President Obama Tests King Mohamed VI


By Jamal Laoudi

American President Barack Obama sent a letter to King of Morocco Mohamed 6 urging him to be the “leader” in establishing Arab-Israeli peace and to “bridge gaps between Israel and the Arab world.” While this sounds constructive and positive, a scrutiny of the details reveals holes. The “bridge gaps” request is for Morocco to take steps for more normalized relations with Israel in hope that other Arab nations follow suit, or as the President put it “convince the parties to engage constructively.” In return, Israel would order a temporary freeze of all settlement-construction in the West Bank. Many in the Arab world are arguing that Israel can and must do better than just freezing settlement-construction as it is simply not enough.

Israel is looking to enhance its bilateral relations with many Arab nations. Face value, this proposition appears quite encouraging but the sticking point is that the Arab world dismisses Israel’s offer as not serious. The enhancements Israel is seeking include “opening of trade offices, direct economic links, public cultural and educational ties, and overfly rights for Israeli airlines;” Furthermore, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that “the United States is seeking to encourage Morocco and the Persian Gulf states to allow Israel to open diplomatic offices in their territory, and to send their own diplomatic delegations to Israel.”

What is Israel bringing to the table? A three-month freeze of settlements in the West Bank. Arab countries have long been offering Israel full relations, diplomatic and otherwise, if it withdraws from territories it occupies, and if the two parties come to an agreement about the refugee question.

The Palestinian camp is already crying foul. The Palestinian authority said that "Israel is trying to open up to the Arab world 'at the expense' of the Palestinians by using hollow initiatives." It went further and argued that Israel is looking to run away from its obligations vis-à-vis stopping settlement construction.

Morocco has much to offer as an honest broker to resolve Arab-Israeli conflict.
If it heeds President Obama’s call unilaterally, it would come under much criticism, some heavy justifiably. Arab countries would be best served addressing this issue as a united front as opposed to fragmented pieces. Peace is desperately needed and the usual ways and means of addressing this conflict have bore very little fruit if any. It is high time a permanent peaceful solution was found.

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