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Abdel-Moneim Said

A perilous situation

As Israel's new government rejects in advance all prospects of peace, it
will be Cairo that pays the final cost, writes Abdel-Moneim Said*

Radical Arab dreams have all just crystallised in the new Israeli
government, which has brought together every shade of Israeli extremist.
It consists of those who reject peace, those who want to expel the
remaining Arabs from Israel, and those who maintain that Israel's
relationship with the Palestinians and Arabs is one of permanent
warfare. If the Labour Party was rewarded for crawling on its belly at
the last moment in the hope of winning a few portfolios and a little
political sway, this was only because everyone knows it is on its last
legs. Meanwhile, whatever had remained of the so-called peace camp in
Israel breathed its last with the second Palestinian Intifada and
suicide bombings. Only a paltry handful of left- wing writers and
intellectuals remain to plead for peace, and theirs is indeed a cry in
the wilderness. 
Israel inaugurated its new government with the pronouncement of the
death of the Annapolis agreement. Some Arabs had regarded this agreement
as a major debacle and an Israeli victory that had to be reversed. Well,
this dream also came to pass, as did the departure of its architect,
George W Bush. With the end of Annapolis, it is no longer just the
Palestinians on the far side of the Green Line who are in danger;
Palestinians inside Israel itself face the threat of expulsion and
joining the ranks of the millions of Palestine refugees that preceded
them in earlier decades.
The situation could not be more perilous. Israel had already grown more
belligerent before the formation of the new government. Now it appears
that Gaza was only the beginning and that its teeth are bared against
established Arab countries. The attack against Sudan was ostensibly
intended to target weapons from Iran destined to Hamas in Gaza. Most
likely, the agreement that was concluded between the US and Israel at
the end of the Bush era was intended to provide the legal cover for
plans Israel intended to carry out in any case.
Yet, in spite of this situation, the Arab summit had only one matter to
discuss on this issue, which was whether to wave the threat of
withdrawing the Arab peace initiative. The idea had been given more than
its fair share of bandying about as of late. During the last Davos
summit, Amr Moussa had personally asked Israeli President Shimon Peres
to give his seal of approval for the initiative, which Israel has not
yet done. So, by what logic is withdrawing the initiative supposed to be
a threat when Israel had never accepted it to begin with, and when no
party to the new government has ever been remotely keen on it? 
Apart from this, little else happened in the Arab summit, which was more
concerned with protecting President Omar Al-Bashir from facing the
International Criminal Court than with the Israeli aerial assault on
Sudan. About the latter, Khartoum remained silent for more than two
months until news of it was leaked by Sudanese sources that had thought
that the US was responsible, only to be contradicted by Pentagon
spokespersons who revealed that, no, it was not Washington but rather
Israel that had committed the deed. If that attack could have taken
place under an Israeli government that believed that it was possible to
make peace with the Arabs, and that subscribed to the solution of a
Palestinian and an Israeli state living side by side in peace, what
might we expect from a government like that just formed by Binyamin
What seems painfully evident now is that the Arabs have nothing left.
Also, now that the Arabs have said that the Arab peace initiative will
not remain on the table for long, there will be precious little on the
table, either to say or do. Netanyahu will rejoice because no one will
be interested in the two-state solution any more. As long as this is the
case -- just so we in Egypt are not taken by surprise -- the Arabs and
the Arab League as well will turn to us and insist that we do the "right
thing". The "right thing", according to them, will be to recall our
ambassador and kick out theirs, sever relations and cancel the Qualified
Industrial Zones and oil and gas agreements, and open the borders with
Gaza so that arms can pour in above ground like they did below ground.
But if there is one lesson to be learned from the last Gaza crisis it is
that when the Arab world has no ability to act and no solutions to
offer, it turns to Cairo to pay for policies that are bankrupt from the
* The writer is director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic





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