I would like to return to the entire issue of the Saudi peace plan and whatever negotiations Israel may or may not have with the Palestinians or with Abbas in particular.
Let me begin by saying how bewildering this entire thing is — how incomprehensible and upside down it all seems. The bottom line here is that the unity gov’t doesn’t recognize our right to exist and will not foreswear terrorism. That unity gov’t, in whatever formulation, would constitute the gov’t of a Palestinian state — clearly not a gov’t that would live in peace with us. And keep in mind that even if Abbas were to negotiate as head of the PLO, he is bound by the Mecca agreement to bring any negotiated settlement back to the unity gov’t for approval. So why then are the US Sec. of State and the UN Sec. Gen. so incredibly obtuse as to babble on and on about a window of opportunity for peace? What absolutely perverse things are transpiring here?
One of the members of this list has written to say that there might be a small window (a mere crack) of opportunity for incremental negotiations with the Arab League, and wonders if it is not a good idea for someone to "do a little shuttling to see if small issues can be carved out on which some actual, enforceable agreements can be reached."
I begin by saying that my reader is not alone in this thought, and that there are people here in this country who are thinking the same: we have to try, is the reasoning. And I will follow by saying that I am absolutely, unequivocally opposed to trying for the simple reason that I don’t trust the Arab intentions or motivations any further than I could throw Prince Saud.
We’ve tried and we’ve tried and we’ve tried, you see. What we have to show for it is a weakened security position and over 1,000 dead with many more wounded, some handicapped for life. This is what the notion that we "had to try" with Oslo brought us. I have no interest in going that route.
There are some essential realities that must be confronted, and dealt with:
It is not just a Palestinian Arab notion that we have to be driven into the sea, though perhaps the Palestinian Arabs have the most immediate vested interest with regard to this. It is a Muslim Arab perspective pretty much across the board. We are "interlopers," "Zionist colonialists" on Muslim land. We are an affront to them.
Why was it that they wouldn’t accept partition of Palestine in 1947? Because they couldn’t bear to give the Jews anything.
Why did they attack us on our Independence Day? Because they were determined to destroy us at our moment of birth.
Why was the PLO founded before Israel had Judea & Samaria, and Gaza? Because they didn’t want us to have Israel even within the Green Line and were determined to "liberate" it.
Why did they gear up for war again in 1967? Because of the hope that finally they could defeat us utterly.
Why have the Arab nations (with the exception of Jordan) consistently refused to absorb Palestinian Arab refugees? Because they were determined to use the refugees as weapons against us, parading that "right of return" with the intention of destroying us from within.
There is no concrete evidence now that this attitude has really changed. Especially as they are still promoting "right of return." What changes are the tactics and postures and pretenses. Until they demonstrate a genuine desire to live in peace with Israel, and are willing to accept Israel’s right to exist here, there can be no peace. That time will not come until they are convinced they cannot defeat us. What this means — this is my constant refrain — is that we must remain strong to that end. Sadat came to Jerusalem when he saw no other way of regaining the Sinai (he tried by war first in 1973). Anything that weakens us actually works against the possibility of peace. In that way, trying can be a very bad thing,
I keep on coming back in my mind to what I wrote about the other day, with regard to Prof. Moshe Sharon’s thesis that the Arabs treat peace negotiations like a bazaar. In the market place the price of merchandise goes up if the buyer is too eager. Anyone who’s shopped in the shuk here knows this. You act cool. You don’t gush over the merchandise. I’ve had it happen that I’ve asked to see a particular piece and then realized it wasn’t what I wanted, and said, no, sorry, but it didn’t suit my needs. "I’ll take off 10 shekels, Geveret." "No, really, it’s not what I need." "I’ll take off 20 shekels then." But here the West is falling all over itself with its determination to "make peace." And Olmert? He just declared that he would make many sacrifices to be able to talk with the Arabs. Oi vey! This may send Condoleezza into a state of near ecstasy, but this is not the thing to say. The Arabs hear it all, they know what the desperate eagerness is. And so they expect to be able to get away with structuring terms to their liking, in truth, terms that would be ultimately destructive to us.
We must continue to remember that Islam sanctions deception when dealing with non-Muslims. Islam sanctions peace treaties signed with the intent of breaking them later if the situation becomes more favorable to the Muslims. Muhammad himself did this. We cannot judge their negotiating stance by Western terms. Woe is to us if we do not understand them. Or fail to take them at their own words with regard to exhortations for jihad.
The Arabs must genuinely want peace and see it as in their best interest to pursue it. Then they will be ready to make sacrifices to achieve it. They are not nearly at that point yet.
There are those today who are suggesting that the Arabs might be motivated to make peace with Israel because of the common enemy Iran. This is a very shaky thesis and I will say more about this below.
It’s important to remember the following:
Arafat broke every commitment he had with us within the context of Oslo. We signed for the PA to have a police force of a specific limited size. He doubled the number. We gave them weapons and training to combat terrorists and they turned on us instead. They failed to seek out terrorists even though this was something they were supposed to be committed to. Later Clinton’s chief negotiator here, Dennis Ross, wrote that Arafat never surrendered the "terrorist card." He always fell back on violence as the way to try to coerce us to do more.
There is no reason under the sun to assume Abbas — who was Arafat’s deputy — would do any better. Even now Olmert and Livni are complaining bitterly at how he has broken his promises to them repeatedly. He swore he wouldn’t sign on to a unity gov’t unless it adhered to the Quartet benchmarks, but he did. He swore he would have Shalit released before he signed on to the unity gov’t, but of course that never happened. And he’s in bed with the overtly terrorists forces.
My friend who raised the question with me speaks about "enforceable" agreements, and this too is something that must be addressed. For even if there is a theoretical mechanism for enforcement, it never happens. This is the final bitter reality. The world at large cuts the Palestinian Arabs incredible slack, never holding them accountable. And the world at large very much includes Israel. During the Oslo years, there were multiple opportunities for calling a halt and saying that it just wasn’t working. Not only did no Israeli gov’t ever do that, they often hid the truth from the Israeli population. Why? Because they had become so invested in
the process. Because it would have been an embarrassment to the point of destroying their careers to admit had badly they had misjudged the situation. And so, I have no confidence in enforceability absent the reasonably good intentions of the Arabs. It won’t happen.
The PLO has a long standing policy called the Strategy of Stages. It was a written policy. I have the text. It acknowledged that it would not be possible to take Israel all at once, and declared that Israel should be weakened in stages. When the Arabs call for a return to the pre-’67 lines, make no mistake about it: this is an attempt to weaken Israel, not a desire for a true, lasting two state solution. If the Palestinians wanted a state, they could have had it a long time ago. Weakening us is more important.
By the same token, each of the nations of the Arab League could sign a peace treaty with us independently, whether we resolved our issues with the Palestinian Arabs or not, if they truly wanted to. They have very little genuine concern for the Palestinians.
The current situation is that the Arab League says that there is no modification in the plan, which Israel should accept as is. After it is accepted, then there can be negotiations, they are saying. Negotiations on what, if it has all been accepted?
Abbas has now come out with a statement that a war would break out if Israel rejected the Palestinian "hand of peace." The audacity takes the breath away. This from the man who signed on to a gov’t that endorses terrorism. At the Arab summit, Abbas said, "Whoever wants to change the Saudi initiative wants to escape from a peace agreement." I detest this man.
There is going to be incredible pressure brought to bear on the gov’t with regard to this, and I am praying big time that Olmert doesn’t cave. I am not confident. His spokeswoman, Miri Eisen, says, Israel sees the "initiative as interesting and as the possible basis for a dialogue. We’re not being more specific than that because we need to really sit down and study it."
Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, and currently head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is an expert on Saudi Arabia. He wrote a significant commentary — "Are Saudis seeking peace?" — in today’s Post and I would like to share some of it:
According to Gold, Jim Hoagland disclosed in yesterday’s Washington Post that King Abdullah has cancelled a mid-April dinner with President Bush. Administration sources are reportedly saying that Riyadh has decided to instead seek common ground with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. This explains why the Saudis chose to strengthen Hamas during the Mecca agreement, at the expense of Abbas. [Note: at the time, Khaled Abu Toameh reported that the Saudis, ostensibly acting as mediators, practically forced Abbas to concede to Hamas on almost all issues. ]
The irony here is that the US had been counting on the Saudis to act as a moderating force. Although, conversely, Abbas had been counting on the Saudis to sell the unity gov’t to the US.
Gold points out, and I’m so glad he does, that the problem with the Saudi initiative goes well beyond the issue of "right of return." It would deprive Israel of defensible borders. What is more, explains Gold, the term "normal relations" may promise less than it seems to.
Gold says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not at the top of the Saudi agenda; rather what is shaping Saudi policy is the expanding Iranian threat and "the weakness of the Western response."
"…Rice’s instincts to seize the moment of a shared threat that both Israel and the Sunni Arab states perceive are essentially correct, but must be directed in totally different channels…quiet contacts between Israel and its neighbors make for more sense than grandiose public diplomacy.
"…if Saudi Arabia seeks to present itself as a constructive force, it must use its political and financial clout behind the scenes to neutralize those groups working to undermine the stability of the Middle East at present. Only then will it be possible to explore building the foundations of the regional peace that was being spoken about earlier this week."
This posting can be found at: https://arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/3/29/posted-march-29-2007.html