Mar. 31, 2017
Can Egypt Drive Moderate Arab States to Talk Mideast Peace? – Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
- Could Egypt broker a regional peace plan based on the bloc of pragmatic (or moderate) Arab states? Could such a bloc even arise given the political and military situation in the Middle East?
- Egypt is embroiled in an endless fight against terrorist attacks on all its borders and is, therefore, primarily focused on its own security problems. At the same time, relations between Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are strained because PA President Abbas rejected Egyptian President Sisi’s initiative for a summit in Cairo with Prime Minister Netanyahu and is reluctant to cooperate with Cairo regarding Hamas.
- Moreover, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Egypt mean conditions are not ideal for the creation of a coalition of pragmatic states acting together to promote a peace process. It is hard to see how they could agree on a common approach.
- There is discussion of a solution based on the Saudi-Arab peace initiative formulated in 2002 and endorsed by the Arab League in 2007. It entails preconditions that Israel cannot accept such as withdrawal from all territories taken in 1967: not only the West Bank, but also eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as the Shaba Farms (Mount Dov) on the Lebanese and Syrian borders. It also entails “the solution of the [Palestinian] refugee problem.” All Arab countries, Egypt included, are united in considering that these preconditions must be met to ensure the end of the conflict.
- Today, Sisi is sincerely committed to promoting a peace agreement aiming for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. Being part of the Arab and Islamic world is embedded in Egypt’s constitution. Can it then diverge from the Arab consensus regarding the core issues relative to the conflict, take the lead in the negotiations and bring about needed Palestinian concessions?
- Could Saudi Arabia, keeper of the two holy sites of Islam, endorse an agreement regarding Jerusalem that would not leave the Temple Mount in Arab/Muslim hands? Undoubtedly, those states would like to see an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but cannot free themselves of their traditional positions.
The writer, a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Romania and Sweden.