Dr. Yoav J. Tenembaum
Barack Obama was due to publish a new peace plan for the Middle East during his state visit to Egypt in early June.
Some of the terms included in President Obama's Peace Plan had been leaked following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington. However, according to Israeli diplomatic sources, Israel had not been privy to the contents of President Obama's Peace Plan. Indeed, according to these sources, President Obama may just advance a few general principles, rather than present a detailed peace plan as such. So as to confirm the latter, the White House Spokesman said that Barak Obama would not present a detailed peace plan, but rather some general principles.
Whichever form President Obama's statement will take, he should be aware that History does not augur well for any Arab-Israeli peace plan advanced by an outside party.
At the end of 1954 the United States and Britain devised the “Alpha Plan” designed to bring about Arab-Israeli peace. It entailed, among other things, territorial concessions by Israel in the Negev desert and the repatriation of Arab refugees into Israel.
The Alpha Plan never materialized. Israel was staunchly opposed to it and the Arabs, though positively inclined to some of its terms, declined to recognize Israel and negotiate any peace agreement with it.
Following the 1967 Six Day War, the so-called Rogers Plan was put forward by US Secretary of State William Rogers in December 1969. The plan called for Arab Israeli peace based on mutual recognition and Israeli withdrawal from the territories Israel had captured during the Six Day War, with some minor modifications.
This plan failed as well. The Arab side was adamantly opposed to negotiate peace with Israel and to recognize it, notwithstanding the terms advanced. Israel declined to accept the territorial component of the Rogers Plan.
A further attempt at delineating a peace plan aimed at solving the Arab-Israeli conflict was put forward by President Ronald Reagan in September 1982. The Reagan Plan called for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in the context of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation.
The Israeli government declined to accept it, in part due to the simple fact that the United States had not coordinated in advance the shaping of this peace plan with Israel, while doing so with Jordan and other Arab factors. The Palestinian Arabs, for their part, did not envisage a territorial solution of the conflict within a Jordanian-Palestinian federation.
No peace plan devised by an outside factor has ever succeeded in bringing about peace between the Arabs and the Israelis.
The peace accords and any interim agreements signed by Israel and an Arab counterpart were the result of direct negotiations or the outcome of negotiations in which an outside party played the role of active mediator or facilitator.
That was the case of the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Framework Agreement of September 1978 and the subsequent Egyptian-Israeli Peace Agreement of March 1979 in which President Jimmy Carter played the role of active mediator.
In the case of the Oslo Agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization of September 1993, Norway played the role of facilitator.
Henry Kissinger, as Secretary of State, helped mediate the interim accords between Egypt and Israel and Syria and Israel, following the Yom Kippur war of 1973.
In none of the aforementioned cases did the outside party devise a detailed peace plan as a basis for its mediation or facilitating role and in none of the cases in which an outside party put forward a detailed peace plan was that outside party successful in becoming an active mediator.
To be sure, a country not directly involved in the conflict may publish a peace plan in order to advance indirectly some wider regional interests of its own; the implementation of such a peace plan not being necessarily its main objective.
Indeed, this may be one of the main objectives of President Obama's Peace Plan: to improve the image of the United States in, and consequently to establish a closer relationship with, the Arab and Muslim world more generally.
However, if President Obama intends to be active and sincerely wishes to implement his peace plan, he should be careful to assess the history of previous peace plans advanced by third parties and ask himself: "Why would I succeed where all the others have failed?"
Peace Plans formulated by outside parties, however appealing and rational they may seem to those who devise it, cannot by themselves cause substantial change. Peace Plans should reflect a substantial change already effected, rather than try to create it.
President Obama may do better by trying to understand the sensitivities of those directly involved in the conflict and see where the United States can help diplomatically to advance the cause of peace, rather than stating publicly in detail how that peace should look like.
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