I think it’s safe to say that Israel — and the world — is far better off with Ehud Olmert as that nation’s prime minister, and not me.
Much of the world is all abuzz about the latest resurgence of a certain “peace plan” being pushed by Saudi Arabia. It proclaims itself as the “answer” to the intractable differences between Israel and the Palestinians, and much of the Arab world is lining up behind it. There’s only two little flies in the ointment, though;
1) One of the “non-negotiable” terms it contains is the Palestinian “Right To Return,” meaning that Israel has to accept a potential couple of million new citizens immediately, with full voting rights — which will be the kiss of death for the nation of Israel. Israel has repeatedly said that that particular notion is a deal-breaker.
2) The whole negotiating process was conducted without Israel’s presence, and not one party even pretending to present Israel’s case and defend their interests in the negotiations.
Had I been in Olmert’s shoes, I would have paraphrased a certain fugitive whose name escapes me at the moment: “They tried me in absentia, convicted me in absentia, and sentenced me to death in absentia. If they can do all that without my presence, then they can carry out the sentence without my presence as well.” In other words, if the Arabs are so intent on creating a peace plan without Israel’s involvement, then let them implement it without involving Israel.
Olmert, though, actually has responsibilities and more political and diplomatic sense than I. He’s taken a better step: he’s invited the heads of all the nations who put together this plan to a summit in Israel.
Stripped of all its pretty language, the Saudi plan pretty much boils down to this:
The Israelis concede to remove all settlements in the West Bank, return to its 1967 borders (giving up the Golan Heights and the West Bank), and allow millions of Palestinians to become citizens of Israel. In return, they get “normalized” relations with their neighbors.
The cynic in me translates that as “the next time we go to war with you, we’ll have diplomats in Israel to deliver the declaration.”
Basically, the Arab League is asking for everything that they’ve tried to win by war numerous times — and failed each time. So instead of just trying to take what they want, they’re asking this time — and none too politely.
The latest sticking point is the “Right Of Return,” yet another case of the Palestinians taking something from the Israelis and perverting it to their own ends. In Israel, the term means that Jews, traditionally the most persecuted group in history, can always find one place that they will be accepted. For the Palestinians, it’s an attempt to conquer Israel by the time-honored process of “one man, one vote, one time.” It’s little different from their attempts to liken their fate to the Holocaust (which they usually deny happened) or the proclamation of the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism, site of the First and Second Temples — as “the third holiest site in Islam” and built two mosques on top of it, and now ban Jews from setting foot on the site. (Funny how Jerusalem is never mentioned, not once, in the Koran. You’d think that if it was so holy, it’d have shown up at least once or twice. It’s all throughout the Jewish and Christian bibles.)
Is there a simple, fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? One that gives both sides what they want? I think not. But I think it’s instructive to look at 1948, when the current situation pretty much got its start. (Yes, I know it’s gone on for centuries, but the current status quo can be argued to have started then.)
We often hear about the 800,000 Palestinian refugees who fled Israel as the Arab nations attacked, telling them to get out of the way while they drove the Jews into the sea. After that, they could go back and have the entire region to themselves.
They’re still waiting.
This was just the first in a long history of the Palestinians choosing to back the wrong side. Some of the more notable examples are cheering for Saddam Hussein in the first Iraq war (a move that got them kicked out of Kuwait after the war) and rejoicing the 9/11 attacks.
But we don’t hear about another 800,000 refugees from the same era. That’s roughly the number of Jews who fled Arab nations to the new state of Israel. Do you hear them whining about everything they left behind, about their confiscated properties?
Nope. Because instead of becoming permanent victims, they became citizens. They helped to literally make the desert bloom. As I’ve said before, they got handed lemons and didn’t just make lemonade, they started a lemonade franchise that they built into a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. Because they refused to become victims.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, became a society of permanent victimhood. This was easy, because so much of the world wanted them to be that. For the Arabs, it gave them a perpetual grievance against the Israelis. (Note that the Arab nations like the Palestinians as a concept, but not as people. Note how not one nation offered them citizenship, welcomed them as brothers, and in fact have killed more Palestinians than Israel ever has.) For the United Nations, it gave them an opportunity to prove how “humanitarian” they are, by settling up refugee camps for them, creating a permanent group of wretched poor they could tend to. And the Palestinians, seduced by this global welfare state, accepted it.
So, just what is Secretary of State Rice doing, offering support for the Arab League’s plan? I suspect she’s pushing the Churchillian notion of “jaw, jaw is better than war, war,” and hoping that they can be persuaded to keep talking and eventually find a solution that all parties can accept.
I’m a cynic. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. But Rice and Olmert not only have a lot better information than I do, but they’re far more experienced in such matters. They might be right.
I just hope Israel follows the classic advice of “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”