it offers Israel, be enough to change the mindset of a significant majority of Israelis to the point where they insisted that their leaders responded positively to it in order to get good faith negotiations for a comprehensive peace underway.
For the sake of discussion I am going to assume that the answer is “Perhaps”.
In that light the question that needs to be asked and answered is this.
What can be done to inform all Israelis about what is on offer to them in the API?
My answer is that the Arab League should call and push for the convening of a special session of the UN General Assembly to focus on the API.
The UN Charter (Chapter IV, Article 20) provides for the General Assembly to meet in special sessions. It states:
The General Assembly shall meet in regular annual sessions and in such special sessions as occasion may require. Special sessions shall be convoked by the secretary-general at the request of the Security Council or of a majority of the members of the United Nations.
So, if the Obama administration blocked a request for a special session on the API from the Security Council to the secretary-general, it could be made to happen by a majority of all the member countries.
At the special session the foreign ministers of each and every country in the Arab and wider Muslim world would re-endorse the API, spell out what is in it for Israel and indicate that if Israel was prepared to negotiate in good faith, a final agreement for a comprehensive peace would state that the return of Palestinian refugees is to be restricted to the territory of an independent and sovereign Palestine (with compensation for those unable to return), and, that Jerusalem would be an undivided, open city and the capital of two states.
In their own and various ways Arab and other Muslim foreign ministers could also take the opportunity to speak directly to all Israeli Jews. The main message to them would boil down to something like this.
If you really want peace on terms that guarantee your security and wellbeing and an acceptable amount of justice for the Palestinians, it’s time for you to stop believing the propaganda of your leaders and insist that they negotiate in good faith. Peace and security for all is there for the taking so far as the Arab and wider Muslim worlds are concerned.
Media coverage of such an event ought to guarantee that most if not all Israelis were made aware of what they had to gain from a real peace process kick started by the API. No doubt some writers, broadcasters and other commentators in the Israeli media would assert that it was all an Arab and other Muslim confidence trick, and that Arabs and all Muslims were never to be trusted. But the message from such an event would be clear to all but those whose minds have been closed and locked by decades of Zionist propaganda
Would such an event be enough to change the mindset of a majority of Israeli Jews and cause them to insist that their leaders be serious about negotiating a comprehensive peace on terms that would provide an acceptable amount of justice for the Palestinians and security for all?
My answer is, probably not but it’s well worth a try.
Does the Arab League have the political will to take such an initiative?
My answer is, probably not but it should.
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