In recent articles in the Arab print and electronic press,
Egyptian liberal authors wrote that it is up to the Arabs to take steps
to advance peace with Israel. On January 7, 2008 in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, prominent Egyptian intellectual Dr. Mamoun Fandy proposed that the Arabs use President Bush's visit to the Middle East to demonstrate that they are serious about resolving the conflict. On December 5, 2007
in the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph, Egyptian author and researcher
Kamal Gabriel wrote that the promise of normalization is the only card
the Arabs have left to play at the negotiationing table, but that until
they take steps to replace a culture of hatred with a culture of peace,
this promise will not be taken seriously.
Following are excerpts from the two articles:
Mamoun Fandy: 99% of the Cards are In the Arabs' Hand
In a January 7, 2008 op-ed in the Arab London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat,
Dr. Mamoun Fandy urged President Bush's Arab hosts to take dramatic
steps during his visit to advance peace on both the Palestinian and
Syrian tracks in order to demonstrate to the West that the Arab peace
initiative is serious. He also argued that Israeli concerns are
legitimate and need to be addressed:
"The late president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, used to say that 99%
of the playing cards in the Middle East are in the hands of the United
States. On the eve of U.S. President George Bush's visit to the Arab
region, I say that 99% of the playing cards, and a solution in the
Middle East, are in the Arabs' hands.
"First of all, we shouldn't depend too much on President Bush's
visit to the region. Visits by heads of state do not produce anything,
for the most part. But it will offer media and political momentum.
Perhaps this momentum will be utilized to move towards arriving at
solutions to pending issues. And perhaps it will not be so utilized,
and that which is pending will remain pending.
"Will the Arabs be able to take advantage of Bush's visit to
turn the tables? Will the Arabs adopt a dramatic stance that throws the
responsibility [for peace] into the American and Israeli courts? Such a
stance would require a lot of courage...
"The truth is that there is a serious Arab peace initiative,
but its credibility in the West and Israel is limited, in that the
West, and America and Israel in particular, have not seen a translation
of the Arabs' peaceful intentions [into reality]. They still do not
believe in the Arabs' desire for peace... The Israeli narrative is the
prevailing one. The Israelis say to the Americans and the West: We made
peace with two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, and the experience has
proven a failure, since in both countries there is still hatred of
Bring Syria into the Equation to Isolate Iran
"The powerful question that the Israelis ask the West, and which
certainly finds attentive ears there, is this: What strategic return is
there for the state of Israel in making peace with the Arabs, given the
failure of the experience with Egypt and Jordan?
"The sum of what Israel's friends in Western societies repeat
constantly is that the Arabs want a situation of 'not marriage, not
divorce' with Israel - in other words, they want to leave things
"That given, how can the Arabs [use] the U.S. president's
visit... to change this impression and win over American and Western
"Bush's statements have been clear as to the vision of
establishing two states, Palestinian and Israel, [living] side by side.
He has also been clear on containing Iran in order to ensure stability
in the Gulf... It is no secret that the Iraqi and Palestinian dossiers
run through Iran and Syria, and if President Bush wants to isolate
Iran, the Arab key to [achieving] this isolation is in breaking up the
Syrian-Iranian relationship and Syria's return to the Arab ranks. In
other words, bringing Syria into the equation and looking for a
"This is especially true given that the features of the
solution to the Syrian-Israeli track are fully known... and according
to the latest indications from Israel, the solution between Syria and
Israel is possible and easy.
"What if one or more of the Arab leaders whom U.S. President
George Bush will be meeting in his coming trip to the region secretly
arranged to invite Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert to meet with them in the presence of President
Bush? Let the meeting take place in Egypt or Abu Dhabi, for example.
This could be the drama that changes public opinion in the West, the
U.S., and Israel on the Arabs' seriousness regarding peace.
"This could change the dialogue completely. In the U.S. there
are presidential elections that are shaping the American conscious. An
event like this would force itself into all the presidential debates,
and this is something that would convince the American people of the
seriousness of the Arab proposal...
"This is what I meant when I said that 99% of the playing cards
are in the Arabs' hand. Democracies yield before such political
initiatives, because they create popular pressure in their countries.
This is what Sadat understood, and he made good use of this.
"I know there are many among us who hate Sadat. For some of the
Arab leaders, the very thought of their doing what Sadat did could be
sufficient cause to not take the direction he took. This is not because
Sadat was bad, but rather because there are elements that have
succeeded in making of Sadat a traitor in the Arab collective memory.
Thus, accusations of treason have become a limitation that prevents us
from taking any courageous step.
"Those who are in the know about Bush's visit to the region say
that the primary goal of his trip is the visit to Saudi Arabia, due to
its weight in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and due to its global
importance at a time when the price of a barrel of oil has reached
almost $100 - this in addition to the special relation between
President Bush and King 'Abdallah. President Bush does not hesitate, in
any of his speeches, to praise King 'Abdallah as a man who honors his
word and as a leader with great integrity.
"That given, why shouldn't the Arabs make use of this
relationship, which is based on the mutual trust between King 'Abdallah
and President Bush, to advance their interests?...
"On the Palestinian side, what is needed is the unification of
Palestinian ranks under the banner of the Saudi king, in his capacity
as patron of the Mecca Agreement. Instead of seeking the patronage of
Jordan, as they did in the past, let them try Saudi patronage this
time. Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas's recent visit to the
kingdom was a step on the right path. It is inconceivable that at a
time when the world has begun to agree on the justice of the
Palestinian cause, we find that the Palestinians themselves are the
ones laying waste to themselves through their internal division and
"Perhaps the Time Has Come for the Arabs... To Seriously Consider Israel's Strategic Apprehensions"
"And perhaps the time has come for the Arabs, and the
Palestinians in particular, to seriously consider Israel's strategic
apprehensions. The Israeli question on the nature of the Palestinian
state is a logical and legitimate question. Will this state add
stability to the region, or add instability? The Gaza model says that
it [will be] a state that in no way participates in regional stability,
whereas the West Bank model indicates that the newborn state will move
the region towards stability...
"As I said earlier, visits by heads of state do not produce
immediate results. But George Bush is a practical man, and he managed
to impose the Annapolis document on the Palestinians and the Israelis -
even though the two sides announced, before the conference, that they
had not reached agreement.
"The Arabs can make Bush's visit into an historic visit by
focusing on working with the pragmatic side of the president's
personality, in place of the old Arab way, which wastes the time
allotted for the meetings by entering into the labyrinthine history of
the Arab-Israeli conflict and by grumbling about a 'double standard.'
"The Arabs hold the playing cards today. The question is: Will they play them well?" 
Kamal Gabriel: The Cultural Elites Have an Allergy to 'Normalization with the Zionist Enemy'
In a December 5, 2007 op-ed in the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph,
Egyptian researcher and author Kamal Gabriel wrote that the only card
the Arabs have at the negotiating table is the 'normalization card,'
but that in order for this card to be credible, the Arabs need to
uproot the culture of hate and replace it with a culture of peace:
"Many are the allergic diseases from which our audacious
cultural elites suffer... but the greatest and harshest allergic
symptom among the heroes of the microphone, the satellite channel, the
car bomb, and the explosives belt is the allergy to 'normalization with
the Zionist enemy'...
"The [purported] traitors to the 'unchanging national
principles,' and the [so-called] agents of colonialism, think that
'normalization' is a goal for which all peoples should strive, and that
wars and conflicts among all the nations of the earth must necessarily
come to an end - and this end is always a return to peace and the reign
of normal conditions - i.e. the reign of 'normalization.'
"As for the heroes and mujahideen of pan-Arabism and
political Islamism, they don't reject peace and normalization in
essence or in principle; they just make it conditional upon the
preservation of 'our nation's unchanging principles.'
"While [the expression] 'our nation's unchanging principles' is
fine and elegant, these principles are nothing more than the demand for
'destroying the rapacious Zionist entity' and turning Israel, through
the return of all of the refugees, into one great democratic Islamic
Palestinian mass republic...
"[According to these pan-Arabists and Islamists,] if the
Zionist enemy and its supporters want peace, there is no need for
negotiations and conferences... They need to accept 'our nation's
unchanging principles' in a state of subjection, and let them return to
us the land occupied since 1967, and allow the entry of 5 million
Palestinian refugees into the land occupied in 1948. Only then can we
consider the issue of normalization with them, and especially with the
noble promises conferred by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, [i.e.]
that it would allow Jews who immigrated [to Israel] to return whence
they came without slaughtering them like sheep - despite the fact that
they are basically the descendants of apes and pigs. And the Jews who
were originally from Palestine will enjoy the excellent humane
treatment that minorities enjoy in the other Arab regions!"
The Normalization Card is the Only One Left in the Arabs' Hand - After the Violence Card Backfired
"But let's leave aside the heroes, the valiant men, and the mujahideen.
Let's examine the gallant discourse of the secretary-general of our
illustrious Arab League ['Amr Moussa]. We find him saying 'no to
normalization for free.' This, then, is the diplomatic-political way of
thinking, which holds the cards in its hands in order to play them on
the table, and in return for them obtains the most that it can - or, in
our way of thinking, everything that we want. We won't give the cards
to a rival as a free gift, so as not to be left only with [the option
"In principle, this is an excellent and unobjectionable tactic,
which bespeaks a laudable patriotic stance... But in [its] practical
implementation, two problems arise. The first is that this is the only
card [remaining] in the hand of the gallant ['Amr Moussa]... after the
cards of violence and martyrdom-bombers... led to adverse, calamitous
results for our Palestinian people - the harshest of which are the
separation fence, border closures, and roadblocks on all the streets,
which turned the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into a big prison...
"The second problem, and the more serious one, is the nature of
the 'normalization' card... If, for instance, you play the
normalization card against the card of withdrawing Israeli forces from
occupied territory, we find that the withdrawal of these forces can be
carried out immediately - within days or weeks - and the completion of
its execution can be confirmed. Thus the believability of this card can
receive material expression...
"As for the normalization card, which means relations of normal
peace between peoples, and not just relations of non-aggression between
states - waving it at the negotiating table requires proof of its
believability. This depends on more than one factor: first, proving
one's good intentions and sincere desire to carry out [normalization];
second, ability to carry it out; and third, guarantee of continuance
"The Problem with the Normalization Card Is that It Is Like a Check that Doesn't Have Sufficient Funds to Cover It"
"Now how does 'Amr Moussa imagine that normalization, his only
card, can be traded in, and how can he prove to the other side [that
the Arabs have] good intentions and the desire to carry out
[normalization] when the Arab media, both official and unofficial,
incites the masses against peace, against the rapacious Zionist enemy,
and against the Jews, the enemies of Allah?
"How can he prove that the Arab regimes are capable of
implementing peace and popular normalization when, with the president
of the Palestinian Authority hardly controlling his own living
quarters, the Palestinian street is contested by radical organizations
of every kind... And this is the case also with the fighting masses in
many Arab capitals...
"How can our negotiators give guarantees that normalization
will continue, given that this is contingent on a culture of peace that
doesn't exist. It is not absent just between the Arabs and the
perfidious Zionist enemy; it is fundamentally absent among the internal
components of the Arab countries. These countries have proven,
throughout the years, their abject failure to normalize relations with
their own minorities...So who will take seriously their promises of
peace and normalization with the Jews, the enemies of Allah?
"The promise of normalization is like a promise of operations
by armed forces whose arms have not yet been purchased, and who have
not been mobilized or trained for combat...
"But in fact it is worse than that. The mission of preparing
the capability and the readiness for peace does not just depend on a
campaign of spreading the culture of peace; it demands first uprooting
the culture of hostility and hatred that we have had an unparalleled
success in planting in the region, and which has produced for us the
blessed yield of internecine fighting in more than one Arab country.
"True, normalization is a vital need for Israel, and it is the
only thing it is lacking, after they achieved everything they wanted in
terms of taking territory and establishing a powerful state and culture
[of their own]. For the sake of achieving normalization, they could go
to the farthest limits and make the most painful concessions, as they
put it. But the problem, as we have laid it out, is that we hold the
normalization card in theory, but on the practical level, we don't hold
it, and we are not able to put it in play and carry it out...
"The problem with the normalization card is that it is like a
check that doesn't have the funds to cover it. In order for it to be
accepted, funds need to be put behind it, and it needs to be stamped
with an 'acceptable for payment' stamp.
"[This stamp is] the spreading of the culture of peace, first
of all among our peoples. We need to start practically putting it into
practice long before we reap the fruits, as that is the nature of
cultural transformations. [We need to do this] in order to convince the
Israeli people that we have truly decided to accept it among us, and
that the only thing standing between it and final peace is just the
politicians sitting down together and signing peace agreements. The
Israeli people could then force its government to submit to the
requisites for peace. I say 'could,' since it is also possible that we
will offer peace without receiving the minimum of our legitimate
demands, in which case our governments would refrain from signing a
final peace, and we would retreat from the path of normalization..."