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From the Left: Should Israel accept the Saudi Peace Plan?

Absolutely so, and better late than never. Let’s see why: This peace initiative, originally proposed in 2002 by the then Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, and endorsed last year by all the Arab League members, offers Israel, above all else, peace and recognition. Growing up in Israel, it was all we ever dreamed of; it was what our leaders always talked about: if only the Arab world would accept us as an independent Jewish state, and offer us peace and recognition. Of course, with food comes the appetite. In other words, this premise is now facing fierce opposition form the messianic settlement camp. For them the formula of land for peace is a non-starter, since for them land is more important than peace. Even more so, they say, we don’t need their peace and recognition. We are stronger than they are; what do we care whether they recognize us or not?

So let’s pause here and check first what this initiative promises; what it takes and what it gives. According to its four guiding principles, Israel is required to give back all the Arab land captured in the 1967 war, that is the Golan Heights, most of the West Bank (minus some adjustments, or land swap between Israel and the future Palestinian sate), and East Jerusalem as the Capital of the said Palestinian state. It calls for a “just solution” for the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war. In return, the Arab states affirmed that they would recognize the state of Israel, consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, and establish “Normal relations with Israel.” What more, I wonder, can Israel ask for?

All these elements, with minor variations, are long regarded a staple of the Israel Peace Camp. Most Israelis—not including, needless to say, the War Camp—tend to agree with their necessity, even if not all heartedly. There exists still the sore issue of the return of all Palestinian refugees. The resolution that was approved by the Arab states realized the difficulty of this issue, and stated that the league would accept any solution agreed upon by the Israeli and Palestinian sides. It is clear to the Palestinians, and not from today, that their aspiration of returning to their land and villages in Israel proper (i.e., within the green line) no longer hold any water. First, most—if not all—of these villages do not exist any longer. Second, there won’t be an independent Jewish state as we know it if they would allow to return. Some form of solution, to be based on monetary compensation, seems to be agreeable on most experts and negotiating sides, including USA. The Palestinian people, wherever they live, would eventually realize, simply—as did Gertrude Stein when she was looking for her childhood home—that there is no there there.

This question of the refugees will be answered satisfactorily eventually, though the proponents of the endless war—on both sides—would have you believe otherwise. I was amazed in 2002 when the Saudi plan was first proposed, that it was rejected so outright by Israel. I thought then, as I do know, that it has the potential of ending the conflict, and that in the long run—and remember, time is on their side, with some 24 countries and about 350 million people—will serve Israel well. I am glad, therefore, that Ehud Barak—the current Israeli defense minister, previous Prime Minister and the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history—has revived the interest in this plan. It reminds me of one of the famous quotes by the late Abba Eban: “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” While that may be so, lately it seems equally true regarding Israel, where the correct decisions come only at last resort, after more dead and more wars and more bloodshed. Let’s admit then: an achievable, comprehensive peace plan such as the Saudi initiative, is good for Israel, the Jews, the Middle East and the world at large.

3 Responses

  1. Wrong about what? I just quoted you a story from a well respected newspaper. Maybe you mean the reporter is wrong….well if this s this case you will have to take it with him/her, or the paper he works for. I agree, this story does not seem to fit the agenda of Haaretz, I was surprised too. :=)
    Actually I was expecting to read something like “Peres refuses to Shake the Saudi Foreign Minister’s hand.”

    Shaking hands is a basic courtesy…if the Saudi foreign minister is worried that shaking hands will end up in his death we have A BIG problem on our hands…

  2. Yona,
    You’re wrong, again. First, to every overture, peace initiative, there’s a mechanisms and a momentum—Re: Sadat offered peace to Israel if….—and when there’s basically no official government response, no serious discussion about it on the other side (what, are we afraid of peace?… What, will it bring with it a war between the Jews?), then the other side is left with no option but to react to some random comments, even if coming from the now President of Israel, who essentially rejected to initiative when it was first offered, and when he was the Foreign Minister.
    As for East Jerusalem and its refuges. Part of the plan—and now generally an accepted solution on all sides, including the current PM Olmert, very right wing up till now—is that East Jerusalem would be the capital of the future Palestinian State. Therefore there’ll be no limitation and restrictions on refugees coming back to it, and also reclaiming the land, the houses, Israel confiscated in order to establish its presence and dominance.
    As for shaking hands. I stated at the beginning of my post, there’s a give and take to everything. When there is no take to what you’re trying to give, and when the possibility that you’ll be shot dead the moment you arrive home for shaking hands is a realone, you react accordingly.

  3. Hillel:

    the following may give you a chance to think ove your support for the initiative:

    From the most left leaning Haaretz: newspaper (11/14/08):

    The Saudi foreign minister distanced himself from the complements that Peres expressed at the international interfaith-convention (took place in New York in mid November 08). According to the s Saudi. rep. Peres chose to mention only parts of the plan. He complained that Israel is refusing to return east Jerusalem and to allow the return of refugees, the plan is one package – take it or leave it. This is a clear answer coming straight from the country that produced the Initiative.

    BTW, on November 12th, when the above meeting started, the Saudi rep. refused to even shake Peres’ hand. This is the way bargaining is done in the Middle East, would like shake hands, it would cost you, there is a price for everything, no freebies here. And of course no good will whatsoever….sad reality.

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