Arab World, 1945–2006
Arab World, 1945–2006
ARAB WORLD, 1945–2006
The Arab world is divided into four subregions: the Maghreb (*Morocco, *Tunisia, *Algeria, *Libya, Mauritania), the Nile Valley (*Egypt and Sudan), the Fertile Crescent (*Syria, *Lebanon, *Iraq, *Jordan, and the *Palestinian Authority), and the Arabian Peninsula (*Saudi Arabia, *Yemen, *Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates). Between 1932 and 1971 these countries became independent nation-states, with the exception of the *Palestinian Authority.
The Maghreb was largely made up of Sunni Arab and *Berber Muslims. Until its independence from European colonialism, aside from a large European settlement (French, Italian, and Spanish), it had sizeable Jewish communities. Morocco gained independence from France and Spain in 1956; Tunisia from France in 1956; Algeria from France in 1962; Libya from Britain in 1951; and Mauritania from France in 1960. Algeria emerged as a presidential republic in 1962, while Tunisia, ruled since 1705 by the Husaynid beylicate, became a republic in 1957. Libya became a monarchy under the Sanusi dynasty in the 1950s and a republic in 1969. Governed by successive military regimes since the 1960s, Mauritania, in the 21st century, is undergoing a process of democratization. Morocco continues to be a monarchy under the Sharifian Alawite dynasty. Authority is vested in the king along with a constitutional government headed by a prime minister and a legislative parliament. The Maghreb's population includes 32 million Algerians; 31 million Moroccans; 8.5 million Tunisians; 4 million Libyans; and 2 million Mauritanians.
Egypt of the post-1945 period comprised a relatively homogeneous population with a Sunni Muslim majority and a sizable Christian Coptic minority estimated at approximately six percent of the total population. The small religious and foreign national minorities, including Jews, Armenians, Italians, British subjects, Syrian Christians, and Greeks departed from the scene during the 1950s and 1960s in the aftermath of Britain's departure. The political system in Egypt until the July 23, 1952, Revolution consisted of a hereditary monarchy (House of Muhammad Ali), a constitutional government, and a parliament. Following the 1952 Revolution, Egypt became a republic (1953) and a one-party state headed by Gamal Abdel *Nasser, the latter having become president in 1956. After Nasser's death (1970), under the presidency of Anwar al-*Sadat (1970–81) and Husni *Mubarak (from 1981), steps were taken to partially democratize the political system, revive the pre-1952 multi-party system, permit the activity of non-governmental organizations, and diversify the press and electronic media. The population grew from 19 million in the 1940s to 70 million in 2005.
Sudan has more than 50 ethnic groups subdivided into at least 500 tribes. While southern Sudan is Christian and pagan black, the main group in the north are Muslims. Nearly half of the population identifies itself as Arab, generally meaning peoples who speak Arabic and reflect its cultural heritage. Half the population speaks Arabic as its native language. Sudan's total population in 2000 was 40 million. The country gained its independence in 1956 after the British and Egyptians had dominated the country for some 57 years. It has been a republic ruled mostly by the army. Since 1989, the military in coalition with Islamist elements have been in control. Sudan has been plagued by civil wars fought between the Muslim north and the Christian south. In January 2005 an agreement was reached to halt the violence.
The Fertile Crescent includes Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. The combined population of these entities in 2000 was about 45 million. The populations are heterogeneous. With 13 million, Syria is made up of an Arab Sunni majority, different Shiite minorities, the Druze, Christians, and, until recent years, Jews. After independence from the French in 1946, Syria was a republic initially governed by a nationalist bloc. Its leaders were replaced in 1949 by army officers in reaction to the military defeat in the 1948 war against Israel. The traditional politicians returned to power following elections in 1954, but four years later political life in Syria was again dominated by the military and the Syrian-Egyptian Union (United Arab Republic). In the aftermath of the Union's collapse in 1961, the military remained in control of the country. The rise of the leftist nationalist Baʿth (Renaissance) Party in a military-civilian coalition in 1963, to be followed, after another military coup d'état in 1966, by a yet more radical wing of the same political party controlled by the Alawi minority, only solidified the dominance of the army.
Lebanon, a constitutional republic with a population of three million, won its independence from France in 1943. The population is diverse with a large Shiite community (the single largest group), an important Sunni element, several Christian communities, and the Druze. Until the 1970s, a Jewish community existed. The president of the republic is traditionally a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, and the speaker of the Parliament a Shiite.
Iraq, with 20 million people, also enjoys population diversity with a substantial Shiite majority (60 percent), though dominated politically by Arab Sunni Muslims until 2003. It won independence from Britain in 1932 and was ruled by the Hashemite monarchy. The latter was removed from power in July 1958 by a group of army officers who transformed Iraq into a republic. Until 2003, the republic's political leadership was vested in the hands of successive administrations propped up by military men belonging mostly to the Sunni Arab minority. This subsequently changed, when the Shiites emerged as the dominant force in local politics after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime by u.s. and western coalition forces. Less than 20 percent are Sunni Arabs; another 20 percent are Sunni Kurds. The Kurds are not Arabs and speak Kurdish. Small minorities include Assyrian Christians, Turkic elements, Marsh Arabs, and a few Jews.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's population of four million lives largely in the fertile highlands of the *Transjordan Plateau and the Jordan Valley. About 50 percent of the people are Jordanian Sunni Muslim Arabs originating from the land east of the Jordan River. Most of the rest had their roots in *Palestine. Many arrived as refugees during the 1948 war or in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967. In terms of minorities, five percent are Arab Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox. Other ethnic minority groups are even smaller, mainly Armenian Christians and Circassian Muslims.
The Palestinian Authority (pa) was created in the summer of 1994 following the Oslo Declaration of Principles (1993) and the subsequent implementation of the Oslo peace accords. Dominated by the *Palestine Liberation Organization (plo) and the Fatah, until the January 2006 *Hamas parliamentary election victory, the Palestinian Authority governs the towns on the West Bank of the Jordan River, many of the villages surrounding these towns, and *Gaza. The majority of the people are Sunnis.
The Arabian Peninsula countries emerged around family power centers and Western-protected interests. State capabilities have developed in conjunction with oil wealth and the involvement of Western powers. Saudi Arabia, a hereditary monarchy since the mid-1920s, is governed according to the Shariʿa (Islamic Law). Its population at the beginning of the 21st century exceeded 25 million. Yemen, with a population of 20 million, gained its independence in 1918 from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. It was governed by a monarchy until its overthrow in September 1962. In 1967, after a five-year civil war, in which Egypt committed troops to prop up the Republican anti-monarchic forces, two separate Yemeni entities emerged: the Yemen Arab Republic; and the Marxist-dominated People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (pdry). It was only in 1990 that both Yemens merged once again into one nation as the Republic of Yemen. The population in the nominally constitutional monarchy of Kuwait consisted of 2.2 million in 2004, 85 percent of which are Sunni Arab, 30 percent Shiite Arab, while the rest are Hindus and Christians. Qatar, a traditional monarchy, had a population of some 850,000 in 2004, consisting of 40 percent Sunni Arabs, 18 percent Pakistanis, 18 percent Indians, 10 percent Shiite Iranians, and 14 percent classified as "others." Ninety-five percent of the people of Qatar are Sunnis. Bahrain, a constitutional hereditary monarchy, had a population of approximately 680,000 in 2004 that included local Bahraini Arabs, Asians, and Iranians. Seventy percent of the population are Shiite and 30 percent are Sunnis. The Sultanate of Oman had a population of 2.9 million in 2004, made up of Arabs, Beluchis, South Asians, and Africans. Omanis are mostly Sunni with small Shiite and Hindu minorities. The United Arab Emirates (uae), inhabited by 2.4 million in 2004, is governed by a local hereditary sultanate. Its population consists of 61 percent Sunni Arabs, 22 percent South Asian Muslims and Hindus, and the rest mostly Iranian Shiites.
Inter-Arab Political Rivalries and Efforts toward Unity: 1945–1963
Since 1945, popular political sentiment in the Arab world has been dominated by urgent appeals for Arab unity under the trauma of the military defeat in Palestine, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the exodus of the Palestinian refugees and their resettlement in Arab states. One major manifestation of unity was to be achieved through the creation – with British support – of the League of Arab States (*Arab League) in March 1945. With the exception of the years 1979–90, League headquarters were in Cairo. Sixty years later the League was composed of 22 independent Arab states; Palestine was included as an independent entity. Its multipurpose functions were to strengthen relations between member-states; enhance member-state cooperation and the preservation of Arab sovereignty in the post-colonial era; and promote general Arab interests. The League promotes economic, social, military, and development cooperation among its members. It has been united in its support for Palestine vis-à-vis Israel, though deep divisions existed as to how to deal with Israel. Moreover, all talks of Arab unity and the notion of Pan-Arabism did not translate into reality over many decades. Relations between governments and parties have been dominated by bitter rivalry. Well into the 1960s the idea of Pan-Arabism was inextricably bound up with two concepts: anti-colonialism and revolutionary socialism – the two often overlapping.
Between 1945 and the mid-1950s, the center of the contest for influence in the Arab world was Syria while the main protagonists were Iraq and Egypt. The Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and the Maghreb were then either on the margins of Arab affairs, or were still under foreign domination. This competition for power began well before the Egyptian revolution of July 23, 1952, with the decline of European colonialism, and had little to do with ideology. It was geopolitical in nature. With the termination of French domination, Syria had become free to choose her alignment within the Arab world, and other Arab states were free to try and influence her. For sentimental reasons and out of dynastic ambition, as well as the desire to promote Iraqi leadership among the Arabs, the principal Iraqi leaders, the regent, Prince Abdallah, and the powerful prime minister, Nuri al-Saʿid, sought repeatedly to bring about either a Syrian-Iraqi union under the Hashemite monarchy, or at the very least a close alliance. The Egyptians steadfastly opposed them.
Syria was easy prey for the Egyptians and Iraqis, for it lacked political stability from the late 1940s, following the first Arab-Israeli war, and well into the 1950s. A series of domestic and international crises during this period provided the occasions for efforts in and out of Syria to push the country in one direction or the other. A staple ingredient in this process was the chronic involvement of the Syrian army in politics, beginning with three consecutive military coups in 1949. Further coups occurred in the early 1950s. At other times, between 1954 and 1957, military cliques among army officers espousing diverse nationalist ideologies intervened in the affairs of state or carried on struggles against each other to determine which would more successfully manipulate the civilian politicians. At the same time, competing politicians cultivated friends in the army and occasionally encouraged military intervention in support of their own factional interests.
A dominant factor that affected Syria, but equally or more so the domestic and regional politics of the rest of the Fertile Crescent and Egypt, was the effort by Britain and the U.S. to bolster their strategic interests in the Middle East through defense treaties. This was part and parcel of West European and American efforts to block Soviet expansion into the region. Although each of these efforts failed, it exacerbated anti-Western sentiments. In 1951 came the proposal for a combined British, French, American, Turkish, and Egyptian Middle East Defense Organization (medo), into which Syria, Iraq, and others would presumably be drawn. The plan came to naught when the Egyptian government rejected it. Four years later, in 1955, Britain, Iraq, *Turkey, *Iran, and *Pakistan created the Baghdad Pact for the purpose of regional defense. Israel was not invited to join the Pact: The British and the Americans did not wish to alienate Iraq since it was impossible for the latter to go along with such an invitation, for this would have meant recognizing the Jewish State. The chief British interest in the Pact was to provide a substitute for the expiring Anglo-Iraqi treaty. The Iraqi authorities were eager to renew their British ties, but they faced the prospect of isolation within the Arab League and condemnation by Arab opinion unless other Arab partners could be brought in. Egypt refused to join the Pact from the outset, claiming to spearhead the notion of non-alignment in the Cold War. Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser believed that the Pact meant to challenge his leadership in the Arab arena and not thwart Soviet ambitions in the region. Moreover, once it became apparent that the U.S. would not sell fighter planes, heavy artillery, tanks, and light weapons to the Egyptians, Nasser deviated from his non-aligned policy and signed an arms deal with the Soviet Bloc in September 1955. This move weakened the Western strategy of forging defense alliances with Arab states and opened the door to deeper Soviet involvement in the Middle East.
Relentless pressure from the Nasserist regime in Cairo on the Syrians and Jordanians to refrain from joining the Baghdad Pact left Iraq the only Arab country that joined it along with pro-Western Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. The Sinai-Suez expedition of October-November 1956, when Britain, France, and Israel attacked Egypt following Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal, and owing to his support for the Gaza-based Palestinian incursions (against Israel) as well as for the Algerian rebels (against France), reduced prospects for pro-Western defense arrangements with Syria and Jordan even further. The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957, in which the U.S. declared that the need of the hour was to defend the Middle East against the aggression of "states controlled by international Communism," emerged as a futile attempt after the 1956 war to attract Arab states into the Western fold. The Lebanese, Jordanian, and Saudi governments allowed themselves to become open allies of the U.S. and condemned Cairo and Damascus for allegedly opening the door to the spread of Communism in the area. They were rewarded with American arms and money, but both they and their patrons paid the price of widespread protests. They paved the way for the armed insurrection that plunged Lebanon into anarchy beginning in May 1958 and the army coup that liquidated the Iraqi Hashemite monarchy two months later.
Though Syria did not witness in 1957–58 open unrest like its Lebanese, Jordanian, and Iraqi neighbors, there had been covert signs that both radical leftist and right-wing politicians were undermining its stability. Syria's problems were temporarily solved, or so it seemed at the time, by its union with Egypt in February 1958, in the new framework of the United Arab Republic (uar). The initiators of the uar were Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Syrian Baʿth Party. The latter was founded in 1947 by Salah al-Din Bitar and Michel 'Aflaq, two Paris-educated Syrian intellectuals who joined with Akram al-Hawrani, an astute politician who led the Syrian Socialist Party. Together they formed the Syrian Arab Socialist Baʿth Party. By the late 1950s, Baʿthist appeal was not confined to Syria; it branched into Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.
Although Nasser agreed to enter into the union with Syria, he laid down his conditions. The uar should not be a federal but a centralized union. The military had to renounce further involvement in politics. All political parties were to be dissolved. Only the National Union, the sole political party in Egypt, was to serve as an umbrella for guiding the uar. There were to be two parliaments: one in Cairo and another in Damascus, and one central government, in Cairo, headed by Nasser. These terms were accepted by the Syrian Baʿthists.
Nasser and the Baʿth supported state socialist programs. In Egypt, socialism evolved in the 1950s and early 1960s as a series of improvised programs rather than as an ideology. The military leaders had decreed agrarian, labor, educational, and other reforms in response to specific needs and generally in order to win public support for themselves. The first state incursions into the management of the industrial and commercial economy came as by-products of the international crisis of 1956: the regime found itself in control of the Suez Canal administration and a large number of enterprises sequestered from their British and French owners. In the wake of this experience, Nasser's regime developed a taste for state ownership. When the uar was created, Nasser felt that state socialism needed to be implemented in Syria too.
Unlike Nasser's socialism, the Baʿth was a mixture of ardent Arab nationalism and Marxist doctrines. Like Nasser, the Baʿthists called for a united socialist Arab nation. The formation of the uar reduced the pressures of Britain and the U.S. on Syrian domestic affairs. The subsequent Iraqi revolution of July 14, 1958, transforming the country into a military republic, considerably weakened Britain's position in the Fertile Crescent. The landing of American and British troops in Lebanon and Jordan, respectively, soon thereafter, to prevent the possible overthrow of the regimes in those countries, was the last major Western effort to play a vital role in inter-Arab politics for some time.
Once the union was set up, the centralization of Nasser's authority became a reality and the Baʿth soon played second fiddle to him. As time passed, they were further marginalized. Nasser relieved them of ministerial posts. Key Baʿth leaders – notably Akram al-Hawrani, Salah al-Din Bitar, Mustafa Hamdun, and Abd al-Ghani Qannut – resigned at the end of December 1959, thus ending Baʿth collaboration with Egypt. Power now passed in Syria to the pro-Egyptian chief of intelligence, Abd al-Hamid Sarraj.
Tensions gradually brewed within the uar between Nasser and the Syrians, the latter increasingly resenting Cairo's aggressive meddling in their domestic affairs. Moreover, other Arab states shunned Cairo's efforts to join the union's bandwagon. Iraq, which seemed ripe to join it in the wake of the July 1958 revolution, not only shied away but in effect evinced hostility toward Nasser. The coalition of which the new regime was composed soon faced a struggle in which the Arab nationalists, including the Iraqi branch of the Baʿth Party, lost out to Communists and radical nationalists. The leading Iraqi pro-Nasser Arab nationalist, Colonel Abd al-Salam Arif, found himself in a Baghdad prison under a sentence of death. Nasser reacted and accused Abd al-Karim Qasim, Iraq's commander-in-chief and prime minister, as a traitor to Arab nationalism and a protégé of international Communism. From that time onwards, until February 1963, the situation settled into a tense cold war between Cairo and Baghdad. The problem for Cairo and Damascus was that Qasim was a revolutionary whose behavior defied conventional expectations. On the one hand, he failed to cooperate with the uar in the march toward Arab unity; on the other hand, he emerged as a hero to the poverty-stricken dwellers of Baghdad.
Iraq's behavior toward Egypt was a slap in the face to Nasser but far worse was the collapse of the union with Syria. By then deep discontent and resentment permeated broad segments of Syria over Egypt's involvement in Syrian politics, economy, and society. On September 28, 1961, this prompted secessionist army officers to overthrow the pro-Egyptian political order and announce Syria's breakaway from the uar. According to Cairo, the union had been stabbed in the back by Syria's wealthy class, which had been affected by the socialist legislation that Nasser had decreed in summer 1961. These "reactionaries" colluded with the imperialists and the Arab monarchs, then bribed and subverted an opportunistic clique of military officers in order that the ancien régime might be restored in Syria.
After the collapse of the union it seemed as if Nasser would attend solely to domestic goals in Egypt in order to enhance his socialist program and the new Arab Socialist Union (asu), which replaced the previous one-party regime of the Nationalist Union. But Nasser did not detach himself from Arab politics. Egypt's relations with Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan were suspended. No diplomatic ties were maintained between Cairo and Damascus until November 1966. On the other hand, the Yemeni revolution of September 1962 that toppled the Imamate resuscitated in the Egyptian regime a desire for a fresh involvement in a hitherto unknown war. Egypt felt obliged to be drawn into it in the role of the champion of revolutionary progress and committed thousands of troops toward achieving this aim. For their part, the Saudis and Jordanians felt compelled to support the Yemeni Royalists, out of dynastic solidarity. Egypt was thenceforth caught in the complex web of a protracted war (until 1967), facing the anger of a Saudi monarchy that was suspicious of Nasserist hegemonic aims in the Arabian Peninsula. Since the early or mid-1960s, King Faisal also contended that Nasser's agents and supporters had attempted to undermine Saudi monarchical institutions from within.
A major and bloody coup d'état, on February 8, 1963, eliminated Qasim and his regime, bringing to power the Iraqi branch of the Baʿth in a coalition with Nasserists. The Egyptians welcomed the downfall of Qasim, hoping that the new Baʿthi-Nasserite regime would demonstrate a commitment to Pan-Arab causes and to socialism. A month later a coup occurred in Syria. The Egyptians hoped that, unlike the secessionist government of 1961–63, the new government, based on a Baʿthi-Nasserist coalition backed by the army, would help revive Arab unity. Israel, which had benefited from the inter-Arab rivalries of 1961–62, watched the new developments with some anxiety.
Subsequent to the dramatic political changes in Baghdad and Damascus, Nasser hosted unity talks in Cairo between mid-March and mid-April 1963. When the issue of a new Arab union beginning with Egypt, Syria, and Iraq as the pilot experiment was deliberated, Nasser proposed that it be formed in two stages: first Egypt and Syria for a trial period of four months; and then, if successful, with Iraq as third partner. But the search for a unification formula of political leadership was unattainable. It boiled down to the issue of mistrust among leaders, particularly the deep mistrust of Egypt by the Syrian Baʿth. The latter remained bitter over its past experience with Nasser.
In mid-July 1963, the Syrian Baʿth expelled the Nasserists from the government; four months later the Nasserists in Iraq, led by Colonel Abd al-Salam Arif, removed the Baʿthists. The Arab cold war among radical regimes wreaked havoc to the cause of Arab unity and rendered efforts toward a new Arab union obsolete. At the end of 1963 more Arab states were at each other's throats than ever before. Egypt and Saudi Arabia were locked in a struggle for the future of Yemen, where 40,000 Egyptian troops had failed to win a final victory for the republican revolution. Nasser had seized on the revolution in Yemen in September 1962 as an opportunity to break out of his isolation in the wake of Syria's secession from the uar and regain the initiative in Arab affairs for Egypt on the basis of revolutionary leadership. The struggle with the Yemeni Royalist forces, backed by Saudi Arabia, was soon deadlocked. The longer the Egyptian army remained in Yemen, and the more the Egyptian commitment to consolidate the Yemeni revolution was reiterated, the more difficult it became to disengage. Meanwhile Algeria under the presidency of Ahmad Ben Bella and the regime of the Front de Libération Nationale (fln) had been involved with Morocco over a border dispute (October 1963) and had another dispute with Tunisia. Tunisia and Morocco had been cool to each other ever since Tunisia had recognized the independence of Mauritania. Moreover, Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba attacked Nasser's Pan-Arab policies. Egypt was hostile to Jordan, and Syria deemed it to be unfriendly to both Jordan and to Morocco. These quarrels pitted revolutionary against conservative or moderate regimes. It left the Arab League ever more powerless.
Toward the end of 1963, at the zenith of Arab disunity, a sudden, albeit temporary, relaxation occurred. The catalyst on this occasion was Israel, which was approaching the completion of its project to divert the waters of the Jordan River for its own needs. Any act by Israel to divert these waters was considered by all Arab states as an act of aggression. Syria seized upon the Israeli initiative to awaken sentiments of Arab unity. Yet nothing materialized from the gestures of solidarity expressed by both conservative and radical Arabs. The disinclination of Egypt and Syria to go to war over Israel's water diversion schemes encouraged the Jewish state to resume its policies.
The Arab Arena: 1964–1970
The year 1964 was a turning point in inter-Arab politics. Added to the role of the Arab League as an all-Arab forum for coordinating economic, social, political, and military endeavors, the Arab states with Egypt at the helm established the Arab Summit Conference. It was meant to iron out differences and solve serious problems in a more efficient way than the League meetings could achieve. The first Arab summit in this spirit was held in Cairo in January. The key issues on its agenda were a negotiated compromise settlement in Yemen after Egypt committed troops and military hardware there and the creation of the *Palestine Liberation Organization (plo).
As for the first issue, immediate success was achieved. For Nasser, Yemen was not merely a symbol of "revolutionary inevitability" but a foothold in the Peninsula, strategically bordering on both the British-protected South Arabian Federation and the Saudi Kingdom. It was only in August 1965 that Egypt backed down from total commitment to Yemen after Nasser had reluctantly signed an agreement in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, with Saudi King Faisal. The agreement stipulated that the two Yemeni sides – Royalists and Republicans – would convene at the end of the year to arrange for the formation of a mutually acceptable provisional government. The Egyptians and Saudis were to supervise a truce between the two Yemeni forces. But the arrangement did not work out and the Egyptian army remained in the area until 1967. In agreement with the Saudis, and six months after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Egypt withdrew all of its troops and other personnel from Yemen. The Royalists lost out in the end and the Yemen Arab Republic emerged. In 1967, as Nasser was withdrawing his troops from the new Yemeni republic, a second Yemeni republic was established in the former Protectorate of Aden: the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (pdry). Once the Egyptians were gone the Saudis were less concerned with the type of regimes in the two Yemens.
As for the plo and the decision to enable it to create a military unit of its own, most Arab leaders offered their support but with little enthusiasm. They regarded the plo cynically as a device to enable them to leave the task of confronting Israel to the Palestinians and thereby avoid bearing this responsibility themselves. Even an avid supporter of Palestinian resistance like Nasser believed that tight surveillance had to be imposed on the activity of the plo throughout the region. Once the plo was formed, King Hussein's main worries centered on the potential challenges the new organization would pose to the sovereignty of the Jordanian state, almost two-thirds of whose population was Palestinian and whose frontier with Israel was long and difficult to patrol. It was clear that, of all Arab states, Jordan would emerge as the center for plo activities. In fact, the secret ties forged between the Jordanian king and Israel after 1964 and his meetings with key Israeli diplomats in London were largely related to this mutual concern. Hussein's worries were justified in the course of 1964–65. plo leader Ahmad Shukeiri expected Jordan to approve the collection of special taxes in the country in order to finance the organization's military activities against Israel. Shukeiri also sought to conscript Jordanian Palestinians into the new Palestine Liberation Army (pla) and to distribute arms to border villagers.
If tensions arose over Yemen and the status of the plo, another major difficulty came to the fore: On March 6, 1965, during his trip to the Middle East, Tunisian President Bourguiba, an opponent of Pan-Arabism and an advocate of Arab "state particularism," posed a genuine challenge to Arab leaders in a speech delivered in the Old City of Jerusalem. He publicly urged them to recognize Israel in return for negotiations in the spirit of un Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947 (partitioning Palestine into two separate states – one Arab and one Jewish) and Resolution 194 of December 1948 (which called for the return to their homes of Palestinian Arab refugees who had fled upon Israel's creation). The next day Bourguiba reiterated these pleas in Jericho before an audience consisting of Palestinian refugees. Yet he neither produced a written proposal nor offered himself as a peace mediator. In 1965 and 1966, his proposals, which were directed more to Arab leaders than to Israel, outlined the following eight major points: (1) the policies of denunciation and rejection embraced by Arab leaders had only led to military confrontations and always ended in Arab defeat at the hands of the Israelis; (2) if Egypt developed a nuclear option, the world would prevent Nasser from using it against Israel; (3) not only was war immoral and counterproductive, but the U.S. would never allow the Arab states to defeat or decimate Israel; (4) prudence and wisdom had to prevail over emotionalism and hatred, for these only made Israel more powerful; (5) the Arabs needed to rid themselves of their feelings of humiliation resulting from past wars, while the Israelis must free themselves from the complex of embattlement and a garrison state mentality; (6) the Arabs would reap far greater benefits if they concentrated their efforts on reaching a negotiated solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict; (7) coexistence with Israel, even de facto recognition, would result in regional stability for all parties involved in the conflict; and (8) negotiations with Israel necessitated direct contacts, with Palestinian representatives leading the process from the Arab side. But Arab leaders would not hear of this. They boycotted Bourguiba and isolated him for some time.
The secret meetings between Israelis and Jordanians, mentioned above, were not unique although they enjoyed continuity into the 1970s and 1980s. Several Arabs leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah i (Hussein's grandfather), had engaged in back channel contacts with Israel. Even Egypt had had occasional contacts, most of which led nowhere. Egyptian diplomatic emissaries of the Nasser era (like their pre-1952 predecessors) had met Israeli diplomats in Europe or at the un in New York to discuss various aspects of territorial issues or the implementation of un resolutions. On a more active level, Israel had maintained secret links with minorities in the Arab world as well as with forces opposed to Nasser's and the Baʿth's Pan-Arab unity ambitions. Thus, in the 1960s and after, Israel's intelligence apparatus, the Mossad, had reportedly assisted the Iraqi Kurds seeking internal regional autonomy against the pro-Nasserist Baghdad regime militarily. Israel apparently offered logistical and other assistance to the Christians in southern Sudan against the Arab regime in the north which was supported by Cairo. Assistance was also supplied to the Maronite Christians in Lebanon. Israel thought that by helping the Lebanese Christians it would help loyal allies to consolidate their political power base in what would become a pro-Western and pro-Israel nation.
More importantly, since the early 1960s, Israel had cultivated ties with Morocco, which opposed Nasserism and Pan-Arab unity and searched for discrete alignments against Cairo. As part of its government's "Periphery Doctrine," in search of allies geographically remote from the Arab-Israeli conflict, such as non-Arab pro-Western Iran and Turkey, Israel also looked for Arab allies with whom to cooperate behind the scenes. It was part and parcel of Israel's efforts to benefit from inter-Arab rivalries and misunderstandings as well as to ease its isolation in the region. Morocco fit neatly into this context. After the death of King Muhammad v in March 1961, Morocco's new king, Hasan ii, and the Mossad developed special ties whereby Israel provided intelligence and military assistance and helped stabilize the monarchy, which then encountered strong leftist opposition from the Union Nationale des Forces Populaires (unfp). Morocco, in turn, provided Israel with vital intelligence data about developments in the Arab arena. These special ties endured for several decades and became diversified in other areas. As Algeria's fln regime was hostile to Israel, contacts were established with Tunisia's Neo-Destour regime, particularly with President Bourguiba, his son, and diplomatic representatives in Paris and London. After Bourguiba presented his peace plea, the World Jewish Congress, the Israeli embassy in Paris, and the Mossad kept up contacts with the Tunisians. Discussions revolved around discreet joint business ventures, agricultural cooperation, and Jewish tourism. However, Israeli hopes for relations with Tunisia that might become nearly identical to the ties nurtured with Morocco failed to materialize. Bourguiba was unwilling to commit himself as had Hasan of Morocco. Furthermore, in the 1970s Bourguiba seemed to have had a change of heart and espoused strong pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel rhetoric and policies.
Syria in the mid-1960s witnessed far-reaching internal change. There appeared cracks in the Baʿth leadership. A young generation of civilian and military Baʿth-oriented elements had made their appearance on the political scene. Most of them did not belong to the Sunni Muslim majority but rather to the Alawi and Druze religious minorities (formerly Shiite) which together did not constitute more than 15 percent of the Syrian population. Prominent among them within the military were Salah Jadid and Hafez al-Asad; among the civilians there were three physicians: Nur al-Din al-Atasi, Ibrahim Makhus, and Yusif Zuʿayyin. All of them considered the old-style Baʿthi leadership, especially the military dictator, Amin al-Hafiz, as being "too soft" on Israel and insufficiently critical of Arab conservative monarchical regimes. On February 23, 1966, the Syrian government was overthrown by these Neo-Baʿthists. The coup not only forced the old leaders to flee Syria but also shattered the party in other Arab states. The new leadership had injected a heavy dose of Marxist ideology into their political programs, some were even Maoists. Though critical of Cairo for not doing enough to prepare for an Arab military confrontation with Israel, their desire to prevent any coexistence with Arab "reactionary" monarchs propelled them to try and push Egypt into an alliance against the latter. Unlike the previous leadership, the new rulers actively backed a major Palestinian guerilla raid into Israel (November 1966) and engaged their army in skirmishes with Israel along the 1949 armistice line. These moves caused consternation in Cairo. Nasser never ruled out a confrontation with Israel when the propitious moment arose. But 1966 hardly seemed to be a timely occasion. Hoping to restrain the Syrians from dragging themselves along with other Arab states into war and wishing to have a "supervisory role" over Syrian military designs, Nasser invited to Cairo Prime Minister Zuʿayyin on November 7, 1966, to sign a treaty of mutual defense. Diplomatic relations, severed three years earlier, were renewed.
Unlike Syria, which in 1963 ousted the Nasserists from the government, Iraq's leadership was largely Nasserist-oriented under the leadership of President Abd al-Salam Arif and subsequently his brother, Abd al-Rahman. For Nasser this proved vital, given Iraq's strategic position alongside Syria and its major oil reserves. Support for Nasser also came from Algeria, which was geographically remote from the scene. The overthrow of President Ahmad Ben Bella in June 1965, however, and his replacement by Houari Boumedienne at the fln's helm, was a blow to Egyptian prestige.
Iraq's major problem at the time was the Kurdish struggle for internal autonomy in the northern part of the country, a challenge that kept the Iraqi army on constant alert and weakened its prestige. The Kurdish problem had plagued the economy and contributed to the already tense ethnic and religious rivalries between Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni Kurds. In May 1964, Iraq and Egypt had agreed to work toward unification over a two-year period. As time elapsed, this goal proved unattainable owing to Iraq's inability to achieve stability at home. To emulate Egypt's model, the Iraqi government nationalized the private sector of the economy and introduced a charter for the creation of an Iraqi Arab Socialist Union, which would replace existing political parties. But neither of these efforts made much headway.
Changes of Arab regimes occurred after 1967. In July 1968 the pro-Nasser regime was overthrown in Iraq by a military clique led by General Hasan al-Bakr and a group of his fellow Baʿthists, including Saddam Hussein. These were "right-wing" Baʿthists, hostile to the Syrian Neo-Baʿth. In May 1969, a coup was carried out by officers in Sudan led by Jaʿafar Numeiri. The former South Arabian Federation received independence from Britain in 1967 and adopted the title of People's Republic of South Yemen. In September 1969 a coup in Libya deposed King Idris al-Sanusi. A Libyan republic was proclaimed by military officers, headed by Colonel Muʿammar al-Qadhafi. In November 1970, Defense Minister Hafez al-Asad overthrew the Neo-Baʿthists, establishing his own Baʿthi regime. In October 1970, Libya joined with Egypt, Sudan, and Syria in an abortive attempt to form an Arab union.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict: 1948–1970
The Arab-Israel conflict had its origins in Palestine at the end of the 19th century. It gained momentum in the 1890s over Arab opposition to the sale of land to Jews for agricultural settlements and gradually led to violent clashes between Arabs and Jews. The crux of the conflict was the competition between Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and Palestinian Arab nationalism for political control over the area that, in the peace settlement after World War i, became the League of Nations mandated territory of Palestine, held by Britain from 1922 to May 1948. The first major clash occurred in Jaffa in March 1908. Violence escalated in 1920–21, 1929, and 1936–39. Both Arabs and Jews rejected proposals by the 1937 British Royal Commission under Lord Peel to partition Palestine between the two communities, although some Zionist leaders accepted the partition in principle. When Israel was created, the struggle became known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.
With post-1945 international pressure on Britain to remove restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine (enforced in 1939) following the Holocaust, and for the creation of a Jewish commonwealth, Arab-Jewish tensions brought Palestine to the boiling point. Britain appealed to the un, which recommended, in the spirit of its General Assembly's Resolution 181 (November 1947), that Palestine be partitioned into Arab and Jewish states with an international enclave containing Jerusalem. The mainstream Zionists accepted the proposal, but a nationalist minority advocated a Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan River.
Palestine Arabs, supported by leaders throughout the Arab world, rejected partition. The only Arab leader who maintained discreet ties with the Zionist leadership with the aim of resolving the conflict was King Abdullah of Jordan. Clashes then occurred between Palestinians demonstrating against violation of their right to self-determination and Jews celebrating their coming independence; these soon turned into full-scale civil war. Since Britain's mandate was to end on May 14, 1948, a rather disorderly withdrawal of British troops began from disputed areas. By May 1948, as the Jewish community organized its military force, Palestinian Arabs retreated, fled, or were expelled from Israel despite military assistance from several Arab states. Their defeat, uprooting, and dispersion is known as the nakba ("catastrophe").
The first Arab-Israeli war lasted until Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria signed armistice agreements with Israel in 1949. Iraq refused to sign such an agreement. As a result of the war, Israel extended its frontiers approximately 2,000 square miles beyond the un partition borders to those of the armistice agreement. The eastern part of Jerusalem fell into Jordanian hands; the Gaza Strip was held by the Egyptians over the next 18 years; and the lines separating Israeli from Syrian territory included several de-militarized zones. Over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees, unable to return to Israel; many lived in refugee camps in the surrounding Arab states, but some moved to the Maghreb, the Gulf states, Europe, or immigrated to the Americas. Territory intended as part of the Arab Palestinian state in the un Partition Plan, including the West Bank of the Jordan River, came under the control of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. In July 1951, after King Abdullah of Jordan annexed the West Bank of the Jordan to his kingdom (April 1950), he was assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist. Since the end of the first Arab-Israel war the issues of the Palestinian refugees' rights to return or to compensation, and the status of Jerusalem, along with Arab recognition of Israel, remained unresolved. To grapple with these problems the un established the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (untso) to oversee the 1949 agreements between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. In 1948 the un Palestine Conciliation Commission was set up to achieve a peaceful settlement by addressing itself to Middle East economic development and equitable distribution of water between Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. For a fuller discussion of the Palestinian refugees, see "Arab Refugees" under *Israel, State of: Historical Survey; and *Intifada.
The birth of modern Israel and her military victories in 1948 led to turmoil in the surrounding Arab states and sparked antigovernment acts. Syria's and Egypt's military setbacks contributed to the army coups of 1949 and 1952, respectively. In Israel, tensions heightened when Egypt's Nasser, who had ended the Egyptian monarchy of King Farouk, was perceived as a growing threat. There was an increase of infiltration into Israel by Palestinian fighters (fedayeen) from Egyptian-occupied Gaza across the armistice line. The situation triggered an arms race in the mid-1950s. As noted, Egypt acquired military hardware from the Soviet Bloc. Israel, in turn, obtained aircraft and tanks from the French. Relations between Egypt and Israel also became an integral part of the larger conflict between Egypt, France, and Britain over control of the Suez Canal.
Israel formed a secret alliance with France and Britain to overthrow, or, at the very least, destabilize the Nasser regime after the latter nationalized the Suez Canal Company – dominated largely by European stockholders – on July 26, 1956. After Israel attacked Egypt on October 29, Britain and France occupied the northern Canal Zone and the city of Port Said. In fact, apparently behind the back of the British, Israel and France reached a separate understanding whereby French pilots flew over Israel to prevent possible Egyptian aerial attacks on inland cities, a strategy that would enable Israeli jets to concentrate fully on the war front. The tripartite scheme was stymied by U.S. and Soviet threats of military intervention should the parties fail to pull out their troops from Egypt. In November 1956, the un General Assembly established the United Nations Emergency Force (unef) to supervise the withdrawal of these forces and to act as a peacekeeping apparatus between Israel and Egypt. Anglo-French forces withdrew in December; Israel maintained troops in Egypt until March 1957.
Incidents erupted along other Israeli borders. Palestinian refugee infiltration and guerrilla attacks from Jordan plus clashes with Syria over Israeli projects to divert the Jordan River added obstacles to a peace settlement. The tensions over the use of water reached the boiling point in 1963–64 and resulted in Israeli military actions against Lebanon. Although the Israeli-Egyptian frontier was quiet between 1957 and the decade that followed, the tensions caused by the Jordan River dispute, the escalation of border incidents, especially with Syria and Jordan, and bitter verbal disputes set the stage for the June 1967 War: the third armed Arab-Israeli conflict.
In the aftermath of the signing of the aforementioned November 1966 Syrian-Egyptian defense agreement, achieved through Soviet mediation, and the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between these two states, Israeli-Syrian tensions had heightened. Throughout the early months of 1967 the Soviets and Syrians claimed that Israel had amassed troops along the demilitarized border. Egyptian observers arrived to confirm these developments and found no evidence of such actions. In retrospect, either the Soviets or the Syrians, or both, apparently sought to drag Egypt into a confrontation with Israel.
While many political observers believed that Nasser wished to put Israel's military capabilities to the test, others believed that he did not think that the opportune moment had arrived for him to enter into an armed conflict. Some even pointed out the back channel contacts between Israel's Mossad and General Mahmud Khalil, a close confidant of Nasser, over possible ways of ironing out Egyptian-Israeli differences. Others note that Nasser preferred that the liberation of Palestine be placed on the back burner in favor of the unification of the Arab states and the spread of the socialist revolution. With major units of his army bogged down in Yemen, his treasury empty, and the Anglo-Americans and the Arab monarchs challenging his authority, his primary goal was to consolidate his power base: in Egypt, the Soviet partnership, and his leadership of Arab socialism.
Yet when tensions rose in spring 1967 between Israel and Syria, Nasser's new understanding with the Neo-Baʿth regime placed him in a serious dilemma. If he challenged Israel with a threat of Egyptian military action in response to any move against Syria, he risked war. If he left the Syrians unprotected he would be portrayed in Arab eyes as a weakling. Nasser chose the path of deterrence and embroiled himself, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq in the third and most catastrophic Middle East war. To pose a serious deterrent threat he expelled the unef from Sinai. He then blockaded Israel's passage through the Straits of Tiran at the southeast edge of the Sinai Peninsula and massed his troops on the border. Once Nasser had got that far, it hardly mattered what his initial purpose had been. His objective now went beyond simply deterring Israel: it was to score a clear political or military victory and then to receive the acclaim of the Arab world.
Israeli leaders responded with a preemptive strike on June 5, 1967, against Egypt and its Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian allies which had joined the fighting. After six days of fighting, Israel remained in full control of the military situation and emerged as the dominant power in the region. The Arab states were now thrown into complete disarray, surpassing the disunity of 1961–64. Israel had conquered the Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the Suez Canal and the Gaza Strip from the Egyptians; the Golan Heights from the Syrians; and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the Jordanians. The war aggravated the tensions among the superpowers: the Soviet Union aligned itself with Egypt, Syria, and Iraq more than before, while the U.S. increased its support of Israel. King Hussein lost half his kingdom, whereas the Suez Canal remained closed with Israeli soldiers entrenched on its east bank. While in 1948 some 700,000 Palestinians had become refugees, an additional 300,000 uprooted themselves in an exodus from the West Bank and resettled in Jordan and Syria. Israeli Jewish settlers, mainly religious, created the infrastructure for dotting the West Bank and Gaza Strip with settlements.
Although defeated, the Arab states refused to enter into negotiations with Israel. They demanded that Israel demonstrate largesse by withdrawing to the 1949 (pre-June 5, 1967) lines and allowing the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes in Israel. At their post-war summit in Khartoum, Arab leaders voted against negotiations, peace, or recognition of Israel. Israel and its U.S. ally advocated direct negotiations with the Arab states in return for which territorial concessions would be forthcoming.
An initiative with long-range implications was un Security Council Resolution 242, on November 22, 1967, calling for the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories" conquered in the 1967 war, the end to hostilities, a "just settlement of the [Palestinian] refugee problem," and the "need to work for a just and lasting peace." To inplement the Resolution, the un chose a special envoy, Dr. Gunnar Jarring, to mediate between the parties. Syria, Iraq, and Algeria rejected the Resolution outright. Jordan and Egypt disagreed over its interpretation. They insisted it meant that Israel had to withdraw from all territories occupied in the war. At the same time, Nasser and Hussein became close allies. Both were preoccupied with the same need for political survival and the recovery of lost territory through diplomatic channels. The hostility that had divided them in the late 1950s and early 1960s seemed forgotten. Israel argued that withdrawal should be made "from territories" but not to the armistice lines. Most Arabs, except the Palestinians, no longer expected Israel to withdraw to the 1947 lines. The plo and the organizations connected to it dismissed Resolution 242 as a sellout. For them it signified Arab acceptance of Israel and relegated the claims of the Palestinians to the level of "a just settlement of the refugee problem."
A new war broke out in March 1969, known as the "War of Attrition." It was initiated by Nasser to try and break the stalemate and force Israel to withdraw from Egyptian territories. The war lasted 17 months. Egypt bombarded Israeli positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal and was supported by Soviet advisers and pilots. Israel retaliated by bombarding targets inside Egypt – demonstrating the might of its air force – including oil refineries and industrial infrastructure. Casualties mounted on both sides. On December 9, 1969, U.S. secretary of state, William Rogers, presented a plan for a comprehensive Middle East peace based on un Resolution 242. It called for Israel's withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 borders with certain modifications in return for mutual Arab-Israeli security and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Both the Arab and Israeli sides rejected the plan. In light of the escalation of the fighting between April and June 1970, however, Secretary Rogers renewed his efforts. Under a revived plan, the U.S. called for a three-month ceasefire on the Egyptian front, including a plea to all sides to accept un Resolution 242 as a basis for future negotiations and an immediate request from Israel to negotiate with Egypt and Jordan via the mediation of special envoy Jarring. The Israelis, Egyptians, and Jordanians accepted the terms of the ceasefire, which was implemented in August 1970. For the next three years the potential war arenas in the Middle East remained quiet.
The Palestinians, however, kept fighting, keeping the region in constant tension. As noted above, the plo, created at the Arab Summit in January 1964, was gradually becoming a potent force by the mid-1960s. In the aftermath of the June 1967 war and Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, a new Palestinian leadership emerged within that organization. Yahya Hamuda ousted Ahmad Shukeiri. The various guerrilla groups operating at the time with links to the plo moved in to fill the vacuum created by the military defeat of the Arab states by intensifying their attacks on Israel. Such was the case as early as March 1968 at Karama, Jordan, where Israeli soldiers faced stiff resistance from Palestinian fighters. Karama became a symbol of the struggle against Israel, which many had regarded invincible. These guerrilla groups, especially al-Fatḥ ("Triumph"), now won control of the plo. The plo Charter was revised in July 1968 to underscore the rejection of the Arab states' interference in Palestinian affairs, the complete liberation of Palestine by Palestinians through armed resistance, and the establishment of a democratic secular state in much of historic Palestine.
The psychological lift the guerrilla fighters received at Karama also paved the way for al-Fatḥ's leader, Yasser *Arafat, to seize control of the plo. The Fataḥ was the largest fighting group within the plo, the Palestine Liberation Army, and the Palestine National Council (pnc). The key rivals within the plo to Fataḥ consisted of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (pflp), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (dflp), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (pflp-gc), and al-Sāʿiqa ("Thunderbolt"). These operated mainly out of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. In the years 1969–73, they caused considerable havoc in Lebanon, contributing to its political and religious instability. The Marxist-oriented pflp was bent on overthrowing conservative regimes. It challenged King Hussein's authority in September 1970 and ignited a civil war in Jordan that resulted in the death of nearly 4,000 Palestinians, the plo's defeat, and the relocation of its headquarters to Lebanon.
Inter-Arab Politics in the 1970s
The civil war in Jordan came to a halt thanks to Nasser's mediation between King Hussein and plo's Arafat. Just as Nasser succeeded in calming tensions temporarily between Palestinians and the government of Lebanon through an emergency summit in November 1969, he was able to arrange for an end to the violence in Jordan, although it was contingent on the plo's evacuation of the Hashemite kingdom. This was to be Nasser's last initiative on behalf of Arab causes. On September 28, 1970, he succumbed to a massive heart attack. The irony of Nasser's career was that he died while shielding his old enemy Hussein, at the expense of his old clients the Palestinians. Yet Jordan did pay a price for the repression of the Palestinians. The kingdom was ostracized by the all-Arab family well into 1973.
Nasser was succeeded by his vice president, Anwar al-*Sadat, who assumed full authority only in May 1971 after defeating the opposition made up of Nasser's former allies in the government, the heads of the Arab Socialist Union Party, and the military. Sadat then moved to cultivate public support for his presidency. He formulated a new permanent constitution (September 1971) stipulating that the Shariʿa (Islamic Law) is a source of legislation (in contradistinction to Nasser's secular policies), pardoned most of the nation's political prisoners, and returned major assets nationalized during the socialist era to their original owners. Simultaneously, he undermined leftist and Nasserist influences by according benefits to the Muslim Brotherhood, a major Islamist movement that had been repressed between the late 1940s and the mid-1950s. The Brotherhood advocated the creation of a universal Islamic nation, beginning with Egypt, in which Islamic Law would be the single source of legislation. Under Nasser they were the main opponents of the regime. They were to become Sadat's counterweights to his secular opponents.
Sadat disengaged himself and his new regime from Nasser's Pan-Arab policies at home and throughout the region. He changed the country's name from the United Arab Republic to the Arab Republic of Egypt, indicating a shift toward state particularism. In July 1972 he ordered all Soviet military advisers and personnel out of Egypt. This was a critical turning point in Egyptian history: the attempt to reverse Nasser's pro-Soviet policies and reduce the dependence on the Kremlin. Sadat also made known his desire to improve ties with Washington, badly damaged during the June 1967 war. After renewing the ceasefire agreement in November 1970 and February 1971, he sought a compromise with Israel. He sent a message to Prime Minister Golda *Meir through Jarring asking for a partial Israeli withdrawal from the Suez Canal to the Ras al-Muhammad line in order to reopen the Canal for navigation. Sadat hinted that a positive gesture from Israel could well constitute a decisive step toward implementing un Resolution 242. Golda Meir publicly responded in favor of Sadat's approach. Nevertheless, the Egyptian request was finally rejected, apparently due to Sadat's subsequent demands from Israel to return to all pre-June 1967 borders. This was something Israel was unwilling to accept. Realizing that a compromise was not near, Sadat began to consider a limited war, possibly in collaboration with Syria, to regain occupied territories and bring the Suez Canal into operation. In November 1972 he instructed his war minister to begin military preparations for war. Despite the fluctuations in Soviet-Egyptian relations in the wake of the expulsion of Russian military advisers, in spring 1973 a major new arms deal was concluded between Moscow and Cairo, the cost of which was covered by the Saudis and other conservative Arab regimes.
Sadat departed from Nasser's policy of undermining conservative monarchies and republican regimes that disapproved of Pan-Arabism and Egypt's past relations with the Soviet Union. These regimes rewarded Sadat with generous financial assistance. A year later, during and following the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the oil-producing monarchies provided Sadat with important leverage: the oil embargo on the West, which was intended to prod the U.S. and Western Europe to pressure Israel into making territorial concessions.
Domestically, in 1974, the Sadat regime implemented economic programs meant to attract considerable foreign investments to Egypt, revive the public sector that had remained dormant under Nasser, and offer significant opportunities for local businessmen. This policy came to be known as siyāsat al-infitāḥ – the open door policy to free enterprise. By the late 1970s Sadat allowed formerly outlawed political parties to resume their activity for the first time since 1953. New parties were invited to join in the system under the revised constitution of September 1971. Sadat expected political parties to constitute a loyal opposition and a counterweight to his opponents. With time passing, his harsh treatment of "disloyal" parties and his refusal to permit the Muslim Brotherhood to become a party, with the argument that no religious party had a monopoly over Islam, stirred discontent. Real progress in granting greater political freedom was achieved under Husni *Mubarak, Sadat's successor to the presidency. By the late 1970s, dissatisfaction over Sadat's capitalist policies and the cutting of government subsidies of basic necessities such as foodstuffs also became widespread.
Since 1970 Libya under the radical regime headed by Colonel Qadhafi had become active in inter-Arab affairs. Libyan "socialism" was contradictory: both leftist and Islamic, anti-Communist yet allied with the Soviet Union. Qadhafi pressed for an inter-Arab union in the spirit of Nasserist Pan-Arabism and adopted a militant anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian stance. The British and American military bases that had survived under the Sanusi monarchy were closed, the tiny Italian community was expelled, alcohol was forbidden as were nightclubs, and Christian churches were closed. By the mid-1970s, disappointed with the failure of other Arab rulers to support his pleas for unity, and declining relations with Egypt, Qadhafi plunged into domestic affairs and proclaimed a Libyan Cultural Revolution. The General People's Congress had been created, the country's administration was taken over by committees, and Libya was declared a Jamāhīriyya, or "the state of the masses."
Baʿthi Iraq of the post-July 1968 coup under the Hasan al-Baqr and Saddam Hussein regime was active in the inter-Arab arena and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Iraq was in serious contention with Syria for the leading position in the progressive socialist-leftist camp and in the Fertile Crescent. Syria since 1970, under the presidency of Hafez al-Asad, also played a leading role on the inter-Arab scene, though Asad adopted a somewhat more flexible, responsible, and pragmatic stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict by not advocating an immediate war, he opposed un Resolution 242.
Several inter-Arab rivalries were resolved. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait agreed in 1969 to resolve border disputes between them. Saudi Arabia conceded to Abu Dhabi the disputed Buraimi oasis (1974), obtaining instead an outlet to the sea between Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Other inter-Arab disputes persisted. South Yemen (pdry) clashed with the Yemen Arab Republic in warlike operations in 1972 and 1979. The pdry was also in conflict with Oman, where it supported a rebellion in Dhofar. Iraq's border disputes with Kuwait led to clashes in 1973 and 1976. Libya, too, was in conflict with her neighbors: Chad (non-Arab) disputed Libya's annexation of Chadi territory since 1973 and resented Qadhafi's support for rebels. Libya claimed territorial rights from Niger and was frequently accused of meddling in that county's internal affairs. Libya's relations with other West African countries – Mali, Senegal, and Gambia – were tense, as those nations accused Qadhafi of conspiring against their governments. Tensions ran high between Libya and Tunisia. The latter accused Libya of hatching plots and stirring subversion within her borders. In 1977, Libya and Egypt were on the verge of total war following Sadat's accusation that Qadhafi had plotted to assassinate leading Egyptian government officials. Qadhafi's radical actions were also apparent in the assistance he offered the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, Europe's terrorists – rightist and leftist – as well as Muslim rebels in the Philippines and Thailand. Finally, in the Maghreb, border disputes flared throughout the 1970s. A border dispute between Morocco and Algeria was patched up in agreements, mediated by African states. Moroccan-Algerian relations deteriorated once again over Western (formerly Spanish) Sahara. Algeria refused to accept the partition and annexation of that territory by Morocco and Mauritania in 1975. Thus it supported the Saharan rebels (the polisario) and the republic they proclaimed. Algeria offered military aid whereas Israel assisted Morocco.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict in the Early and Mid-1970s
As noted, in 1972 the Egyptians began to lay the groundwork for the fourth major Arab-Israeli war. The war that finally broke out in October 1973 resulted from failure to resolve the territorial disputes arising from the previous conflict. un Resolution 242 notwithstanding, little progress had been made in its implementation and Israel remained in control of the occupied territories. When Sadat decided to go to war he contacted Syrian President Hafez al-Asad to arrange for a two-front attack on Israel: in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Despite Sadat's expulsion of Soviet military personnel in summer 1972, he was still dependent on the Russians. Thus, when he approached them for military supplies they stepped up arms deliveries to both Egypt and Syria. The Iraqis entered the war at its inception, as did volunteer fighters from the Maghreb, Kuwait, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. Jordan dispatched a token military force. The oil-rich monarchies offered financial and diplomatic assistance. In contrast to what had transpired in 1967, Egypt and Syria were reluctant to share precise military plans with King Hussein. The latter visited Israel secretly on September 25, 1973, and, at the Mossad's compound, briefed Prime Minister Golda Meir about Syrian and Egyptian war plans. What he could not do was to pinpoint the exact date of an attack.
The two-front war broke out on October 6, 1973, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It was also the Muslim month of Ramadan and hence the conflict was regarded by the Arabs as the "Ramadan War." Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal to the east bank and overran the Bar-Lev Line, built several years earlier to thwart all potential military assault. On the northern front, the Syrians rushed into the Golan Heights and came very close to reaching the June 4, 1967, border with Israel. The war caught Israel completely unprepared, for until then the Israel Defense Forces believed that Egypt and Syria were ill prepared for war and thus would desist from waging it.
On October 10 Sadat requested that the Saudis use the oil weapon as a countermeasure to the American airlift to Israel. On October 16, Arab oil ministers convened in Kuwait and proclaimed an embargo on petroleum shipments to the U.S. and Holland. They said the restrictions would be lifted once Israel retreated from Arab territories occupied in the 1967 war. The oil ministers then put pressure on other Western governments by reducing oil shipments by five percent a month until the Arabs' terms were met. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and other Gulf states supported the war effort financially. Algerian President Houari Boumedienne provided the Kremlin with $200 million to finance military assistance to Egypt and Syria.
The fighting was the heaviest since 1948, with major losses of men and war material on both sides. Over 2,800 Israeli and 8,500 Arab soldiers were killed during the battles in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Israel lost over 100 aircraft and more than 800 tanks while the Arabs lost nearly 400 aircraft and at least 2,500 tanks. Each side was rearmed during the fighting – Egypt by the Soviet Union and Israel by the U.S. Within several days, recovering from the surprise attack, the Israelis launched their counteroffensive. By October 9, the Syrians had been pushed back to their starting point. The Israel Defense Forces then entered Syrian territory and positioned themselves 20 miles outside Damascus. On the Egyptian front, Israeli forces crossed to the west bank of the Suez Canal in mid-October, cutting off the Egyptian Third Army and surrounding it.
The war precipitated an international crisis when the Soviet Union responded to an urgent appeal from Egypt to save its Third Army. Despite the un Security Council cease-fire resolution, Israeli troops continued to attack. Once the Soviet Union revealed its intentions to dispatch troops to Egypt, Washington called for a worldwide military alert. The crisis subsided after all parties agreed to negotiate an honorable retreat of the Egyptian Third Army. When the belligerents accepted the ceasefire, on October 22, Israel had regained its control of Sinai and its forces were positioned 60 miles from Cairo, though Egyptian forces were still entrenched on the east bank of the Suez Canal. It was then that un Resolution 338 was passed, calling for the termination of all war activity and the implementation of Resolution 242. Thenceforth, Resolution 338 became an adjunct to 242.
In December 1973 a Middle East peace conference convened in Geneva under the auspices of the U.S., the Soviet Union, and the un. Israel, Egypt, and Jordan attended it while Syria boycotted it. Apart from opening speeches and brief deliberations over technical matters, the conference failed to re-convene. The U.S. decided to work directly with the Israelis and Egyptians without involving the un and the Russians. Owing to the mediation efforts of Secretary of State Henry *Kissinger a disengagement agreement was hammered out on January 18, 1974, between Israel and Egypt. Israel withdrew across the Suez Canal and enabled Sadat to reopen and operate it. A second phase of the Israeli pullout from the Sinai, signed on September 4, 1975, entailed, inter alia, an Israeli withdrawal to the east of the Mitla and Gidi Passes and return of the Abu Rudais oil fields to Egypt.
It was far more complicated to work out a disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria. Kissinger was at pains to convince Israel to withdraw its forces from Syrian territory occupied in the 1973 war as well as from the Quneitra area in the Golan Heights that had remained under Israeli control after 1967. A buffer zone was established in the Golan Heights under un supervision while Damascus agreed to prevent Palestinian fighters from launching attacks into Israel through Syrian territory. The disengagement agreement was signed on May 31, 1974, and remained in place.
The Road to Egyptian-Israeli Peace: 1976–1979
Intertwined with these disengagement agreements, an Arab summit convened in Rabat on October 26, 1974, which only Qadhafi of Libya and President Hasan al-Bakr of Iraq chose to boycott. The outcome amounted to a four-point resolution: (1) extending greater financial assistance to the confrontation states and the plo; (2) working for a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East and opposing separate agreements; (3) recognizing the plo as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," thus stripping Jordan's King Hussein of any real political influence within the West Bank and over its Palestinian population; and (4) offering suggestions for resolving all major political differences that had clouded relations between Arafat and Hussein since 1970, when the plo was forced out of Jordan.
Meanwhile, President Asad sought to increase his influence in the Middle East by extending Syrian political and military influence into neighboring Lebanon. Some of this related to his claim that Lebanon was an integral part of Greater Syria. The civil war that broke out in Lebanon in April 1975 and lasted into 1990 – resulting from internal ethnic tensions, the plo's meddling in the country's domestic politics, and its use of Lebanese territory as a launching pad for terrorist actions inside Israel – proved to be timely and advantageous for Asad. The Palestinian issue held dangers for Lebanese religious and political stability, as did the mounting animosities between Shiites, Maronite Christians and their right-wing militias (especially the Phalange), Sunni Muslims, and Druze. These factors were in effect interconnected. While the Lebanese government tried to curb the Palestinian armed presence on its soil, as did right-wing Christian militias, leftist Sunnis expected Lebanon to assist the Palestinians in Beirut as well as in the south, where the latter directed their attacks on Israel. The Sunnis called on the authorities to dispatch the national army to protect southern Lebanon against Israeli retaliatory raids.
The Lebanese civil war led to close collaboration between Israel and Bashir Jumayyil, leader of the Phalange, against the plo. Simultaneously, Syria seized the opportunity to consolidate her own position by backing the Sunni leftist-Palestinian alliance, though at times she had to restrain the Palestinians, even to the point of military action. Between 1976 and 1984, Syria emerged as the dominant force in the military control of parts of Lebanon and imposed its authority on local politics. Iraq and Libya, too, meddled in Lebanese politics, supplying their radical allies with weaponry and funds.
As these developments occurred, the U.S. encouraged the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict to convene in Geneva for a Middle East international peace conference. Syria's position on the conference was hazy, but nothing came of the American initiative because both Israel and Egypt expressed misgivings about it. Israel refused to be dragged into a forum where the Soviet Union and Arab leaders might seek to force major territorial and political concessions that would not be acceptable to it. Egypt doubted Syrian flexibility and mistrusted the Soviets. Besides, Sadat concluded that peace ought to be achieved only through direct negotiations with Israel.
It appears that both Egypt and Israel looked for creative solutions to the conflict, with the Americans brought later into the picture. In September 1977, a secret meeting took place in Morocco between Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Hasan al-Tuhami and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe *Dayan. It was held in the presence of Moroccan King Hasan. The two men, who met each other with the prior knowledge of their heads of state, discussed the idea of Israel's withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories in return for peace. Much attention, however, was focused on the question of whether Israel would be prepared to return all the rest of the Sinai still under its control. It is difficult at this point to discern what Dayan and the Likud government headed by Prime Minister Menaḥem *Begin could have offered the Egyptians – whether the whole of the Sinai would be returned in return for negotiations and recognition of Israel, or whether the meeting was merely a test of good will and a "warming up session" for future discussions. Apparently, Sadat saw in the event a "green light," an opportune moment for a diplomatic initiative on his part.
In late October and early November 1977 Sadat secretly developed a plan to visit Jerusalem. On November 9, in the course of a speech to the Egyptian People's Assembly, he announced his readiness to go "to the ends of the earth" in order to prevent the outbreak of another war. He then added a sentence, not part of the prepared speech, about his willingness to go to Israel and speak before the Knesset. Yasser Arafat, who was present in the Parliament as a guest during Sadat's speech, was astounded, as was the Carter administration. It took the U.S. two weeks to endorse Sadat's initiative – after he had already visited Jerusalem – and abandon or shelve plans for an international conference.
Sadat's speech drew attention in the Arab world only when Prime Minister Begin responded with a public invitation to Sadat to visit Jerusalem. Before reaching his decision to go to Israel, Sadat visited Asad in an effort to garner wider Arab support for the initiative. When Asad was unable to talk Sadat out of his plan, he even considered arresting him. But Sadat would not budge and visited Jerusalem. He had once again put Egypt's interests above Arab solidarity, as had been the case when he signed the 1974 and 1975 disengagement agreements, setting a precedent for separate initiatives. Sadat spoke in the Knesset on November 20, 1977. While refraining from mentioning the plo, he urged Israel to evacuate the territories occupied in 1967 and to seek an honorable solution to the plight of the Palestinian people.
Support for Sadat's move was initially forthcoming mostly from Morocco, Sudan, and Oman. Syria and Iraq were furious about it. With Egypt pulling out as an active participant in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the eastern front against Israel, of which Damascus and Baghdad were part, weakened considerably. No large-scale war could now be fought by the Arab states. Algeria, pdry, and the plo branded Sadat a traitor to the Arab cause. For the plo, Sadat's move was most damaging. As far as the Palestinians were concerned, he had backtracked from the formula of an independent Palestinian state, putting forward the concept of Palestinian self-determination as part of a peace settlement with Israel. Libya reacted to the Jerusalem visit by calling for a meeting in Tripoli – without Egyptian participation. The Saudis, backed by Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco, pressed for Egypt to be invited in order to bring it back into the Arab fold. Only Syria, Iraq, Algeria, pdry, and the plo attended the Tripoli meeting on December 5, 1977, and decided to freeze their ties with Egypt, considering moving the Arab League headquarters out of Cairo and reviewing Egypt's membership.
From Israel's point of view a separate peace settlement with Sadat was the preferred solution. The Begin government was not well disposed toward any concessions to the Palestinians and thought that negotiations, even with moderate states like the Kingdom of Jordan, were still premature. Dayan was especially hostile to any concessions to the plo and made this point plain to Hasan al-Tuhami during their deliberations in Morocco. It was argued in Israel that a separate settlement would reduce significantly the potential of a wide Arab war against the Jewish state, while the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza would be preserved, rendering the thorny issues of Palestinian sovereignty less relevant for some time.
After months of Egyptian-Israeli meetings to overcome political hurdles, top Israeli and Egyptian leaders met at Camp David in September 1978. Under American patronage and mediation an Egyptian-Israeli agreement, known as the Camp David Accords, was signed on September 17, 1978. Like Sadat's visit to Jerusalem the previous year, this development wreaked havoc among Arab leaders. As far as they were concerned, what Sadat had done was to make a separate deal with the Israelis, contrary to the idea of a comprehensive peace settlement agreed upon in October 1974 at the Arab summit in Rabat. In reaction, Iraq convened a summit conference in Baghdad (November 1978) to probe the possibility of imposing sanctions on Egypt. Yet the rivalries that plagued the Arab political scene made it impossible to agree on the sanctions. Iraq, Syria, Algeria, the plo, and pdry wanted to isolate Egypt, while the Saudis, Moroccans, and Kuwaitis felt that Egypt was vital to the Arab world. They argued that an attempt to convince Sadat to avoid signing a formal agreement with Israel would perhaps prove more prudent.
But Sadat refused to have anything to do with the radicals and turned down the moderate states' pleas. Thus, Morocco's support for Sadat diminished, and outwardly, at least, King Hasan finally toed the radical Arab line. On March 26, 1979, the Israeli-Egypt peace treaty was signed formally in Washington in the presence of President Jimmy Carter. In April 1982, Israel returned the rest of Sinai to Egypt, and by 1985 the disputed Taba area.
The Arab World and Israel: The 1980s to the Early 1990s
The Israel-Egypt peace treaty of March 26, 1979, and the Islamic revolution in Iran that had toppled the pro-Western Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi only several weeks earlier affected the Arab world radically throughout the 1980s. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, whose headquarter moved from Cairo to Tunis. It is ironic that Tunisian President Bourguiba, who in the 1950s and 1960s had been regarded as the Arab League's most bitter critic, now served as its host. Egypt was further isolated as most Arab states severed their ties with Cairo, which were renewed only in 1987. Meanwhile President Sadat was assassinated by a fanatical Islamist army officer on October 6, 1981, and replaced by his vice president, Husni Mubarak. In the absence of Egyptian leadership in Arab forums, the Arab world fell into disarray and ever-deepening disunity. Iraq, perhaps the most influential Arab country at the time, launched a war against Islamist Iran in September 1980. Iraq's new leader, President Saddam Hussein, having ousted President Hasan al-Bakr in July 1979, took advantage of Iran's difficult internal transition from monarchy to republic in an attempt to weaken it. It is still unclear what motivated the Iraqis to go to war. The standard explanations ranged from the occupation of Iranian territory (the Shatt al-Arab waterway and the oil-rich province of Khuzistan) to the infliction of a decisive defeat on the Iranian revolution and the desire to make Iraq the preeminent Arab and Persian Gulf state. Another plausible explanation is the fear of the predominantly Sunni Arab regime in Iraq that the Iranian Revolution might back the Iraqi Shiite majority and local Kurdish nationalists in an effort to destabilize it. Although caught unprepared, the Iranians demonstrated resilience and fought well into 1988, when the war finally ended with no clear victors.
If Iraq was concerned about the potential of a Shiite-Iranian-Islamist threat in the post-1979 period, the Persian Gulf Arab monarchies were equally anxious. Beside the concern in Bahrain and Qatar, where the Shiites accounted for more than half the general population, that Iran's propaganda efforts would incite them against the political regime, the Gulf monarchies feared possible Iranian territorial expansion into their domain. Syria, on the other hand, improved its relations with Iran, economically and militarily, moving the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia to improve their ties with Iraq.
The Iran-Iraq war proved beneficial to Israel in the short term. Iraq was too busy on the Iranian front to render assistance to radical forces in their struggle against the Jewish state. Two developments suppport this view. First, during the course of the war Israel managed to carry out prolonged military operations inside Lebanon – especially "Operation Peace for Galilee" – and to challenge Syria and the plo militarily on Lebanese soil with little external interference. Second, Israel hardly encountered Arab opposition when the Knesset approved the Golan Law of December 14, 1981, extending Israeli law to the occupied Golan Heights, which for all intents and purposes signified territorial annexation. Syria itself was in no position to challenge Israel effectively owing to internal upheavals organized by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The latter launched terrorist attacks in the northern part of the country in 1980–82 against the secularist Baʿth and its Alawi leadership elite, prompting Asad to adopt far-reaching repressive measures to quell the unrest.
The aforementioned "Operation Peace for Galilee" represented the clearcut Arab weakness since 1978–80. Throughout the 1978–82 period, the Israel Defense forces were fighting plo terrorist activity originating from Lebanon inside Israeli territory. The Palestinians also fired Katyusha rockets from Lebanon at Israel's Galilee region. These attacks served as an incentive for the Begin government to decimate the plo's infrastructure, expel its fighters, eliminate Syria's presence, and implant a Maronite-dominated government led by the Phalange party – Israel's foremost Lebanese ally.
The invasion that was part of "Operation Peace for Galilee," commencing on June 6, 1982, was triggered not by a border incident but by the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador in London three days earlier. This was a pretext, though, because the would-be assassin belonged to the anti-plo Abu Nidal group, which also targeted plo officials. Initially, "Operation Peace for Galilee" was intended to be limited to a 25-mile security belt south of the Litani River, as Defense Minister Ariel *Sharon had declared. Yet once the operation began and plo strongholds were eliminated, Sharon and military Chief of Staff Rafael *Eitan instructed the army to proceed to the outskirts of Beirut, a task completed by mid-June. As the Israel Defense Forces were surrounding the Lebanese capital, shelling West Beirut, and engaging in aerial bombardments, they were joined by the Phalange. The pressure was now on the plo's fighting forces to abandon their West Beirut headquarters and leave the country. The pressure was also directed at the Lebanese government to help carry out the expulsion.
In the aftermath of U.S. diplomatic involvement, the plo agreed to leave Lebanon in an orderly fashion while an accord was reached wherein a multinational force, including U.S. Marines, would supervise the evacuation procedure. Syria was also required to reduce its military presence in the country. By September 1, over 14,000 plo fighters and their leaders had left West Beirut for different Arab countries, mainly Tunisia, where Tunis became the plo's new headquarters. That same day, the Reagan administration announced the Reagan Plan calling for the implementation of un Resolution 242 and a freeze on building new Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The plan refrained from supporting the establishment of an independent Palestinian state but advocated Palestinian autonomy in association with Jordan. Most Arab states and the plo rejected the plan outright. Israel, too, regarded it with little enthusiasm.
"Operation Peace for Galilee," Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon's grand plan for a stable Lebanon, turned out to be a tragic illusion. On the one hand, Bashir Jumayyil, leader of the Phalange and Israel's main ally, was elected president of Lebanon on August 23 against Syria's wishes. On the other hand, the longer Israel maintained a military presence in the country, the more the support it initially enjoyed from various segments of the population eroded. This was very much the case with the Shiites in southern Lebanon. In the past they had resented the Palestinians for carrying out terrorist acts against Israel from their territory, for they often paid the price of Israeli retaliatory raids on the ground and from the air. Yet the Israeli entrenchment on Lebanese soil gradually turned the Shiites against them. Then, on September 14, Jumayyil was assassinated, possibly by pro-Syrian elements, shattering any remaining hope for normal life in Lebanon. Israeli forces reacted to the event by taking control of West Beirut and allowing Phalange militiamen to enter the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. The Phalange, seeking revenge for the death of their leader, carried out a horrible massacre among its inhabitants, causing outrage in Israel and throughout the world. A top-level investigative committee was created in Israel to determine the extent of responsibility for the massacre by the government and military. Ariel Sharon was forced to resign from his defense ministry post in February 1983.
Amin Jumayyil succeeded his late brother as Lebanon's president. Following extensive negotiations between Lebanese and Israeli officials under American patronage, a security and peace agreement was concluded on May 17, 1983. It provided Israel with important concessions such as the use of much of Lebanon's air and ground space in the south. It also laid the groundwork for future commercial and tourist activity. In fact, affluent Lebanese families visited Israel in summer 1983. The agreement contained guarantees from Israel to the Reagan administration of a gradual pullout from Lebanon in parallel to the withdrawal of the remaining Syrian armed forces.
An agreement which ignored Syria's interests in Lebanon could not hold up, however. In early fall 1983 Israel did commence a phased evacuation of its forces from Beirut as well as the Shuf area, withdrawing south of the Awali River. Nevertheless, this move and the U.S. and multinational military presence could not maintain the peace. The opposition to the agreement of May 17, 1983, gained momentum. The Lebanese army was torn by factions while small armies consisting of Sunni and Shiite Muslims gained strength and posed serious threats to the continued foreign presence and to Maronite political primacy. They included the Shiite Amal ("Hope") movement and the *Hizbollah ("Party of God"). The latter was founded in 1982 with the help of Iranian agents and gradually became the most potent political and military force in southern Lebanon and the Biqa' Valley. It enjoyed financial and logistical assistance from Iran and Syria. Whereas Amal sought to improve the conditions of the Shiites in south Lebanon within the political realm, Hizbollah sought to establish there an Islamic state on the Iranian model. Both supported a strong Syrian presence in the country (as did the Druze at the time). Hizbollah evinced strong antagonism vis-à-vis Israel, the U.S., and the Lebanese government. It was apparently responsible for the suicide car bomb attacks on Israeli bases, the U.S. embassy in Beirut, and the October 23, 1983, assault on the Marine naval barracks, killing 241 Marines. Hizbollah's actions hastened the withdrawal of multinational forces from Lebanon at the beginning of 1984. For the U.S., sinking in the Lebanese quicksand was perhaps as tragic as for Israel. Syria emerged as the principal beneficiary. Asad seized on these developments to reverse Israel's earlier achievements.
On March 5, 1984, the Israeli-Lebanese agreement was annulled. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 1985 – after establishing a six-mile security zone in the south patrolled by local Christian allies –Asad was able to bolster his hegemony over Lebanon. Israel may have eliminated much of Palestinian militancy in Lebanon but gained a more formidable enemy in the radical Islamist Shiites.
Although an Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement could not be implemented in 1983–84, and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty did not extend to include other states, there were efforts by several Arab leaders and non-official Israelis and Jews outside Israel, before and after 1983, to initiate peace plans. Attempts had been made by Palestinian leader 'Isam Sartawi and Israeli public figures such Ury *Avneri, Matti Peled, and Ya'akov Arnon to meet secretly and discuss ideas as to how to implement un Resolution 242 and create an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The first meeting over these issues took place in Morocco in the presence of King Hasan and his closest advisers. Nothing came of these meetings. Moreover, Sartawi was assassinated in April 1983, and Avneri and his group wielded little influence inside Israel, as they were politically marginal. A group of Moroccan Jews (Israelis and those living in Morocco and elsewhere) formed in the late 1970s an organization called Identité et Dialogue whose aim was to engage Moroccan Muslims, as well as Israeli and Arab politicians, in peace dialogues. They felt they could serve as a bridge toward Arab-Israeli understanding. They were led by André Azoulay, an economist who served later as chief economic adviser to King Hasan, and later worked in the same capacity under King Muhammad vi. Despite Hasan's support for these efforts, the group accomplished little and by the mid-1980s became invisible.
Of greater significance and seriousness was the effort by the then Saudi Prince Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz ibn Saʿud to revive the Middle East peace process. Two months prior to Sadat's assassination, Fahd proposed a comprehensive settlement to include full Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories, and dismantling of all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital; affirming the right of all nations in the Middle East to coexist peacefully; and guaranteeing the Palestinian rights, with compensation for those refugees and their descendants not interested in returning to their homes inside Israel. The new plan was meant to provide an alternative framework to the Camp David Accords in the hope it might enjoy Arab and international support. King Hasan emerged as the staunchest promoter of the plan.
Hoping to secure some credit from the Saudi plan for himself, Hasan volunteered to host an Arab summit where its contents would be scrutinized. Such a summit did in fact take place in Fez on November 25, 1981. Aside from the affirmation that all states in the region were to coexist in peace, the plan remained fuzzy over the official ending of the Arab-Israeli conflict once the Israelis fulfilled their part of the bargain. It also left out the question of recognition of Israeli sovereignty and the problem of the Palestinian claim of the right of return. The latter was a thorny issue for Israel and would remain so. Excepting Hasan's unequivocal support of the plan and the Gulf states' initial cautious support, in the final analysis the summit's participants studiously avoided any serious discussion of its contents. They focused instead on the issue of extending financial support for Lebanon, ravaged by violence. Not least problematic was the absence at the summit of the presidents of Libya, Syria, Algeria, Sudan, and Tunisia. The banishing of Egypt from the Arab consensus was also a major impediment.
To save face as the summit's host, as well as his personal prestige, and at the same time cover up any possible damage that could be caused to Arab solidarity over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hasan suggested that the plan not be written off completely. The opponents of the plan could not be disregarded either, he averred, and thus the summit should be suspended and reconvened to discuss this issue later on. Arab leaders accepted the compromise. The Fahd plan resurfaced at the second Fez Arab summit of September 1982, which was convened in the aftermath of Israel's "Peace for Galilee" incursion into Lebanon. It also followed the aforementioned Reagan's Middle East proposals of September 1, 1982, calling for the implementation of Resolutions 242 and 338. This time, Syria's Asad attended, as did Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Jordan's King Hussein, and Fahd (now the Saudi king), the rulers of the Gulf emirates, and plo Chairman Yasser Arafat. Despite Hasan's energetic lobbying among Arab leaders in favor of the Fahd plan, his efforts were only marginally rewarded. The summit did back an Arab peace plan, but it was a considerably altered version of the Saudi initiative that accentuated unequivocally the right of the Palestinians to return to pre-1948 Palestine. Hasan could at least be consoled by his ability to host a relatively widely based Arab forum that debated an issue of such magnitude. In March 2002, after the Saudis laid out a new peace plan at an Arab summit in Beirut, the Moroccan press boasted that the original 1981–82 Fahd plan had been fully endorsed by only one Arab leader: the late King Hasan, a man of "visionary and prophetic" attributes.
In July 1985, Morocco called for a summit meeting in Morocco in order to review once again the contents of the Fahd plan. Syria rejected the proposal while most of the radical Arab states boycotted the summit. So did the plo leadership in Tunis, which was still steadfastly opposed to U.S. and Israeli demands of direct negotiations, opting instead for the convening of an international conference through which a settlement would be imposed on Israel. Hasan did not give up, however. Trying to break the ice, toward the end of 1985 he invited then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon *Peres to Morocco to further the cause of a comprehensive settlement. At the time the Israeli government consisted of a coalition between the Labor Party and Likud.
On July 22–23, 1986, Hasan hosted Israel's Shimon Peres at his palace in Ifrane, causing considerable consternation in Arab countries. The much publicized meeting produced meager results. Hasan expressed his disappointment that Peres had not been more forthcoming on the Palestinian question. The king posed two questions. First, in return for peace with the Arab world, would Israel agree to withdraw from all Arab territories captured in 1967? Second, would the Israeli government agree to negotiate with the plo? By asking these questions, Hasan placed his dialogue with Peres within the framework of the Fahd principles of 1981–82. He asserted that the Fahd principles endorsed the Palestinians' right to independence and the plo as their only legitimate representative body. Peres responded negatively to both questions, for to do otherwise would be unacceptable to both his right-wing Likud partners and to large segments of Israeli public opinion.
In the latter half of 1986, Peres turned over the post of prime minister to Yitzḥak *Shamir, becoming Israel's foreign minister in the coalition's rotation agreement. He continued to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state under the aegis of the plo, favoring instead the "Jordanian option": Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank under the leadership of moderate local forces subordinate to the Kingdom of Jordan. Attempting to implement this policy, Peres met King Hussein secretly in London in April 1987. Shamir was apprised of the meeting a priori but in the final analysis refused to endorse it.
Given the standstill in solving the Palestine problem, and despite the fact that the senior leadership of the plo was in exile in Tunis, a younger generation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip decided to rise up actively against the 20-year Israeli presence. The uprising, known as the Intifada, commenced on December 9, 1987. It prompted King Hussein to relinquish his political ambitions in the West Bank and to maintain a low profile as a potential facilitator between Israel and the Palestinians. The uprising did not include the use of weaponry. Those who protested against the ongoing Israeli occupation threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, burned tires in the street, disseminated literature, and engaged in demonstrations. Supporters of the Islamist-oriented Palestinians, known as the Ḥamās (Ḥarakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya = the Islamic Resistance Movement) and the Islamic Jihād organization, as well as the secular supporters of the plo sub-organizations, were separately involved in the protests. Whereas the senior Islamist leadership was active locally, the pro-plo protesters lacked leaders, as they had been exiled. Within several months the plo in Tunis seized control of the pro-plo protests by remote control.
In spring 1990, an exclusively right-wing government rose in Israel, led by the Likud, which included circles who had little inclination for negotiation. Labor remained now in opposition until the general elections of June 1992. The efforts by President Bush to break the deadlock by pressuring Israel to offer concessions were thwarted by Shamir and proved ineffectual.
Another major event in the Middle East of major proportions that encouraged the Bush administration to seek stability for the region and a solution to the wider Arab-Israeli conflict was the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces on August 2, 1990. Iraq had had long-standing claims to Kuwait since the days the Ottoman Empire ruled over the area. Iraqi-Kuwaiti border disputes and financial disputes over the price of oil aggravated the relationship and contributed to the Iraqi decision to attack. The U.S. opposed the Iraqi-initiated war. President Bush finally gave Saddam Hussein until January 15, 1991, to end it. When Iraq failed to comply, the U.S. and its allied forces, including several Arab armies, began an air attack on Iraq and on Iraqi positions in Kuwait in "Operation Desert Storm." In retaliation Iraq launched scud missiles against Israel, damaging many buildings in the Tel Aviv area. Owing to American pressure Israel did not retaliate against Iraq and left the U.S. and its allies to conduct the war against the Iraqis. On February 23, 1991, allied ground forces entered Iraq. On February 27, Kuwait was liberated. During the war, Iraq's national infrastructure was badly damaged while tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed, as were hundreds of Kuwaitis. After their liberation, the Kuwaiti authorities vented their anger against the Palestinians residing in their country, accusing them of supporting the Iraqi occupation. The Palestinian community was then reduced through expulsion from 300,000 to 30,000, with many of the new refugees resettling in Jordan.
The Gulf War and the Intifada led to the U.S.- and Russian-sponsored Middle East Peace Conference that convened in Madrid on October 30, 1991. All Arab states were invited to the conference and most attended. The conference outlined a series of bilateral and direct negotiations between Israel and the Syrians, Lebanese, and Jordanian-Palestinian delegations, with multilateral discussions on Middle Eastern refugees, environment, economic development, and water rights. Politically, in 1991 cracks began to appear in Algerian and Libyan hostility toward Israel. In the immediate aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, Hasan convened a Maghrebi summit in Casablanca, attended by the heads of state of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. These states, together with Mauritania, had recently founded the new Maghreb Arab Union (amu), an organization that worked toward coordinating regional and economic development policies and other joint projects. The amu member states were eager to play a decisive role in Israeli-Palestinian politics. Thus, the Arab-Israeli peace issue dominated the Casablanca summit, beginning with Hasan's welcoming address and following a speech delivered by Tunisia's President Zayn Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian president was most explicit regarding the importance of reaching a settlement, saying that a stable Arab world and a stable Maghreb depended on it.
By then, Egypt had already returned to the Arab fold. Most Arab states had renewed ties with Cairo. President Husni Mubarak successfully walked a tightrope. He stuck to Sadat's policy of preserving the peace with Israel (albeit a cold peace) and Cairo's cooperation with the U.S., but, unlike Sadat, he pursued a policy of reconciliation with the Arab world. As Egypt was then receiving financial and military assistance from Washington, reneging on the peace treaty of 1979 with Israel would most certainly have resulted in the loss of U.S. support. Moreover, Egypt was now applying pressure on the Syrians, Israelis, and Palestinians to resolve their age-old conflicts.
Throughout 1992, however, these gestures of goodwill and the post-Madrid Conference Arab-Israeli bilateral/multilateral negotiations, which were moved to Washington, showed little progress. Israel negotiated with the Palestinians as long as they avowed that they were part of the Jordanian delegation, and not the plo. Yet, the Palestinians who were with the Jordanian delegation were in fact very much part of the plo. They contacted Tunis regularly for instructions, much to Israel's displeasure, bringing the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiation track to a virtual standstill.
Further, the Syrians were willing to negotiate with Israel bilaterally about occupied territories. Yet when it came to the multilateral talks they shied away, perhaps suggesting to the Israelis they had little inclination of pursuing matters related to the normalization of ties. Little, then, could be accomplished on the Israel-Syria track. In summer 1992, when the Labor Party replaced the Likud in power, Prime Minister Yitzhak *Rabin was prepared to offer generous territorial concessions to the Syrians in return for extensive negotiations. Syria expected Israel to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967 lines. Israel, however, only agreed to a Syrian presence along the international border that had been agreed on between Britain and France in 1923. Though the difference between the two borders was insignificant in terms of territory, for Israel to return to the June 4, 1967 lines meant tolerating Syrian presence along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and control over al-Hamma south of the lake. Moreover, as before, Syria was unwilling to establish full ties with Israel. Only the Jordanian-Israeli talks made progress.
Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria, and the Oslo Accords: 1993–2006
From late 1992 or the beginning of 1993, behind-the-scenes discussions were held in Oslo, Norway, in the shadow of the bilateral and multilateral talks that followed the Madrid Conference. Prime Minister Rabin agreed to open a second, secret channel, alongside the other discussions in Washington, insofar as Israeli-Palestinian talks were concerned. By early fall 1993 the Oslo channel became known to the wider public and replaced the deliberations in Washington as the only option for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israel now expressed readiness to negotiate with the plo and the representatives of its exiled leadership in Tunis. Until then successive Israeli governments had taken legal action against official and non-official Israelis meeting with plo representatives anywhere. On its part, the plo had gradually modified its stance toward Israel, a process that had begun at the end of 1988, and gained momentum in the early 1990s following the Madrid Conference. It now claimed to adhere to un Resolution 242, renounce terrorism, and recognize the State of Israel. The Intifada was over.
On September 13, 1993, Israel and the plo signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles (dop) in Washington in the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton. It outlined a five-year plan for Palestinian self-government, starting with Israel's withdrawal of troops from the West Bank town of Jericho and the Gaza Strip, and the transfer of authority for economic development, education, culture, tourism, tax collection, and welfare. It was agreed that Chairman Arafat and the plo's exiled leadership in Tunis would be permitted to set up their headquarters in Gaza, a decision implemented in July 1994. The road was paved for the creation of the Palestinian Authority. This was to be followed by the election in 1996 of an interim governing council. Negotiations would then commence (on May 4, 1996) toward a final status agreement on the future of Jerusalem, the 1948 refugees, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and the demarcation of clearly defined borders.
A majority of Israelis and Palestinians were at first favorably disposed to the new accords, even though the Oslo dop was a peace process, not a peace treaty. The Palestinians were not offered an independent state, in any case not in the initial phases of the process. Most Palestinians were dissatisfied because the hard issues of refugee status, the question of Jerusalem, and the fate of the Jewish settlements were deferred. In Israel, right-wing political figures said they would either work to abrogate the dop or not honor it. Palestinian radicals, notably Islamists of the Hamas and Jihad movements, as well as secularly oriented radicals within the plo's Fatah and pflp, carried out violent actions in the West Bank and Gaza against Jewish settlers and soldiers. Among the Arab states, Syria spearheaded the opposition to the Oslo accords less out of concern about the contents of the dop than as a protest against the plo's decision to reach a separate agreement with Israel. The Gulf emirates supported the process as did Egypt, which was active in pushing forward the implementation of the accords. King Hussein not only backed Oslo: on October 26, 1994, he signed a peace agreement with Israel in the Arava Desert region in the presence of official Israeli, Jordanian, U.S., and Russian delegations. The thorniest problem was border demarcation because Israel had expanded its eastern frontier in the late 1960s by an estimated 350 square kilometers, some of which had become farmland. Rabin and Hussein worked out the whole line from Eilat and Aqaba in the south to the point of convergence with Syria in the north. In some areas they agreed to land exchanges. In other areas Hussein allowed Israeli farmers to continue to use the land they had been cultivating after it reverted to Jordanian sovereignty. As for the water, it was decided that Jordan would get 50 million cubic meters a year from Israel. The two countries agreed to cooperate to overcome water shortages by developing new water resources.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the further implementation of the interim process were delayed until the signing in Cairo of Oslo i (May 1994). It was then that Israeli troops withdrew and Palestinian police took control in Jericho and the Gaza Strip. Violence by both sides and postponements diminished support for the accords. Yet the parties reached a number of understandings, including Oslo ii, signed at the White House on September 28, 1995, which led to more Israeli concessions in the West Bank.
The Oslo ii accord provided for elections to a Palestinian council, the transfer of legislative authority to this council, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian centers of population, and the division of the West Bank into three areas: a, b, and c. Area a consisted of Palestinian towns and cities. Area b referred to Palestinian villages (68 percent of the total Palestinian population in the West Bank). Area c covered areas taken over by Israel for roads and settlements. Area a was placed under exclusive Palestinian control and area c under exclusive Israeli control. In Area b the Palestinians exercised civilian authority while Israel remained in charge of security. Under the terms of Oslo ii, Israel conceded to the Palestinian Authority civilian control over one-third of the West Bank. Four percent of the West Bank, mainly the towns of Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus (Shechem), Tulkarem, and Kalkilya, was turned over to full Palestinian control and another 25 percent to administrative-civilian control. In the Gaza Strip, Israel retained control over 35 percent of the land, notably Jewish settlements (*Gush Katif) and roads leading to them. The rest became the responsibility of the Palestinians.
Some setbacks on the Palestinian track loomed large on the horizon following Oslo ii. This was several months before the May 4, 1996 deadline for the negotiations over the final status of the occupied territories. Arafat envisaged wresting from Israel in these negotiations a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel had reservations regarding Arafat's maximalist approach and, simultaneously, approved the expansion of existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But there were other reasons for the indefinite postponement of the final status deliberations. On November 4, 1995, Yigal Amir, a young religious extremist, assassinated Rabin at a Tel Aviv peace rally. Throughout 1995 certain religious elements whose worldview was imbued with messianic tendencies and other ultra-right circles had spearheaded criticism of the government for its decision to concede territories. They insisted that all of the Land of Israel had been promised to the Jews by God and no living person could give up any part of it to foreigners. As far as they were concerned, the Palestinians were aliens. Those who betrayed the Jewish people must be punished and their plans thwarted.
Peres, then foreign minister, succeeded Rabin and vowed to resume the peace process on all fronts, including Syria. To help expedite Israeli-Syrian contacts, the U.S. initiated direct negotiations between the parties at the end of December 1995 at Wye Plantation in Maryland. The Israelis and Syrians focused their attention on issues related to permanent borders, security matters, diplomatic ties, and water. The negotiators met once again toward the end of January 1996 but were deadlocked on most issues. Though secret Israeli-Syrian contacts took place during the Likud's new term in government (May 1996–May 1999), the parties did not meet publicly until 2000.
Peres had no better success with the Palestinians. On February 25, 1996, a Hamas terrorist blew himself up on a bus in Jerusalem, killing all the passengers; suicide bomber attacks followed in Ashkelon, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, with more than 60 Israelis killed. The suicide bombings convinced large segments of the Israeli public that Oslo had only wrought havoc. The support that Peres had enjoyed soon eroded. With national elections scheduled for May 29, 1996, the Likud's candidate, Binyamin *Netanyahu, surged ahead of Peres in public opinion polls.
Meanwhile Hizbollah launched Katyusha rockets from Lebanon at settlements in northern Galilee. They also attacked Israeli units and the pro-Israel Christian militias inside the security zone in southern Lebanon. The unwritten agreement brokered by the U.S. in 1993 stipulating that Hizbollah would cease rocket attacks against Israel had been violated. Israel blamed Iran and Syria for backing Hizbollah and took drastic steps to curb the attacks. The Peres government carried out "Operation Grapes of Wrath" in April 1996. It aimed at restoring peace to Galilee and included aerial bombings of Hizbollah guerrilla strongholds in southern Lebanon, the Biqa' Valley, and Beirut. Several hundred thousand people fled Lebanese towns and villages and became refugees. Despite the use of sophisticated weaponry, "Grapes of Wrath" failed to achieve the desired results of subduing Hizbollah. On April 18, due to human error, Israeli shells killed over 100 refugees in the un base in Qana. Israel now faced condemnation internationally. "Grapes of Wrath" diminished Peres's prospects of retaining his position as prime minister. A month later, Binyamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister, winning by a narrow margin of 30,000 popular votes.
During Netanyahu's first year in office relations with the Arab world reached a new low. Israeli-Syrian relations were characterized by intermittent tensions. Hizbollah became a powerful fighting force in southern Lebanon, capable of operating inside the security zone and killing Israeli and Christian militia soldiers. As before, the Palestinians posed the most difficult challenge to Netanyahu. A crisis of major proportions unfolded in October 1996 over an Israeli government decision to blast open a tunnel in the vicinity of the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to open a second entrance to the tunnel used by the *Hasmoneans in the second century bce. The project was meant to facilitate the flow of tourists to this site. For the Palestinians the move was interpreted as a ploy to create new facts in East Jerusalem unilaterally, disregarding their interest. An outburst of uncontrollable rioting broke out throughout the West Bank to the point where Palestinian police in the area opened fire on Israeli soldiers. More than a dozen Israeli soldiers and 80 Palestinians were killed.
Anti-Israeli sentiments became more widespread in the Arab world, and even the Clinton Administration did not spare its criticism of Netanyahu's policies. U.S. and international pressure on Israel prompted Netanyahu to offer concessions and return to the spirit of Oslo. The concession came in the context of the Hebron Protocol, signed on January 15, 1997, which divided Hebron into two zones governed by security arrangements. The Palestinian zone (h1) covered 80 percent of Hebron, while the Jewish zone (h2) covered the other 20 percent. In the Jewish zone Israel was to maintain full security control over the hundreds of Jewish settlers and their property until the final status of the territories would be decided. From Oslo i through the Hebron agreement, Israel had maintained complete control of 70 percent of the West Bank (Area c) and still exercised security control over another 23 percent (Area b); the Palestinian Authority exercised full control over only 6 percent (Area a).
Tensions did not abate, however. During 1997 the Netanyahu government resumed its efforts to consolidate Israel's influence within East Jerusalem. The aim was to build housing units for 30,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem's Har Ḥomah district. The Palestinians organized a general strike to oppose the project, which turned violent and exacerbated the already unsteady relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. To alleviate tensions, the Clinton Administration invited Netanyahu and Arafat to a summit at Wye Plantation in October 1998. In a two-day period, Clinton brokered an important deal: exchanging Israeli-occupied territory on the West Bank for Palestinian antiterrorist measures to be monitored by the cia. Jordan's King Hussein, then undergoing treatment for cancer in the U.S., participated in the summit. This was his final involvement in peacemaking. He died several weeks later. The summit's memorandum, signed in Washington on October 23, 1998, sought to invigorate the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace process and stimulate intensive negotiations toward permanent peace. Israel agreed to pull back its forces from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank in three stages over a three-month period. This would have given the Palestinians full or partial authority over 40 percent of the West Bank. Arafat agreed to revise the 1968 Palestinian National Covenant by removing all clauses pertaining to Israel's destruction. He carried out the revision reluctantly.
The Israeli pullout as stipulated by the summit memorandum did not take place. Opposition to Netanyahu came from the Likud's coalition partners in the religious and nationalist parties. Netanyahu barely succeeded in getting approval of the agreement in his ruling cabinet. The Knesset, on the other hand, approved it on November 15 by 75 votes to 19, with 19 abstentions. Despite the official decision to honor the agreement, Netanyahu bowed to religious and nationalist lobbyists a month later. He also justified this by blaming the Palestinian Authority for not honoring the security arrangements set forth in the memorandum. The policy of backing away from Wye provoked a crisis in Israel and paved the way for new elections on May 17, 1999.
In the aftermath of a tense election campaign, Ehud *Barak, head of the Labor Party and a former chief of staff in the Israel Defense Forces, was elected prime minister. He formed a coalition government consisting of religious and secular parties before proceeding to continue the peace process with the Palestinians and the Syrians from the point Rabin and Peres had left off. On May 24, 2000, Israel pulled its forces out of the military zone in southern Lebanon and dismantled the local pro-Israeli militia. At that time Barak offered Asad a return to the de facto border of June 4, 1967, along the Jordan River and almost to the shoreline at the northeastern end of the Sea of Galilee. In March 2000, Barak met with Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Sharaʿ in the U.S. in the presence of President Clinton. He then made known his generous offer for territorial concessions to Damascus. The mini-summit was a complete failure. According to Barak, Asad wanted Israel to capitulate a priori to all his demands and then, and only then, would Syria engage in serious negotiations. Some observers thought that Asad was then near death and ill prepared for accepting or providing any political concessions. Others believed that Barak had pushed the Syrians too hard to establish full normal relations with Israel and to withdraw their troops from Lebanon.
As to the Palestinians, an Israeli-Palestinian summit was initiated by Clinton in July 2000 at Camp David. It followed Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The purpose of the summit was to reach a framework agreement for a permanent settlement. Barak was prepared to grant the Palestinian territorial and political concessions that no previous Israeli prime minister had dared to offer. The summit was attended by Israeli and Palestinian delegations, led by Barak and Arafat, respectively. Barak made an unprecedented offer envisaging a Palestinian state on over 90 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip; the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem where some Arab neighborhoods would become sovereign Palestinian territory and others would enjoy "functional autonomy"; Palestinian sovereignty over half the Old City of Jerusalem (the Muslim and Christian quarters) and custodianship – short of sovereignty – over the Temple Mount; and a return of refugees to the Palestinian state, yet with no "right of return" to Israel proper.
Arafat turned down these concessions. He now expected Israel to agree unconditionally to the right of return of all Palestinian refugees who so desired and vehemently opposed Israeli sovereignty over the Western (Wailing) Wall of the Temple Mount. According to Barak, Arafat rejected the two-state solution, which meant putting into question the viability of the State of Israel. After two weeks of talks Clinton ended the summit, placing the blame for its failure squarely on Arafat's shoulders.
The stalemate on the Palestinian track, Arafat's deviation from Oslo, and, perhaps, the feeling in Palestinian political circles that territorial concession could be wrested through violence (e.g., Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon was viewed as a sign of weakness) – may have contributed to the outbreak of the second Intifada (Intifāḍat al-Aqsa). Some attribute the new Palestinian uprising to the visit to the Temple Mount by Likud party leader Ariel Sharon on September 28, 2000. But this is not what caused it. Sharon's visit had been coordinated in advance with the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus. Sharon's visit was directed against the Barak government – not the Palestinians – to demonstrate that the Likud cared more about Jerusalem than Barak. The visit merely played into Arafat's hand as a pretext for the uprising.
The al-Aqsa Intifada spurred more terrorist attacks against Israel than ever before, directed with equal intensity against the West Bank and Gaza Strip Jewish settlers. These included massive suicide attacks launched by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements. Barak was now viewed by Israeli public opinion as a political failure, a leader unable to curb terrorism. Early general elections took place in February 2001. Likud leader Ariel Sharon won a landslide victory and remained in office after a second election victory in February 2003. He was also instrumental in achieving greater security and weakening the Intifada. A good example of his approach could be seen after a devastating terrorist attack in 2002 on Jews attending a Passover seder at a hotel in the city of Ne-tanya, with 28 people killed. Sharon responded by ordering a massive military incursion, known as "Operation Defensive Wall," into Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Kalkilya, and Tulkarem. Israeli forces occupied these Palestinian cities for the first time since withdrawing from them under Oslo. Sharon did not stop there. He confined Arafat to his Ramallah compound, virtually placing him under house arrest. Hence, the Palestinian leader became politically irrelevant and isolated from both Arab leaders and the international community until his death in November 2004. Further, Israel began building a wall around the West Bank to prevent the infiltration of Palestinian terrorists into the country.
In 2003, Sharon surprised his leftist critics and rightist supporters when he made it plain that Israel would have to make painful concessions to the Palestinians. While he expressed skepticism regarding overtures made by Bashar al-Asad, who had succeeded his father (who died in June 2000) as president of Syria, regarding a Syrian-Israeli settlement, he made the Palestinian track his first order of priority; he also improved relations with Cairo and Amman.
During the 2002–04 period new proposals for a comprehensive peace settlement emerged. One such proposal was made by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz ibn Saʿud at the Beirut Arab summit of March 2002. The plan called upon Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied in the 1967 war; agree to a "just solution of the Palestinian refugee problem," without specifically mentioning the refugees' right to return or indemnities as stated in un Resolution 194; and make Arab Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state. In return, all the Arab states would agree to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and implement full and normal relations with Israel. The Israelis would have access to the Western Wall but would have to withdraw from East Jerusalem. The plan also advocated the two-state solution and mutual Israeli-Palestinian recognition of the two states in the context of un Resolutions 242 and 338. At the Algiers summit in March 2005, the Saudi plan resurfaced. King Abdullah of Jordan went so far as to suggest a revision of the plan, whereby the Arab states would grant Israel full recognition prior to the finalizing of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. The proposal was rejected.
Although Sharon would not go as far as Barak in offering the Palestinians most of the West Bank, and considered negotiations over East Jerusalem as premature, he laid the groundwork for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, where Jewish settlements still existed, advocating their dismantlement. This policy coincided with a new initiative similar to the Saudi plan, backed by the Quartet (official representatives of the European Union, the un, Russia, and the U.S.) and known as "the road map." Despite opposition inside his government from right-wing ministers, Sharon accepted major portions of the plan.
The road map as envisaged by the Quartet had been reworked by the U.S. administration of George W. Bush. The revised and more detailed road map was made public in April 2003. It stated that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be achieved only through an end to violence and once the Palestinian people acquired a leadership that acted decisively against terror, willing and able to build a democracy based on tolerance. The settlement would bring about the termination of the Israeli occupation based on the Madrid Conference, un resolutions, Oslo, and the Saudi plan. This result would promote international efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace on the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks. Specifically, if implemented, the Israeli-Palestinian road map was to consist of three phases according to an as yet unspecified timetable:
Ending terror and violence, and building Palestinian institutions; Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas occupied from the start of the second Intifada; drafting a Palestinian constitution leading to free and open elections; reforming the Palestinian Authority security apparatuses; nurturing U.S.-Palestinian security cooperation in collaboration with overseers (U.S., Egypt, Jordan); establishing Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation; forming a Palestinian civil society.
Creating an interim Palestinian state under a new leadership as a way station on the road to a permanent status settlement – a phase that would begin after the Palestinian elections. The ties maintained by several Arab states with Israel in the pre-Intifada period (1994–2000) through tourism, trade, and liaison offices (Morocco, Tunisia, and several Gulf states), which were all but severed during the upheavals, would be renewed. Negotiations relating to multilateral engagement on issues including regional water resources, environment, economic development, refugees, and arms control issues would be resumed. The new constitution for a democratic and an independent Palestinian state would be finalized and approved.
Achieving a permanent Israeli-Palestinian status agreement (with final borders) and a fully independent Palestinian state based on un Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, and a "realistic solution" to the refugee issue, one, however, that excluded the "right of return" to Israel. President Bush highlighted this stipulation in his letter to Sharon from June 2004. The negotiated solution to the status of Jerusalem would take into account the political and religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In this phase the vision of two states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security would be fulfilled. Henceforth, the Arab states would accept full normal relations with Israel – not mere liaison offices – in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
Only with the passage of time will one be able to determine if the road map will be implemented and honored. In the early years of the 21st century the Palestinian Authority found itself in the immediate post-Arafat era under the leadership of Chairman Abu Mazin and Prime Minister Abu Ala, both among the architects of the Oslo dop. Abu Mazin was elected president of the Authority in a democratically held election in January 2005, under the scrutiny of international observers including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. However, with the victory of Hamas in the January 2006 parliamentary elections and the installation of Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister, Abu Mazin's position was considerably undermined, and the future of the peace process suddenly became highly problematic.
The Maghreb and Israel: A Unique and Fluctuating Relationship
The signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 inspired King Hasan ii of Morocco to once again encourage a broader peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Moreover, he saw in the revived peace process an opportunity to improve the ailing Moroccan economy through extensive tourism, which would include numerous Moroccan Jews living in Israel, France, and the Americas. This is one of the reasons Hasan appointed the Moroccan-Jewish entrepreneur Serge Bardugo as Morocco's minister of tourism. Hasan then invited Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres to Morocco on their way back from the signing ceremony for the Oslo dop in Washington. On June 2, 1994, Hasan convened a special session of his cabinet. The ministers who arrived at the meeting were surprised to find Israeli Foreign Minister Peres there, together with Uri Savir (then the Foreign Ministry's director general), Avi Gil (director of the foreign minister's office), and David Dadon – then director of the Middle East Department at the Foreign Ministry and later head of Israel's liaison office in Rabat.
Hasan made known to the visitors his intentions to improve relations between the two nations. Peres also pushed for a Middle Eastern/Maghrebi economic summit in Casablanca, direct telephone connections between the two countries, and liaison offices as the first steps toward full diplomatic relations. It was evident that most Moroccan cabinet members were reluctant to agree to the opening of liaison offices, arguing that the time was not yet ripe for such decisive measures. Yet when the meeting ended, Hasan promised Peres that liaison offices would be established. The opening of the liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat was carried out in November 1994. The raison d'être for establishing liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv was to advance tourism and trade between the two countries. These offices were also to promote cultural and economic exchanges that hitherto had been low-keyed. For the next several years, the liaison office in Tel Aviv busily engaged in issuing tourist visas to Morocco. Postal relations between the two countries, severed on September 22, 1959, had already been established as early as September 1, 1994. The first annual Middle East and North Africa Economic Summit involving senior officials from Israel, numerous Arab states, the United States, Europe, and Japan, as well as representatives of the private business sector, convened toward the end of October 1994 in Casablanca. Leading Moroccan Jews promoted it, while Hasan seized the opportunity to put himself forward as an architect of regional planning. From his standpoint, the summit was a stepping stone for securing aid from the industrialized nations for the Moroccan economy and elevating his own status among Arab leaders. The summit was short on substance, however.
Already before 1995, a number of experimental agricultural farms were launched by Israel in Morocco in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development (usaid) to promote higher yields in Moroccan agriculture. In October 1994, the Israeli Export Institute reported that Israel's export potential to Morocco for the years 1994–97 was estimated at $220 million annually and could include such sectors as agricultural products, irrigation equipment, the building trade, high-tech electronics, processed foods, and professional services for infrastructure development. In 1994–96, the number of Israeli tourists who visited Morocco annually was estimated at approximately 20,000.
The post-Rabin era and the subsequent escalation in Palestinian terrorism inside Israel marked the gradual decline of the more open relationships in several domains. Like the hardships faced by Israeli diplomats in the rest of the Arab world, including Egypt and Jordan, their counterparts in Morocco faced many challenges and limitations, some of which had their inception during Peres' term as prime minister. The Israeli flag was not raised outside the liaison office but was placed inside the building owing to criticism of Israel by Islamic fundamentalist groups and other elements opposed to any kind of Moroccan normalization with the Jewish state.
Following Binyamin Netanyahu's accession to power there were manifestations of pessimism in Morocco. The complaints emanating from Rabat suggested that the Oslo process was in peril, and progress in the Syrian-Israeli negotiations had reached a dead end. But despite the ups and downs, Moroccan-Israeli relations, particularly in the intelligence and defense domains, remained undisturbed. Following his visit to Morocco in late summer 1996, Peres, now the Labor opposition leader, heard from Hasan that Netanyahu's reported "no to Jerusalem," "no to a Palestinian state," and "no to a settlement in the Golan Heights" was reminiscent of the 1967 Arab summit in Khartoum with its own famous three noes.
The 1996 tunnel crisis and the opposition to Netanyahu in the Arab world had a profound effect on Moroccan-Israeli ties. From that time until 1998, the work of the Israelis at the Rabat liaison office was made more difficult owing to media attacks and other obstacles. David Dadon, who headed the office, suffered the same indignity as his counterpart in Egypt, Ambassador Zvi Mazel, by being forced to reduce his visibility. In 1997, to silence mounting opposition locally and in different parts of the Arab world against the ongoing relations with Israel, Hasan canceled the invitation he had extended to Netanyahu and his foreign minister, David Levy, to visit Morocco. Hasan could ill afford to act otherwise, for he chaired the Islamic Conference Organization's Jerusalem Committee for the Glorification of Arab Jerusalem. Morocco, it was said, could not cooperate with an Israeli government that considered Jerusalem as indivisible and ruled by Jews.
As a result of the new political realities, many of the economic projects planned in the early and mid-1990s by Morocco and Israel were later frozen, except perhaps the flow of tourists, which, in any case, remained overwhelmingly one-sided: from Israel to Morocco. Some of the obstacles to large-scale economic cooperation were equally attributable to bureaucratic red tape intermixed with official bias. Certain forces in official Morocco opposed Israel's aspiration to open and fast-paced joint activity.
On May 5, 1999, less than two weeks before the Israeli elections, Hasan called on Moroccan Israelis to make the "choice of peace" and vote for the Labor Party headed by Ehud Barak. Hasan was aware that the majority of Moroccan Jews in Israel remained loyal to the Likud and had played, like the new Russian immigrants, a pivotal role in unseating Peres in 1996. On May 17, 1999, the Moroccan media rejoiced over Barak's election victory. King Hasan passed away on July 23, 1999. The early phase of Muhammad vi's rule did not raise major problems for the relationship. Israeli tourists continued to enter Morocco, as did agronomists and other professionals involved in special agricultural and industrial projects. While Israeli exports to Morocco since 1999 amounted to only several million dollars annually, Moroccan exports to Israel rose markedly at the end of the Hasan era and immediately after Muhammad vi's ascendance to the throne. In the first half of 2000, Israel imported $830 million worth of Moroccan agricultural and textile products, an unprecedented sum for Israel to spend in trade transactions with an Arab state. These figures were to decrease in the wake of renewed Israeli-Palestinian hostilities. To spare the Moroccans embarrassment, from the early 1990s onward Israeli firms – including those specializing in agricultural development, irrigation equipment, and medical products – agreed to be registered by the authorities as foreign companies or worked under the guise of foreign concerns.
The second Intifada, the spate of anti-Israel editorials in the pro-government, independent, and Islamist organs, and pressure attributed to the Arab League and Palestinian Authority forced Morocco, on October 24, 2000, to close the Israeli liaison office in Rabat and recall its diplomats from Tel Aviv. Israeli tourists who thenceforth wished to visit Morocco could only obtain visas at Moroccan consulates in Europe. The Foreign Ministry in Rabat said the decision was justified by the failure of the Middle East peace process following "inhuman acts perpetrated for weeks by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians." It emphasized that closing down the Israeli liaison office was also related to Morocco's responsibilities to the Jerusalem Committee presided over by King Muhammad vi.
At the end of October 2000, hundreds of thousands of Moroccans marched in the streets of Rabat to show their support for the Palestinians. The marchers included Prime Minister Abd al-Rahman Yussufi and his political party, the Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires (usfp). A competing anti-Israeli rally was organized in Casablanca by the Islamist Parti de la Justice et du Développement (pjd). The rally swelled to 25,000 participants and quickly degenerated into a riot that had to be dispersed with water cannons. This form of protest was repeated on April 7, 2002, in the largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations ever to take place in the Arab world, with nearly half a million demonstrators filling the streets of Rabat.
The Moroccan government did nothing to stop the attacks against Ariel Sharon in public and in the media. Nor did it discourage the publication of press editorials that found a certain justification for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Istiqlal Party, represented in the coalition government headed by Yussufi, allowed its press to claim that the crimes of several Muslim terrorists against the U.S. could not be divorced from Israeli arrogance toward the Palestinians. The Bush administration should have taken seriously the warnings by Arab leaders who spoke out against Sharon's policies. Instead the U.S. chose to turn a deaf ear and thus shared the responsibility for the deaths of Americans.
Albeit damaged, Israel's relations with Morocco survived. Particularly intriguing in these troubled times was the decision in 2001 to collaborate in planning and constructing a large casino at Tetuan, a city in northern Morocco. An affluent Jewish family of Moroccan origin living in Barcelona who owned a large tract of land near Tetuan's Mediterranean coast, offered it as a site for the casino. Beside the casino, the $150 million raised by Morocco for the project was also earmarked for a 400-room five-star hotel and a vacation resort. Construction of the casino and resort complex began in 2001 after two leading Moroccan entrepreneurs, the Ligad Group (a private Israeli construction firm), and Sammy Tito, an Israeli architect, signed agreements.
Mauritania, on the margin of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab politics, established relations with Israel in 1995 and opened liaison offices in Tel Aviv. It did not sever ties with Israel in the aftermath of the second Intifada.
Algerian-Israeli relations in the Oslo and post-Oslo eras are no less intriguing. During the early and mid-1980s, in the post-Boumedienne period under the presidency of Shadli Ben Jadid, Algeria's fln regime did not miss any opportunity to discredit Arab-Israeli peace efforts and took an active part in the effort to muster consensual support to isolate Egypt from every Arab forum. It opposed the Saudi peace initiative of 1981–82 and the abortive Lebanese-Israeli peace agreement of 1983. Nonetheless, the fln no longer displayed the sort of radical zealousness reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s.
Beginning in summer 1990, Algeria faced deep political divisions and instability, especially as it was striving toward democracy in line with its new constitution, approved on February 23, 1989, which opened the way to a multiparty political system. On June 12, 1990, the country's first free municipal elections took place. Eleven political parties participated in this historic event, among which were the regime's fln; the religious Islamist Front Islamique du Salut (fis); the Front des Forces Socialistes (ffs); and the Rally for Culture and Democracy (rcd). The results were stunning: the fis won a majority of the municipal seats in the country's largest cities – Algiers, Oran, Constantine, and Annaba. The backing of fis came from the Arab majority; the Berbers boycotted the fis and supported the secular ffs and rcd. The vote for the Islamists was less an outpouring of massive support for the fis than a reaction against the fln's record of authoritarianism and mismanagement. At the end of 1991, the first round of parliamentary elections took place. They delivered a solid victory to the Islamists and raised the possibility of their control of the parliament in a second round. The army canceled the second round and key Islamists were arrested, with the fis made illegal. In January 1992, Ben Jadid resigned from the presidency, to be replaced by Muhammad Boudiaf. This development ended the domination of the fln for some time. Violence erupted soon afterwards. In June 1992, after exhibiting an autonomy that the Algerian military had clearly not expected, Boudiaf was gunned down by assassins. In the mid-1990s, under the presidency of Liamine Zeroual and the new government party, the National Democratic Rally (rnd), supporters of the fis and other militant Islamic groups – such as the Groupe Islamique Armé (gia) – engaged the central government in incessant violence. The upheavals that soon turned into a civil war continued throughout the 1990s and led to Zeroual's resignation in 1999 and to presidential elections.
Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika won the presidency in the April 1999 elections and within two years ended the civil war. His attitude toward Israel was devoid of hostility. In July 1999, Bouteflika met openly with Prime Minister Barak in Rabat during King Hasan's funeral. He promised to mediate between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This unique promise was apparently a result of previous behind-the-scenes contacts. Rumors then circulated that Israel had offered military hardware to Algeria and a deal was in the making. Bouteflika declared that Algeria would be prepared to establish ties with Israel, contingent upon the Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories, dismantling settlements, and cooperation in creating a Palestinian state.
Contacts between Algeria and Israel had had their roots in the 1980s. Between 1986 and 1988, a close confidant of Ben Jadid and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met on several occasions in Paris. Ovadiah Sofer, Israel's ambassador to France, apparently mediated the initiative. For Israel, the contacts seemed important because Algeria was regarded as a key Arab and African state with ample influence at the un. Israel had hoped that Algeria would tone down its criticism of Israel in Third World forums and thus reduce the hostility against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Once Israel rejected the Algerian demand that, in return for continued discreet ties, it should recognize the plo, the contacts were discontinued.
The secret Algerian-Israeli contacts were revived under Zeroual's presidency, this time in the area of much-needed medical and pharmaceutical supplies from Israel. The Algerians were eager to pursue the contacts following the signing of the Oslo accords, once it seemed as though a major hurdle in the Arab-Israeli conflict had been eliminated. An Israeli delegation led by the minister of health arrived in Algiers to sign the first secret Israeli-Algerian agreement for medical supplies. Thus began the quiet flow of shipments from Israel to Algeria that, as early as July 1994, included 10,000 pregnancy test kits at a cost of $11.34 per unit. These supplies reached Algeria under the fictitious name of Prélude to look like a French product. The Algerian authorities were worried that, in the heat of the civil unrest launched by the Islamists, this form of cooperation would be exposed and subsequently used against the government.
The Israeli-Algerian medical ties endured for several years and included antibiotics, scanners, medications for serious wounds inflicted on victims of Algeria's civil war, and even assistance in hospitalization in parts of rural areas. Algerian medical personnel arrived in Israel to learn techniques of identifying corpses. Moreover, between October 15 and 25, 1999, a high-ranking Israeli delegation visited Algeria secretly in order to reach an undeclared rapprochement between the two countries. The delegation included five Israelis, who were received in Sidi Bel-Abbes, Constantine, and Algiers; they held talks with two of Bouteflika's top aides and discussed bilateral trade and military cooperation and ways to establish liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Algiers. Shortly thereafter Bouteflika reiterated his demand for a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 1967 war.
Although we have no knowledge of what was initially agreed upon behind closed doors, Bouteflika's public declarations did not lead to anything and the various contacts were later broken off. This change was conditioned by the second Intifada. Yet to attribute it only to this is to oversimplify matters. Long before this crisis, Israel had pulled its troops out of Lebanon (May 2000), attempted to negotiate an agreement with the Syrians on the Golan Heights, and, as late as July 2000, the Oslo channel remained viable. It soon became obvious that Bouteflika's domestic political opponents and the intervention of several Arab states, especially Syria, had influenced his policies. One sign of this pressure is evinced by the creation, in November 1999, of the Committee of National Organizations against Normal Ties with Israel. Consisting of representatives of most political parties, it included the Islamist movements Ḥarakat Mujtamaʿ al-Silm (Movement of the Society for Peace), Mouvement Démocratique et Social, and the banned fis. One fis leader, Abd al-Qadir Bu Khamkham, addressed a message to Bouteflika in which he advised strongly against "possible recognition of the Jewish Zionist identity on the Arab land of Palestine."
Some attitudes toward Israel changed after the Algerian presidential elections of April 2004, giving Bouteflika a strong majority. Hosting in March 2005 the Algiers Arab summit, Bouteflika openly urged Arab leaders to consider the strategy of recognizing Israel as a top priority in return for an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories.
Tunisian-Israeli relations were marred by inconsistencies. The transfer of the Arab League headquarters to Tunis, soon after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, brought Tunisia into the limelight and bestowed upon its government an aura of importance it had never enjoyed before. Until the mid-1980s, Tunisia joined Algeria in the campaign to ban Egypt from the Arab fold. After the 1982 "Operation Peace for Galilee," Tunisia became an almost permanent sanctuary for plo headquarters. While the Tunisians appeared outwardly hospitable to the plo, they were concerned that the presence of the old-time Palestinian leaders in their midst could invite trouble. Bourguiba and his successor, Zayn Abidin Ben Ali, understood what might be at stake: a large Palestinian concentration on Tunisian soil could pose a threat to internal stability, as had been the case with Jordan until 1970 and Lebanon afterwards.
From the inception of the plo's presence in Tunisia, Israel considered it vital to make every possible effort to counter Palestinian activities there. This was very much the case on October 1, 1985, when Israeli fighter jets strafed plo headquaters in Tunis. This operation left a number of Tunisians as well as Palestinians dead. Israel claimed that Tunisia conveniently overlooked the plo's terrorist actions against Israel, purposely ignoring the fact that Palestinian fighters, enjoying sanctuary in Tunisia, were crossing into Algeria, where they underwent military training in the region of Tbessa. Israel arrested many such Palestinian fighters who had sailed to Israel via Tunis and Greece.
As noted, although the first Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, which began in December 1987, is rightly regarded as a locally inspired Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation of 20 years, it was soon thereafter aided and partly guided by the exiled leadership in Tunis. Similar to its actions in 1985, Israel once again reacted against the Palestinians in Tunisia. In April 1988, after learning that Palestinian leader Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) had, from his sanctuary in Tunis, taken command of the plo's supporters in the Intifada, Israel dispatched a special military commando unit to Tunis and killed al-Wazir in his home.
Bourguiba's removal from power in November 1987 and his replacement by President Zayn Abidine Ben Ali led Tunisia to adopt a more sober attitude toward Israel from the late 1980s. In 1988 and throughout 1989, Tunis was to become an active arena, this time for a diplomatic process to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. This materialized after Arafat endorsed the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and un Resolution 242. Though the Israelis hardly concealed their skepticism over Arafat's declarations at the time, the U.S. entered into talks with the plo in Tunis through Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau. The negotiations eventually led to American recognition of the plo and helped lay the groundwork for the October 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. Arafat's return to Gaza in 1994 and a partial Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza served as a stimulant for Tunisia to reassess policies toward Israel.
By endorsing Oslo, however, Tunisia faced double-edged pressure, from local Islamic circles against serious steps toward achieving normalization of ties with Israel and unremitting official Israeli pressure for large-scale joint economic ventures. As to the latter, Tunisian officials preferred that a low profile be maintained in initial trade and other collaborative projects. The sole exception was Israeli and Jewish tourism. After considerable reflection and procrastination, the Ben Ali government finally followed Morocco's initiative and, in April 1996, opened a semiofficial liaison office in Tel Aviv. Its primary function was to promote tourism and arrange for visas. Ben Ali was keenly aware of the benefits his country's tourist industry would reap from this. Israel reciprocated the move by opening a liaison office in Tunis.
Yet as the two countries were on the brink of entering into an era of more serious cooperation, the Israeli elections of May 1996 reduced these prospects radically. According to Muhammad Berrejeb, a high-ranking official at the Tunisian Foreign Ministry, the Netanyahu government's decision to dig the tunnel in the proximity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque aroused as much anger among Tunisians as it did among Palestinians and Muslims generally. As the Oslo process came to a virtual standstill in the first half of 1997, Tunisia recalled its liaison officer from Israel without closing the office altogether. The return of Labor to power in May 1999 led the Tunisians to dispatch a new liaison director to Tel Aviv. On February 6, 2000, Israel's Foreign Minister David Levy met in Tel Aviv with Tahar Sioud, Tunisia's secretary of state. This was the first ever visit to Israel of a high-ranking Tunisian. The two ministers decided to establish a joint committee to study future trade and tourism. Levy assured Sioud that Israel had an unequivocal commitment to the Palestinian track, but advised that it would be pointless for Tunisia to turn every dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority into a crisis.
Renewed Israeli-Palestinian hostilities in October 2000 resulted in the complete closure of Israel's liaison office in Tunis and the Tunisian office in Tel Aviv. Tunisia condemned the outgoing Clinton and the new Bush administrations for supporting Israel blindly, while it commended the European Union for backing the Palestinians. At the same time, Tunisia supported the peace plan outlined at the Arab summits of 2002 and 2005. In spring 2005, following seemingly improved ties between Israelis and Palestinians, Tunisia again contemplated reopening the liaison office in Tel Aviv and permitting Israel to do the same in Tunis.
Opposition to Cultural and Economic Globalization: Islamists and Nasserists
Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran (February 1979), the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and the following period, radical Islamist movements and political parties sprang up throughout the Arab world. Iran has helped finance both Shiite and Sunni Islamists in the Middle East. Islamic radicalism encouraged blind hatred of Israel as the Jewish state and Zionist entity. It emerged as the foremost enemy of economic and cultural globalization, reforms favoring women's rights, civil society, and secularization, seeing them as modes of "Americanization." In the forefront of the attack against globalization alongside Iran – though separate from it – is the "World Jihad Movement," or al-Qāʿida ("Basis"), led by Osama bin Laden and the Egyptian Iman Zawahiri. The latter was in some ways connected with the elements responsible for Sadat's assassination. Not only has al-Qaʿida supported Islamic militancy in different parts of the Muslim world, cultivated terrorists in training camps in Afghanistan (while it was allied there with the Afghani Taliban regime until the latter's overthrow by U.S. forces in 2001) and Sudan, but it also claimed responsibility for 9/11. In a sense, Iran and al-Qaʿida, each on its own, have promoted "Islamist globalization," challenging "modern U.S.-sponsored globalization."
Radical Islam is by no means one-dimensional, but a movement with political ambitions. Its proponents fear that Islam is threatened by Western, mostly American, economic and cultural globalization. Islamists contend that the "transnationlism" of modern global capitalist economy, the power of the Internet, and the implantation of multinational corporations in Arab lands would lead to the loss of Islamic identity. Because Arab regimes are eager to sign free-trade agreements with the U.S. and nurture trade and cultural ties with the European Union, the "abode of Islam" could well be overwhelmed by decadence. They believe the external influences will cause a resurgence of Jāhiliyya (pre-Islamic barbarism). Most of them define globalization as neo-colonialism spearheaded by the U.S., the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (wto), and Zionism.
Most radical currents draw their inspiration from leading Islamist ideologues, among them Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb (both Egyptians) as well as India's Abu al-Ala Mawdudi. The largest movements became political parties dreaming of a society and government based on the rules of the Shariʿa (Law of Islam). These include Lebanon's Hizbollah; al-Jabha al-Islāmiyya al-Sūriyya (the Syrian Islamic Front); the Algerian fis; the Jordanian Islamic Action Front; Morocco's al-ʿAdāla wa'l Tanmiya (Justice and Development) and al-ʿAdlwa'l Iḥsān (Justice and Beneficence); and Tunisia's al-Nahda (Renaissance) Party. The Tunisian party successfully pressured the regime to build more mosques and allot ample time for media programs on Islam, in a country that already in the 1960s prohibited polygamy and improved women's rights. Of these large entities the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt is still denied the status of a political party. Egyptian law opposes the formation of political parties that claim a monopoly over religion. Most political movements in Egypt, even secular ones, state in their program that the Shariʿa is an acceptable source for legislation. The large political parties of the Arab world include those that advocate the eventual expansion of the abode of Islam from one nation-state to a universal Islamic nation. Others are content with the transformation of their particular society into a state based on Islamic Law. Only a few of these parties wish to accomplish these goals through violence, while others prefer to augment their power base in the society through electoral gains, or by preaching on behalf of Islamic principles (daʿwa) and spreading Islamic education. Indeed, not all Islamist parties are opposed to Western-style democratization as a temporary arrangement, for, after all, it could serve their purpose as a stepping-stone to usurp political authority. All of them disapprove of the concept of the secular nation-state as conceived by the colonial power or by regimes in Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the plo. They see the nation-state as a passing episode in the transition toward the emergence of the Islamic nation. They are also at odds with wide segments of the officially established religious elite (ʿulamā'), as the latter usually grants religious legitimacy to secular government policies, such as birth control and family planning as a way to combat large-scale demographic growth. The Islamist parties are vehemently opposed to ending the age-old practice of circumcising girls in Egypt or lifting the veil. Thus far, excepting Iran and Afghanistan (which are beyond the scope of this survey), only in Sudan did an Islamist regime emerge following a military coup in 1989.
In addition to large Islamist parties, there exist two types of Islamist underground currents that consider violence as an avenue to realize their aims: the jihād- and takfīr-oriented organizations. The first of the two component include the Jihad organization involved in Sadat's assassination, and the Egyptian al-Jamāʿa al-Islāmiyya (Islamic Group) – responsible for the killing of tourists and government officials as a strategy to delegitimize and undermine the National Democratic Party regime. Included in this category are Morocco's Salafiyya Jihādiyya (Salafi Combat) and al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm (The Right Path) with ties to al-Qaʿida. The latter were responsible for the suicide bombings in Casablanca on May 16, 2003, where Jewish institutions and personalities were also targeted, and for the March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid. The same applies to the Algerian gia. Similar to the large Islamist political parties, they, too, hope to establish a religious state in lieu of the nation-state, with the law of the land based on the Shariʿa, Sunna (oral tradition), and the Koran. Some cherish the thought of reviving the Arab caliphate as a source of religious and political power.
Though instrumental in killing government officials and members of the 'ulamā', the takfīr organizations have a somewhat different outlook on Islam. They are best known under the name al-Takfīr wa'l Hijra. Unlike the Jihad movements, which accuse only the secular Arab leaders of being infidels, the takfīr regard much of contemporary Muslim society as deviants from the original Islam in its pristine forms. Their followers point to the Prophet Muhammad and his supporters, who emigrated from Mecca to Medina to create a separate society of true believers. The goal was to augment the number of Islamic adherents and some day return to Mecca victorious and popular. They also identify with the seventh-century Khawārij radicals who seceded from the camp of the Caliph Ali because in their eyes he deviated from the right path and exercised authority that had been reserved only to God. The Khawārij departed from their milieu and settled in segregated communities in parts of Iraq, Iran, and the Maghreb. They married among themselves and punished by death those suspected of adultery and violation of sacred Islamic principles. Movements espousing such notions operated in Egypt from the 1970s until the 1990s. Originally, members of al-Takfīr wa'l Hijra had planned to immigrate to northern Yemen. But the most that could be realized was the formation of segregated strongholds in Upper Egypt. Eventually they succumbed to government repression. The Moroccan government uncovered a similar movement, but information about it is sketchy. The takfīr highlight the notion of ḥākimiyya: the rule of God and the rejection of the sovereignty of man. They question the validity of the Shariʿa as a reliable religious source but extol the Koran and Sunna.
The Pan-Arab Nasserists have been on the defensive in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel's Arab sector, where they still possess influence. Thirty-five years after his death, Nasser's followers are as hostile to globalization as the Islamists; some are in fact more critical of Western democracy. Like the Islamists they regard globalization as a form of American neocolonialism out to obliterate economic and political nationalism. They insist that Arab identity and Arab culture must be protected against the unrestricted marketing of Americanism as a model for global culture over international communications networks. The Nasserists fear that the encroachment of the forces of globalization on the nation-state will transfer the decision-making process from Arab states to foreign elements and multinational corporations. Hence, to counter these influences would require the formation of a united Arab bloc reminiscent of the Syrian-Egyptian Union of 1958–61.
This latter view has encountered the opposition of most Arab regimes who are opposed to centralized Pan-Arab schemes and prefer local unions, or "common markets," like the Maghreb's amu. The Gulf states are planning to form an economic union under one currency and lift trade barriers through lowering or eliminating tariffs. They encourage multinational corporations to penetrate their economies and invest. Indeed, it is not unlikely that several separate common markets will emerge in which Israel could participate.
The Struggle for Democracy and the Collapse of Saddam Hussein's Regime
An issue raised frequently since 2000 is the compatibility of democracy with mainstream Islam. It has been said that democratic concepts do not appear in the Koran, or that Western-style democracy is an alien phenomenon to most Muslims. Both arguments are irrelevant to modern-day democracy. Besides, the Koran points to the shūrā (consultation) that promotes modes of political coordination as well as some political debate. There are encouraging signs, however, that democratic changes are gradually occurring in the Arab and Muslim world. Changes in the Arab world are not necessarily attributed to visionary leadership. They are often the result of U.S. pressure, a sort of "American visionary approach." The democratic presidential elections in Algeria (April 2004), which had weakened the radical Islamists and gave Bouteflika a second term as president, were encouraged by the U.S. and the Europeans. Bouteflika and the Algerian army generals are eager to purchase American weapons and to mend cultural and economic fences with Washington. Kuwait's decision, in April 2005, to enable women to participate in elections and to be elected to parliament is also a case in point.
The Bush Administration and the Europeans have "nudged" King Muhammad vi to organize freer elections in Morocco, as illustrated by the parliamentary and municipal elections (2002–3). They also encouraged him to grant greater freedom to non-governmental organizations and women's rights, including an end to polygamy and equal rights in financial arrangements relating to divorce and inheritance. Morocco is becoming economically dependent on the U.S. following the signing in April 2004 of a free trade agreement with Washington that would lift tariffs on 95 percent on all import-export products.
The January 2005 elections in the Palestinian Authority after Arafat's death raised some prospects for cautious optimism. The same is to be said of the pro-democracy manifestations in Beirut, seen in the hundreds of thousands of young Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Druze demonstrators in the wake of the assassination, in February 2005, of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The demonstrators blamed Syria for the assassination. Al-Hariri, a Lebanese Sunni Muslim billionaire with close political and financial ties to the U.S. and France, was for long an advocate of Lebanese democratization and an avowed opponent of the Syrian military presence. He invested substantial funds to rebuild Beirut after the 1975–90 civil war and won the respect of wide segments of the population, save the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hizbollah. Hariri and French President Jacques Chirac helped promote un Security Council Resolution 1559 calling for the evacuation of all "foreign" military forces from Lebanon. Because Israel had pulled out of the southern security zone in 2000, Syria was singled out as the other major foreign force occupying the country. The mass demonstrations after al-Hariri's assassination, combined with U.S. and French insistence on a complete Syrian pullout, intensified. Damascus caved in to the pressure. On April 26, 2005, the last Syrian soldier left Lebanon, though Syrian intelligence personnel stayed behind. On May 29, 2005, national democratic elections were held in Lebanon.
On February 26, 2005, another important development was Husni Mubarak's statement to the French daily Le Figaro that, in the Egyptian presidential elections scheduled for fall 2005, more than one candidate will be able to run. Until now only Mubarak had offered his candidacy after being nominated by parliament with the support of the government's powerful National Democratic Party. He was elected through a national referendum whereby Egyptians simply voted "yes" or "no." The 2005 elections were to be conducted through secret ballots and direct elections with international observers supervising them, as had been the case with the Palestinian elections in January the same year. Mubarak acted to implement the reform, particularly by amending Article 76 of the Egyptian Constitution. This revision provides for direct elections via secret ballots and allows an unlimited number of candidates to run for presidential office. There are pressures on Mubarak to amend Article 77 as well, which currently sets no limits on the number of times a president may run for office. Several candidates entered the race, among them Professor Saʿd al-Din Ibrahim, a key civil rights activist who spent time in prison for his advocacy of drastic democratic reforms, and Dr. Nawwal al-Saʿdawi, a leading feminist who strongly favors the separation of religion and state. It appears that a good number of the candidates have no military background, signaling perhaps a departure from a tradition that began in 1952 whereby former army officers held the supreme leadership post. While the reform may be regarded as an evolutionary step toward democracy in Egypt that began after Nasser's death, pressure brought to bear on Mubarak by the Bush administration should not be overlooked. Only several weeks prior to the announcement of the reform initiative, President Bush publicly challenged Mubarak: "The great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace … can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."
There were two fundamental reasons for the second war between the U.S.-led Western coalition and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. First, there was the lingering tension and hostility left over from the Gulf War of 1991, in which Iraqi occupation troops were forced out of Kuwait. As a result of this war, the Iraqi government agreed to turn over or destroy different types of weapons, including scud missiles fired at Israel and Weapons of Mass Destruction (wmd). The un was allowed to send weapons inspectors to confirm the destruction of Iraqi weapons and also to uncover prohibited weapons believed to be hidden. Moreover, "No Fly Zones" were established over northern and southern Iraq for the protection of Iraqi minority groups in opposition to the Baʿthi regime. Over these two zones, Allied aircraft patrolled the skies to prevent Iraqi aircraft from attacking northern Kurds and southern Shiites. As time passed, Iraqi air defense forces fired missiles at U.S. and British planes. In response, Allied planes bombed the air-defense sites and radar installations deep inside Iraq. In 1998, under Iraqi pressure, the un weapons inspectors left Iraq, angering the U.S. Further, following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 9/11, President Bush implied – yet to be proven – that Iraq had intimate ties with al-Qaʿida. Using the potential threat of Iraq's supplying wmd to Islamist terrorists, the U.S. insisted on total Iraqi disarmament. Iraq relented to pressures in 2002 to allow the return of un weapons inspectors. By early 2003, however, the U.S. and British governments suggested that Iraq was not cooperating with the un inspectors. On March 17, 2003, Bush issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his two sons to enter into voluntary exile within two days or face military occupation. The Iraqi leader would not surrender his power.
On March 19, 2003, the U.S. and its Western coalition partners attacked Iraq and occupied it. Saddam Hussein's regime quickly collapsed. Leading military and civilian Baʿthi leaders were later rounded up. Saddam was imprisoned and held for trial. His two sons were killed by Allied forces. Until mid-2004, a representative of the U.S. government governed Iraq. From then until the democratic elections of January 30, 2005, an interim Iraqi government was formed that excluded the Baʿth party. During this time the Allied forces failed to uncover chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, resulting in major criticism throughout the world of the U.S.-led war and its raison d'être.
On the eve of the U.S.-backed Iraqi democratic elections neighboring nations, especially Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states, feared that the changes in Iraq would stir sectarian violence there and spread instability in the region. Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia – ruled by Sunni Muslim leaders – were concerned that an Iraq dominated by a Shiite majority after decades of Sunni minority rule, with ties to Shiite Iran, would threaten them. A second Shiite-dominated state in the region, it was argued, might pose serious domestic problems for such countries as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, which have Shiite minorities, and Bahrain, where Shiites are a majority but have no political power under a Sunni government. At the same time, the dominance of the Saudi royal family is connected with the Wahhabi sect, which views Shiites as heretics. Finally, Jordan's King Abdullah feared that the elections might create a "crescent" of Shiite power: contiguous Shiite-controlled territory through Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. Syria and Turkey fretted that Iraqi Kurds might press for independence, reviving separatist ideas among their own Kurdish populations. On the other hand, the outcome of the war in Iraq and U.S. pressure on Baghdad to commence a process of democratization of political institutions boded well for Israel. The latter became a major beneficiary of the war as the removal of Saddam Hussein eliminated the eastern military front.
The general elections of January 30, 2005 in Iraq and the drafting of a new constitution were seminal events. Doubtless, it is vital for the future evolution of democracies in other Middle Eastern countries. According to the Independent Elections Commission in Iraq, 8,500,000 of the 14 million registered voters including overseas Iraqis cast their ballots. The voters cast two ballots: one for the national assembly and one for one of the 18 provincial councils. The voters in the Kurdish provinces of Dahouk, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyya cast a third ballot for the autonomous 111-seat Kurdish parliament. There were over 100 lists of political parties, coalitions, or individuals, comprising a total of 7,471 candidates who competed for the 275 seats in the National Assembly. The Iraqi Shiite National Alliance consisting of Ḥizb al-Daʿwa al-Islāmiyya (Call for Islam Party), the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (sciri), and the Iraqi National Congress (inc) won over 48 percent of the vote. The Kurds, aligned with the Shiites, garnered 26 percent of the vote. They were able to tip the scales in favor of candidates amenable to meeting their demands. The Sunni Arabs, whose leaders had ruled Iraq until March 2003, got 25 percent of the vote. Many of them boycotted the elections. In April 2005, Iraq had a new Parliament. The speaker of the Parliament is a Sunni Arab; the Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, is president of Iraq. In April, Ibrahim Jaʿafari of the Shiite Daʿwa Party became prime minister and formed a coalition of Shiites, Sunni Arabs, and Sunni Kurdish ministers.
It is uncertain what directions the Arab world will take in the future. Women have made some headway and were elected in significant numbers to the Moroccan parliament (September 2002). Morocco undertook important reforms and Egypt as well as several Gulf emirates introduced legislative measures to do the same. More educated women join the Arab work force. While the struggle for freedom of the press and electronic media, and the empowerment of non-government organizations, has only begun, there is cable and satellite television in several Arab states that enjoy some freedom. Gone are the days when a regime like Nasser's could thrive on government-controlled media alone. The al-Jazeera satellite television channel in Qatar emerged as a critical media tool through its many correspondents stationed in the region. There are independent newspapers throughout the Arab world maintaining ideological party lines and independent thinking, usually privately owned. The newspaper al-Ḥayāt, published in London since 1988, is a forum for Arab intellectuals who wish to promote reforms in Arab society. There are overseas Arab television stations (e.g., mbc in London) that offer revolutionary programs for young men and women which are aired in the Arab world. Notwithstanding, the road is still long until freedom of the press and the general media prevails and they have progressive contents. Government-controlled newspapers and television networks in the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt still disseminate antisemitic and not merely anti-Israel propaganda in the spirit of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. There are other outstanding challenges, among them tribal tensions and Arab-Berber confrontations in Algeria and Morocco, with the Berbers struggling for cultural autonomy. Although demographic growth is moderate in most Arab states, this is not the case in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, and the Palestinian Authority. Family planning and reduced birth rates should receive top priority in domestic reforms. This may ease chronic unemployment in these countries. Unemployment will be reduced also through effective economic globalization and industrialization. Rural-agricultural reforms with the help of the West may put an end, or slow down considerably, the waves of rural migration to the urban agglomerations.
It is noteworthy that most Arab states have come a long way in dealing with Israel. This includes post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. They are prepared to recognize Israel and establish full ties with it, including trade relations. Some are in fact cooperating with Israel via back channels. The main stumbling blocks to formalizing ties are the Palestinian crisis and the yet to be implemented un Resolution 242 in regard to Syria. Shimon Peres envisioned in the early 1990s a "New Middle East" enriched by science and information technology. For many, this seems far-fetched. However, the continued exposure of the Arabs states to globalization, democratization, and demographic reforms is the only viable option. The alternatives offered by Islamists and other extremists can only perpetuate regression and violence: a tragedy of enormous consequences for the Arabs and Israel, as evidenced by the violent fighting in Lebanon between *Hizbollah and Israel in summer 2006.
See also entries on individual Arab countries and the general historical and political surveys under *Israel, State of.
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[Michael M. Laskier (2nd ed.)]