‘The Arab peace plan is dead’

West Bank Palestinians tell Al Jazeera a new approach is needed for talks with Israel.

King Abdullah II met with Obama when he was still a candidate in July 2008 [EPA]

As King Abdullah II of Jordan heads to Washington to meet with Barack Obama, the US president, to discuss re-starting the 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, Palestinians say they are not very optimistic that the peace talks will better their living conditions under Israeli occupation.

Al Jazeera spoke with a number of them living in the West Bank who say they do not believe a seven-year-old peace initiative is applicable to the new realities on the ground.

Elias Daebis, 55, pharmacist
The US and Arabs should formulate a new action plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

I think that the Arab Peace Initiative was a strategic plan in its prime when it was launched during the Arab Summit a few years ago.

But it’s a completely different situation now because the balance of power on the ground is completely different than what existed then.

So I think rather than sending King Abdullah to President Obama to discuss the peace initiative, they should go and formulate a new action plan.

The Initiative is dead and outdated and it makes no sense to use something that is not accepted by anyone. So now they should focus on stopping Israeli actions in Jerusalem, they should stop Israeli expansion of settlements, and they should allow supplies into Gaza.

There are so many priorities that they need to take care of before they rush into an Arab peace plan. Everyone is yearning for peace here, but we’ve been doing it for so many years and we’re not getting anything back from the other side. I think the Arab leaders are in a very weak position right now and they are rushing to jump on the bandwagon with Obama.

It’s not the right time to do that without addressing very basic humanitarian issues occurring on the ground right now. Also, right now they need to push for the two-state solution, but we seem to be going backwards. Unfortunately our Arab leaders are moving us in the wrong direction.

Tarek Ashoor, 39, engineer
What kind of change is Obama going to bring to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

The problem is not with King Abdullah’s visit to the US, but with US policy. Can past trends be changed so that this Initiative and justice can be achieved or is it all talk?

President Obama says he brings change, but what exactly is he going to change? The system in the US tends to force presidents to lean in one direction, so will he be able to change that? I don’t know. 

My opinion is not optimistic because I think the American policies and standards aren’t going to be different whether it’s [former US President George] Bush or Obama, so I don’t think there will be much variation in their policies. They know of our problems.

American delegates and envoys are constantly here, so they know everything about the Israelis and us. As for [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu, it doesn’t matter who is in charge in Israel, they are all the same.

Heba al-Mubasher, 21, university student

Arab countries have never helped us and they never will

There is only one way this Initiative can achieve peace and that’s if things go back to the way they were before the Intifada. The Israelis don’t get involved in our affairs and we don’t get involved in theirs.

As long as we are both involved in each other’s affairs there will never be peace. We need to be completely separate from each other.

The Palestinian people resisted and it brought us nothing, and I think we both need to calm down so that the people can live their lives.

As for Arab countries, they have never helped us and they never will.

Abeer Rabah, 30, sales clerk

Will the Arab Peace Initiative stop the demolition of Arab houses in Jerusalem?

Every government and country has its own agenda. Is this Initiative for genuine peace? We don’t know if the Jordanian agenda will agree with the American agenda or the powerful countries within the region, such as Israel and Iran.

With the new situation, especially after eight years of hardship under Bush and all of the economic and political disasters, everyone is optimistic that Obama will be able to fix things.

However, we don’t know the rules of the current political game with its new players, especially with this ultra-right wing Israeli government under Netanyahu, so it’s impossible to tell what will happen. 

Can this peace initiative help the people trapped in Gaza? Can it help us here in the West Bank? Every day we hear about houses being demolished in Jerusalem, will this Initiative help those people or prevent me from losing a house I’ve spent my entire life building?

Those people who lost their houses during this recent war on Gaza had left all their belongings in 1948, then it took them 60 years to rebuild and now they’ve lost everything again.

Look at our history, we are a people who are constantly losing, but we keep on pushing forward. Will this Initiative give me my dignity? Will it make other Arabs respect me? Will it give me my hopes, dreams and security? I’m not going to say that it’s going to bring back my country [because] I’ve given up on that.

Husam El-Din Ashour, 48, confectionery owner
Palestinians in the West Bank say the Arab Peace Initiative no longer applies

We hope that Obama will listen, approve and commence with this Arab Peace Initiative so that it can be the final one. 

The occupation has been going on for decades, while decisions and agreements that have been reached were never implemented. We’ve been toyed with all along, and nothing has ever worked.

We pray that Obama, the Russians, and the Europeans support the Palestinians, because we are the only people left under occupation in the entire world. 

We hope that the Quartet and the Arab leaders stand together to make this Initiative work.

Source: Al Jazeera

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