Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

I have known many prime ministers. Not one of them was pure or holy. But, almost all had one common quality — when they reached the point where their own personal interest touched upon the national interest, it was the national interest that prevailed. But, Mr. Netanyahu was a rare exception.

I did not write the above lines. They appeared in an article by Ronen Bergman published in the New York Times a few days ago. In the above lines Bergman quoted former director of Mossad Meir Dagan as describing Netanyahu’s mentality.

In the next few days, a conference will be held to reignite the peace talks to find a just solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. This time around it is France that is pushing for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. As we all know that during the past decades there had been several meetings to bring the two sides together to sign a lasting peace agreement and end all hostilities. The unique thing about this peace plan is that the initial conference will take place in the absence of representatives from the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The proposal to convene peace talks sans the parties to the conflict has surprised many around the world. But in our part of the world, anything is possible even a military coup in Israel. Oops, did I just say a military coup in Israel?

“If Israel had a government consisting of only former directors of military intelligence, we would have had peace with the Palestinians long ago,” said a former Israeli general long time back but apparently it remains valid even today.

The world just saw Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pour cold water on the French plan before it even started? So, were the French right in their decision to hold the initial meeting without inviting the Israelis or the Palestinians? Perhaps, yes. What if the both parties or one of them said no to the peace plan? The peace plan would fail.

Now, the world is changing and so is Israel. Militaries are becoming doves and politicians are turning hawkish. But, we all know that the military looks at things differently from the politicians. The military does not care about election time or is not involved in electoral politics, which helps it maintain a neutral perspective on various issues.

Things have changed for the military because in the past Israel used to express concern over being attacked by its neighboring countries. Since the Arab world is busy resolving its own internal issues, there is no threat to Israeli security and this will make it much easier for Israel to go ahead with a peace initiative. And by going through the reports and opinions published in the Israeli newspapers, it is clear that many Israelis also want peace and are not willing to go on forever to see their young men and women drafted in the Israeli Defense Forces. Most Israeli young men and women never experience a normal life between the ages of 18 and 21. Now the top Israeli military commanders simply see themselves at war with their politicians and not their Arab neighbors. The Israeli military, more than the politicians, seems to be looking for a peace initiate and an end to all kind of hostilities between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As a matter of fact, the world was surprised when Israeli Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan chose a very sensitive date in the Israeli calendar (Holocaust Memorial Eve) to suggest that Israel today in some ways resembles Nazi Germany of the 1930s. Now, for outsiders, this a military coup taking place in Israel. And it is not only the top brass who want peace to prevail but even many Israelis are now not willing to see their sons and daughters being drafted in the military.

The French peace initiative is a golden opportunity for both Palestinians and the Israelis to move forward to achieve peace. This opportunity should not be missed.

Peace between Israel and Palestine will not only help these two sides but will also prove to be very beneficial to the entire region. People in this region have seen enough violence and now they deserve peace and harmony and a normal life.

The Palestinians and Israelis had been clashing with each other for many decades. They should now give peace a chance for a few years. So, Mr. Netanyahu, this time listen to your military commanders and just sign that paper.

As for the Palestinians, it is vital for them to know that now the area has more Syrian refugees than Palestinians and there are more Iraqis living in fear than the Palestinians. In other words, the Arab world is busy with its own problems. Palestinians have to decide the best for themselves. And most importantly, Palestinian politicians should stay away from other Arab countries’ internal politics and should work to end the plight of the Palestinian refugees.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Mideast Craving for Peace reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.