quotes Act now: Implement Saudi Arabia’s 2002 Arab Peace Initiative

12 April 2024
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Updated 11 April 2024

Act now: Implement Saudi Arabia’s 2002 Arab Peace Initiative

Six months ago, Hamas’s actions precipitated an Israeli onslaught of titanic dimensions on the people of Gaza. As Arab countries condemned the actions of Hamas, Israel was already preparing a war that would far outstrip Hamas in terms of death and destruction, killing more than 33,000 Gazans, destroying almost every building standing in Gaza, and forcing its population to flee and starve in the most abject and inhumane conditions. After almost six months, this massacre continues daily, all while the world watches live footage of Israeli atrocities that even the Israelis no longer seek to hide.

Israeli ministers have declared multiple times that their aim is to raze Gaza to the ground, to force its people to flee and never come back, to cut off all food, water and fuel to them. Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared in December: “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.” In the dreams of such Israelis, all Gazans would be removed from Gaza, whether by watching their haggard bodies flee to Egypt or Jordan, or by bombing the life out of them all, even by a nuclear bomb as yet another Israeli minister suggested.

We cannot say today that we were not warned. Israel’s declared policy has been followed since day one, and every day that passes brings further death, destruction and suffering to Gazans, qualifying at the very least as collective punishment and war crimes, but arguably as genocide. While words of concern have been expressed at the murder of the Gazan people, world governments have overwhelmingly assented, both actively and passively, to Israel’s continued assault. Ordinary people with real consciences have been demonstrating on the streets of the world, of the West, even in the US, reminding our leaders that nowhere else would such indiscriminate death and destruction be tolerated for even a day, let alone for six interminable months.

The uproar we have witnessed in the media and on the part of world governments over the Israeli killing of foreign aid workers — seven heroic aid workers from around the world working for the NGO World Central Kitchen — is even more painful considering the mournful speeches deploring this unpardonable violation of human life, human rights and international law are not regularly heard to mark the daily deaths of innumerable and equally brave and innocent Palestinians.

The deaths of tens of thousands of brave and caring human beings do not even register in the minds and consciences of Western officials. There is no option but to require Israel to immediately halt its crimes against humanity.

Even worse, as the US and Europe call on Egypt and Qatar to mediate a deal to free Israeli hostages in exchange for “increased protection” of civilian lives in Gaza, they seem to entirely forget that hundreds of additional Gazan civilians will be killed, starved or maimed in the meantime. Every day Gazans lose their parents, their children, their loved ones in horrendous circumstances. We cannot afford to delay a single minute, let alone a few days, let alone six whole months. In Gaza, the spring flowers of renewed life and love are not blossoming. The deaths of tens of thousands of brave and caring human beings do not even register in the minds and consciences of Western officials. There is no option but to require Israel to immediately halt its crimes against humanity, and, equally, for Hamas to release its hostages.

There should not be the slightest hesitation on the part of any human being regarding the need for an immediate halt to Israeli hostilities. There should not have been the slightest hesitation on halting Israel almost six months ago, when the intentions and ensuing deaths of innocents were no less clear than they are today. It is no secret that we Arabs were once distressed by an Israeli state that was established at the expense of Palestinians who had been living on the land for centuries. It should be no less a secret that we Arabs have been extending a hand of peace to Israel for at least 20 years, most notably with the Saudi-driven Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

The greatest heartbreak of this unending human tragedy is that we have had the parameters of a necessary resolution of the conflict ready to be implemented for decades. UN resolutions 181, 242, and 338, President Bill Clinton’s Taba peace parameters, Saudi Arabia’s Arab Peace Initiative of 2002; the international consensus for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been clearly codified and ready to implement all this time. The human and legal questions have very been answered. How is it possible for the Balfour Declaration or the 1948 Establishment of Israel to have been implemented so effortlessly, but for peace still to lie waiting after 75 years?

The Five Books of the Jewish Torah express many of the same lessons and values as the New Testament of the Christians and the Qur’an of the Muslims. The Book of Exodus tells Jews not to kill and not to be unjust to a stranger but to help them instead. Deuteronomy asks Jews to act with justice and righteousness and to give generously to the needy. The Torah as a whole insists on fairness, on helping the vulnerable, and on atoning through sacrifice. We all serve the same God, and we all subscribe to the same human values. Countless Jewish and Israeli personalities are among the most respected humanists and universalists the world has known. It is time for Israelis to reappropriate these fundamental values and begin applying them to their neighbors.

If America can turn around after almost six months and suddenly require Israel to at least make an attempt to heed innocent Palestinian lives, then America can also suddenly affirm upon its Israel ally its determination to finally implement the internationally accepted parameters for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians without delay. After all these decades, we really must ask, what is the holdup here? The West and the US have an obligation to the world, and to Israelis and Palestinians in particular, to implement peace without further delay.

 • Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked closely with Saudi Arabia’s petroleum ministers, Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani, from 1959 to 1967. He led the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981 and served with the Arab League’s observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.