They Say/We Say: "Israel was right to reject the Arab Peace Initiative (API)"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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They Say, We Say: Is Peace Possible?

They Say:Israel was right to reject the Arab Peace Initiative (API) when it was introduced in 2002. The Arabs presented Israel with a take-it-or-leave it proposal that was completely unacceptable. Maybe today the API can be useful, but only if the Arabs recognize that the most important thing for everyone is normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world. Only after that can there be any chance of moving ahead toward an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
We Say: Israel’s decision to initially ignore and subsequently reject the API was a mistake. By reacting to the API in this manner, Israel wasted a strategic opportunity to show the region and the world that it truly wants peace. More importantly, Israel squandered a promising chance to make progress both toward peace with the Palestinians and normalization with other Arab states. Whether such peace and normalization could have, ultimately, come out of the API is not known; what is known is that Israel chose not to even explore the option.

This does not mean that Israel was required to accept every word of the API without reservation. It does mean Israel could have reacted positively and constructively to the initiative – seeking actively to engage Arab backers of the API and to promote Israeli-Palestinian negotiations directly linked to the implementation of the API. Doing so could have built Israeli popular support for peace by offering much bigger dividends for Israel, most notably by opening the door to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict and to normalization of Israel’s relations in the region. It could also have given Palestinian leaders desperately needed regional cover in negotiating difficult compromises over core issues like the future of Jerusalem and refugees.

Today, the API remains on the table, even if Arab support for it is far less certain. If Israel is serious about peace, its leaders can still shift gears and sincerely consider the API. However, the notion that Israel can cherry-pick the API – that it can “pocket” normalization, which the Arab League clearly offered as a fruit of peace with the Palestinians, without first making peace with the Palestinians – is a delusion. Until such time as Israel is prepared to be serious about ending the occupation and achieving a two-state agreement with the Palestinians, relations between Israel and Arab countries will remain, at best, abnormal and below the radar.