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Jewish World Review
May 20, 2009
/ 26 Iyar 5769
Middle East mirage
Upon hearing of the death of a Turkish ambassador, the
serpentine French diplomat Talleyrand was reputed to have responded, "I
wonder what he meant by that." With that level of skepticism in mind, all
shrewd diplomats and observers of diplomacy look beneath the surface
language and actions of diplomacy to the underlying realities that will
shape negotiations, because, as professor Angelo Codevilla explains,
effective diplomacy is, at its core, a "verbal representation of a
persuasive reality. Indubitable reality itself convinces sometimes even
without verbal expression, or through nonverbal expression."
As we enter
this new round of U.S.-Israeli-Arab negotiations, one needs to keep firmly
in mind the political realities that will either undergird or undermine the
In the lead-up to the current round of meetings between Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, the constantly
repeated background theme has been that now is the vital moment to actually
bring into being an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. As I discussed in
this space last week, President Obama is being put under extraordinary
pressure both by Arab leaders and commentators and by his own White House
staff to be personally responsible for the success or failure of these
And in turn, Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming under even
greater pressure to comply with the United States' proposed path to a "peace
accord," the foundation of which is a two-state solution, that is to say,
two sovereign nations side by side: Israel and a Palestinian state.
The Arab states never have been more united in preparing the
diplomatic groundwork for these talks. In advance of this week's Washington
talks, the Arab states have let it be known that they will "reward" Israel
with "confidence-building measures" as Nader Dahabi, Jordan's prime
minister, said last weekend at a World Economic Forum in Jordan should
Israel cooperate in the negotiations. But the premise of Arab cooperation
includes adherence to the key provisions of the Saudi-sponsored plan: giving
Palestinian refugees the right to return to Israel and having the Israeli
borders return to how they were before the 1967 war.
Now comes reality onto the stage to darken the dreams of
would-be peacemakers. As shrewd old Talleyrand also once said, "I know where
there is more wisdom than is found in Napoleon, Voltaire, or all the
ministers present and to come in public opinion." So consider this dismal
data from the authoritative polling of the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes
Project. The report tabulated the response to this key question: "Which
statement comes closest to your opinion? 1) A way can be found for the state
of Israel to exist so that the rights and needs of the Palestinian people
are taken care of OR, 2) the rights and needs of the Palestinian people
cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists?"
The specific percentages are as follows, with the key results
being, by 77 to 16 percent, Palestinians don't believe they can live side by
side with Israel, while, by 61 to 31 percent, Israelis do believe they can
live side by side with a Palestinian state. Note that all the Arab states
are very negative and all the Western states (plus Israel) are quite
positive for a two-state solution.
• United States: 1) 67 percent, 2) 12 percent.
• France: 1) 82 percent, 2) 16 percent.
• Germany: 1) 80 percent, 2) 11 percent.
• Sweden: 1) 65 percent, 2) 12 percent.
• Britain: 1) 60 percent, 2) 12 percent.
• Israel: 1) 61 percent, 2) 31 percent.
• Morocco: 1) 23 percent, 2) 47 percent.
• Kuwait: 1) 21 percent, 2) 73 percent.
• Egypt: 1) 18 percent, 2) 80 percent.
• Jordan: 1) 17 percent, 2) 78 percent.
• Palestinian territories: 1) 16 percent, 2) 77 percent.
Keep in mind, also, that after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
signed a Sinai peace treaty with Israel, in October 1981 he was assassinated
during a military parade in Cairo. A fatwa authorizing
the assassination had been issued by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric later
convicted in the U.S. for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
It would take an unusually courageous leader to sign a peace
treaty and his own death warrant in one document. And lest there be any
doubt as to the acceptability of a peace treaty that doesn't include
refugees' being given the right to return (which would turn Israel into a
Muslim-majority, rather than Jewish-majority, state), consider the writing
this week in the Los Angeles Times of Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the
Palestinian Parliament, a candidate for president in 2005, and currently
secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative:
"Palestinians in the occupied territories have no standing to
sign away the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel in order to get
Israel to the negotiating table. To tell the truth, we don't believe that
Israel can be a true democracy and an exclusivist Jewish state at the same
As long as fewer than 2 in 10 Arabs, both Palestinian and all
others, believe in Israel's right to exist as a nation with a Jewish
majority, there can be no successful peace based on a two-state solution.
That is the reality that no diplomacy can change.
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Tony Blankley is executive vice president of Edelman public relations in Washington. Comment by clicking here.
© 2009, Creators Syndicate