Since Israel was established as a state, the Israeli nation has yearned to have peaceful relations with her Arab neighbors. Starting in 1948, the UN called for the establishment of two states in Eretz Yisrael, one of them Arab and one of them Jewish. Israel accepted this proposal, while the Arabs rejected it for they could not agree to share the land. Yet, even still, despite this Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan, Israel continued to seek to have peaceful relations with her Arab neighbors. Golda Meir, disguised as a Muslim woman, snuck into Jordan in a vain attempt to convince the Jordanian king to remain neutral in the 1948 war. David Ben-Gurion sent Golda Meir to Haifa, in order to try and convince the Arabs living within the city to remain in their homes and become Israeli citizens, where they would enjoy full democratic equality.
In fact, even Israel’s Declaration of Independence declares, “In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions – provisional or permanent. We offer peace and unity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all.” This is the ultimate proof that the Israeli nation has sought to have peaceful relations with her Arab neighbors from the very beginning.
Yet, despite continuous Arab rejections of Israeli peace overtures, Israel never gave up on her dream to live in peace. After the Six Day War, then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared that he was “waiting for a call” from Arab leaders in order to negotiate a peace agreement after Israel’s historic victory on the battlefield. While Israel did not want to return to the indefensible 1949 Armistice Lines, nevertheless then Foreign Minister Abba Eban proclaimed that he would be “unbelievably generous” in attempting to negotiate a peace agreement. Yet the Arabs responded with the infamous Khartoum Declaration, where it was declared that the Arabs would say no to peace with Israel, no to the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and there would be no negotiations with Israel.
However, Israel did not give up in her desire to have peace with her Arab neighbors. Eventually, some Arab countries did sign peace agreements with Israel. In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed an historic peace agreement; Jordan followed in 1994. Yet, to date, no other Arab countries have signed peace agreements with the State of Israel. Nevertheless, Israel continued to make overtures for peace, in the hopes that other Arab peoples will follow the example of Jordan and Egypt by signing peace agreements with Israel.
In 1993, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords. By doing this, Israel overlooked decades where Yasser Arafat had instigated campaigns of terror against the Israeli people. Nevertheless, despite Arafat’s violent history, Israel gave Arafat the benefit of the doubt because she yearned for peace. However, in the end, Arafat chose to remain committed to the destruction of Israel, instead of building a Palestinian state peacefully beside Israel. When former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat 97 percent of Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as a capital city, Arafat turned down the offer, instigating a campaign of terror against Israeli civilian population centers.
Yet still, despite this, Israel continued to reach out her arms towards peace with her Arab neighbors. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 hoping to achieve peace, yet received a barrage of qassam rockets in return. In 2007, Israel partook in peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert again made generous peace offers in 2008, yet none of this resulted in peace as well. However, to date, despite all of this, Israel extends an olive branch to her Arab neighbors, hoping to achieve peace. With G-d’s help, one day, may Israel finally successfully live in peace with her Arab neighbors!
By Rachel Avraham
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