Arab World in a unique position to influence Palestine conflict

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Ray Hanania’s Column

Not only does the Arab World suffer from poor public relations, they also suffer from poor negotiating skills, especially when the United States is involved.

Look at every instance in which we have bargained:

Under the tutelage of the United States, Egypt signed away its power to an agreement with Israel that gave Egypt little more than what it already owned, the Sinai Peninsula.

The Israelis got everything: an end to the war with its most feared foe; turning over a desert it didn’t really want; and the ability to divide the Arab World into separate “negotiating partners” as it maneuvered to thwart a resolution of the Palestine conflict.

During the war against Iraq, most of the Arab World again aligned itself with the United States allowing the military assault to reach devastating proportions while paving the way for a horrendous embargo that continues to punish Iraqi civilians while leaving its tyrant leader where he already was: isolated internationally.

Once again, the United States has turned to the Arab World for support and imprimatur for its assault on the terrorism of Osama Bin Laden.

Israeli intransigence in refusing to compromise on Palestine and Jerusalem is founded on its American support. As long as the United States stands by Israel in the United Nations and in every international theater, Israel will continue to brush off peace.

Although it appears that Israel maintains a strangle-hold on American foreign policy, the fact is Americans will always place their own self-interest first.

Until now, it has only cost them money to support Israel, to the tune of $5 billion or more each year.

But the attack on the World Trade Center is so heinous and the loss of life so great, Americans are in the process of rethinking the entire Middle East equation.

Israel is desperate to maintain its position in American minds, helping to promote anti-Arab images in the American media. Israel controls the American media as effectively as it has helped to dictate the policies of the US Congress.

But Americans are more desperate and determined to undermine the terrorist threat which has taken nearly 7,000 lives. They are willing to reconsider all options in order to insure that kind of attack does not happen again.

So far, the United States has agreed to exclude Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the most recent order to crack down on the assets of “terrorist” organizations. But that’s not a concession.

In exchange for Arab World support, the United States should agree to re-examine its stance on Palestine and its unwavering support of Israeli intransigence.

A real concession would be to have President Bush block the veto power Israel maintains over American foreign policy.

The Arab World leaders should demand an Arab Summit with President Bush that brings together the leaders of all of the key Arab World countries, including Palestinian Leader Yasir Arafat.

This step alone would signal a major change in American foreign policy by bringing the Arab World back as a unified power rather than as individual nations that can be leveraged against each other.

Secondly, the Arabs should demand that United States force Israel back to the negotiating table, and offer a real land for peace compromise that goes beyond the pathetically insufficient proposal that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat at Camp David in June 2000.

The Barak proposal was so weak it fell far short of what was needed to end the conflict, and signaled to Ariel Sharon that there would not be a peace. Sharon then led his assault on the Aqsa Mosque, a move against Islam that provoked the current Palestinian Intifadah.

Americans are suffering and feeling real pain. They are living in fear of a subsequent attack, resulting in scare headlines in the media about biological and toxic chemical warfare threats, or more plane hijacking suicide missions.

The Arab World should not miss interpret the signals, and they should stop relying on the American media reports which are biased against Arab interests, factually incomplete, and often intentionally misleading.

Israel does not want to make any serious concessions to the Palestinians, and they continue to work to keep the Arab World leadership from coming together with Washington.

The United States can force Israel to make a concession that would restore Arab control over the Old City of Jerusalem and the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites.

Coming together as an Arab World, and regaining a foothold in Jerusalem would be a significant reward that would only serve to strengthen not weaken Arab World interests.

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