WORLD

A clash over blood, land and pride

Old enmities plague new efforts for peace in the Middle East

November 11 1991
WORLD

A clash over blood, land and pride

Old enmities plague new efforts for peace in the Middle East

November 11 1991

A clash over blood, land and pride

Old enmities plague new efforts for peace in the Middle East

Six wars and almost incessant guerrilla conflict bloodied the 43 years between the founding of modem Israel and the opening of the Middle East peace conference in Madrid on Oct. 30. Three of the governments represented at the unique meeting—Syria, Jordan and Lebanon—remain in a formal state of war with Israel. Only Egypt, which signed a U.S.mediated peace treaty in 1979, officially recognizes Israel. The fifth Arab delegation at Madrid represents the stateless Palestinians, who resisted Israel’s founding in 1948 and, during the past four years, have engaged in an uprising (intifadeh) in Israeli-held territories. The new peace effort aimed to erase the legacies of death and damaged pride left by decades of war. Turning points in that grim history:

1948: On May 14, Israel proclaimed its statehood after the Arabs rejected a UN plan for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The next day, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq invaded in support of Palestine. At the time of a ceasefire eight months later, Israel occupied some of the land allotted by the United Nations to the Palestinians, but had lost the West Bank land along the Jordan River to Jordan and the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean coast to Egypt.

1956: Following years of cross-border guerrilla combat, and after Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal 12 years before its scheduled transfer from joint British-French ownership, Israel invaded Egypt on Oct. 29 and captured most of the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Two days later, British and .French forces attacked Egypt. All of the invaders withdrew within five months under U.S. pressure and with the establishment in Sinai and Gaza of a peacekeeping UN Emergency Force sponsored by Canada.

1967: On May 17, Egypt demanded the withdrawal of UNEF troops and

later blockaded Israel’s southern port of Eilat while other Arab armies made threatening moves. On June 5, Israel attacked by air and land and, in a six-day war, seized Sinai and Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan Heights overlooking northern Israel. A UN resolution on Nov. 22 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied lands and Arab recognition of Israel went unheeded.

1973: Amid persistent tensions as Israel built up Jewish settlements in former Arab territories, Egypt attacked in Sinai and Syria in the Golan Heights on Oct. 6, Yom Kippur, Israel’s holiest day. Israel suffered heavy casualties and, under pressure from the West as an Arab oil embargo inflated world prices, yielded some territory in Sinai and Syria.

1982: On April 25, under its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, Israel completed the withdrawal of its forces and settlers from Sinai. But six weeks later, on June 6, Israel invaded Lebanon with the declared aim of neutralizing forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). That goal had been shared in part by Syria in a 1976 incursion during the early stages of what became a protracted Lebanese civil war. Both maintain an armed presence in Lebanon, the Israelis holding a selfdeclared security zone in the south.

1991: The Gulf War changed the power balance in the Middle East. Egypt and Syria took part in the U.S.-led defeat of Iraqi forces in February. Israel, a target of Iraqi missile attacks, was restrained by U.S. pressure from joining in. Jordan and Lebanon espoused military neutrality. The PLO leadership openly supported Iraq. The turmoil, along with the end of U.S.-Soviet rivalry in the region, encouraged Washington, with Moscow’s support, to press the main players in the long ArabIsraeli conflict to meet together for the first time and talk peace.

ISRAEL: Prime Minister

Yitzhak Shamir, 76, a Polishborn veteran of the guerrilla struggle that carved modern Israel out of Palestine, led a

hard-line delegation to the Madrid conference. He is not only committed to the security of Israel’s largely Jewish population ot about 4.2 million within its 1948 borders, which encompass an area less than twofifths the size of Nova Scotia; Shamir also has vowed that he will yield “not one inch” of territories captured in 1967—land amounting to about onethird the area of Israel itself and now inhabited by several hundred thousand Jewish settlers, as well as some 1.8 million Arabs.

EGYPT: Amr Moussa, 55, a diligent career diplomat whom President Hosni Mubarak named foreign minister in May,

was assigned to speak at the Madrid talks for the Arab world’s most populous nation—some 55 million people living in a land slightly smaller than Ontario. Egypt affronted its Arab neighbors by making peace with Israel 12 years ago, but Moussa has worked hard as foreign minister, and previously as Egypt’s UN mission chief, to resolve the historical hostilities throughout the Middle East.

LEBANON: Foreign Minister Fans Bouez, 36, heads a delegation that seeks the removal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in the wake of a 1 5-year civil war in which Syria also intervened. Syria remains the main power

broker in a country less than twice the size of Prince Edward Island where the population of about 3.3 million is divided into numerous Moslem and Christian sects. Bouez, a Maronite Christian lawyer, belongs to the pacifist National Bloc, which has urged the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Despite that, Bouez was named foreign minister last December by pro-Syrian President Elias Hrawi-his father-in-law.

SYRIA: Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara, 53, is a trusted spokesman for President Hafez al-Assad and the mainly Sunni Moslem population of 12.5 million in a nation 2½ times the size of New Brunswick. A student of

English literature and a University of London graduate in international law, Shara built a reputation as a diplomatic broker before leading Syria's delegation to Madrid. He has been active in persuading Shiite Moslem groups in Lebanon to free Western hostages and to resolve factional disputes in the Lebanese civil war. Syria seeks the return of the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

JORDAN: A Christian in a predominantly Moslem kingdom of 3.2 million people and an American-educated political economist without professional diplomatic experience, Karnel Abu-Jaber, 59, was

appointed foreign minister on Oct. 3-four weeks before he led the Jordanian and Palestinian delegations to the Madrid conference. The former University of Jordan professor-like King Hussein, married to an American-shares the kings goal of negotiating peace with Israel. He urged Israel to "give peace a chance, give our region a chance," by leaving the West Bank of the Jordan River.

PALESTINIANS: Haider Abdel-Shafi, 72, a physician who heads Gaza's Red Crescent Society (the Moslem Red Cross), leads the Palestinian group that forms a joint delegation with Jordan at the peace talks. Israel refuses to deal with the overall leader of the Palestinian group, Faisal al-Hussein~ 51, a

member of a landowning family in East Jerusalem who has supported the PLO and been jailed in the past by Israeli authorities. The representatives ot an estimated 5.5 million stateless and scattered Palestinians, including the 1.8 million in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, are pursuing an old dream-an independent homeland.