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Palestinian protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces amid clashes during a demonstration along the border with Israel, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on December 6, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Last month the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the legitimacy of Israeli colonies built on Palestinian lands in the West Bank, despite the several UN Security Council resolutions deeming these colonies as illegal for being built on illegally seized Palestinian lands.

His statements were followed by an emergency session held in Cairo of all the Arab foreign ministers who affirmed their “condemnation and rejection of the US decision as null, void and lacking any legal effect, for constituting a blatant violation of the UN Charter and resolutions.”

The Arab ministers stated that the US decision was a premeditated attempt to legitimise and support Israeli colonies in occupied territories, and in prejudice to the Arab Initiative in form and substance. They also reasserted condemnation of Israeli illegal and expansionary policy on the occupied Arab Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. They also warned that the position of the US administration of ‘taking unilateral decisions in flagrant contravention of international law and UN resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian cause is posing threat to the security and stability of the region and the world.’

Arabs want peace, but not one shoved down with the barrel of a gun. Peace without justice are just words on paper.

- Tariq A. Al Maeena, Saudi commentator

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan was equally vocal of the kingdom’s rejection of the new American position towards the Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories. Prince Faisal said the Palestinian issue was one that was close to King Salman’s heart and the support for Palestine will remain steadfast and unwavering. "The kingdom is committed to finding a just and a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue and affirms that resolving the Palestinian issue is the main pillar for achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East."

Perhaps not fully considerate of the abrupt rejection by the Arab foreign ministers, Pompeo in a tweet called on Arab states to engage with Israel and end their boycott to achieve regional stability. Pompeo tweeted: ‘It’s time for Arab countries to abandon boycotts and engage with Israel.”

Active aggressors

Pompeo should have addressed his concerns and calls for diplomacy towards the Israeli government, seen as the active aggressors in the region. They are the ones in the driver’s seat so to speak, seizing Palestinian lands on a whim and then clearing the way for additional Israeli colonies in full violation of international laws.

Pompeo should also take a look back in history and refer to a peace plan offered by the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia earlier this century when he proposed full peace and normalisation of relations with Israel by all 22 Arab states, in return for full the withdrawal from all occupied lands and creation of a Palestinian state. The Council of Arab States held in Beirut later that year unanimously adopted the Saudi-inspired peace plan.

There were no hidden agendas in King Abdullah’s proposal. Understanding that a military solution to the conflict would not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, nor would it be in the interest of the people in the region both Israelis and Arabs, he managed to get the commitment from all Arab states on restoring peace and calling for full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Comprehensive peace

Abdullah’s plan called for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land-for-peace principle, and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.

The peace plan also asked for full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon and the realisation of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Peace with justice would indeed be a strategic option for all parties.

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Unfortunately, the ruling Israeli government led by Ariel Sharon displayed their contempt for the proposal by the seizure and building of more Israeli colonies, and continued the practice till today. In focusing his attention towards the Arabs today, Pompeo has perhaps misunderstood his role of an honest broker.

The Arabs want peace, but not one shoved down with the barrel of a gun. Peace without justice are just words on paper.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena