Negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state will begin February 19, the U.S. State Department spokesman announced in a laconic tone. On that day, which is next Monday, Condoleezza Rice will host Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas in Washington for talks on how to promote a "political horizon." This, Rice said, will give the Palestinians an idea of what their future state, alongside Israel, is going to look like.
By laying this "political horizon" (a hatchling of the Bush plan) on the table, she is aiming for the opposite of violence on the horizon. Above all, the intention is to end the bloody civil war between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, which decreases the chance for an agreement with Israel on establishing a Palestinian state, the longer it goes on.
The ghastly pictures from Gaza, which the world watches on television, once again bring to mind Abba Eban's famous dictum that the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It is the kind of bloodbath that only helps the Greater Israel fanatics dig in their heels and say no to an agreement based on withdrawal to the 1967 borders.
In the wake of Bush's request, or arm-twisting, Saudi Arabia has become a mediator. In return for a billion-dollar donation to the territories and a possible renewal of global aid, it has produced a peace plan - not with Israel, but between Hamas and Fatah. According to the plan, the Mecca agreement, Mahmoud Abbas will continue to chair the Palestinian Authority and Hamas' Ismael Haniyeh will remain prime minister. Portfolios have been divvied up Israel-style, but with one difference: We don't murder one another, starve our citizens or make life miserable for an entire people in order to put together a coalition.
Bush is known for his short fuse, and presumably this is not the baby he was waiting for. The Saudis have pulled a half-baked plan out of their oven. The missing ingredients include the principles of the Bush plan and the road map, in which recognizing Israel is a chief component; putting a stop to terror; and honoring all previous agreements.
Not that the promises of the Palestinians mean very much: As soon as Arafat pocketed the Nobel Peace Prize, he launched a wave of terror, allowing Islamic militants to carry out suicide bombings in Israel. In the end, he instigated the al-Aqsa Intifada, which left a heap of bodies on both sides.
But now we are dealing with Hamas, part and parcel of a bloodthirsty Islamic movement that regards America as the big Satan and Israel as the little Satan. Hamas has no problem killing its Arab brothers, and is eager to see Israel's demise. It can hardly wait for the day when Iran has the bomb and Ahmadinejad keeps his word.
The Mecca agreement, which has no clause recognizing Israel or on abstaining from terror, is a farce in the eyes of the U.S. administration and Israel. The immediate response of the Prime Minister's Office was that Israel has no intention of recognizing a Palestinian unity government as long as Hamas refuses to recognize Israel.
What I can't figure out is what all this "recognition of Israel" business is about. What kind of obsession is this, getting up every other day and demanding that our bitter enemies recognize us? The way things stand today, who needs their recognition?
Israel was one of the first countries in the world to rebel against imperialism and seek national independence. It was one of the first countries to join the United Nations: Israel is number 52 out of 190 countries that belong today. On May 10, 1949, MK David Hacohen unfurled the Israeli flag over the building then housing the UN. This insistence on being recognized, when Israel was one of the first states to be born after World War II, is plain masochism.
The State of Israel does not need recognition. It is already recognized as one of the wonders of the world - by the very dint of its existence, after seven Arab countries tried to wipe it off the map, by what it has managed to create, by what it has accomplished in the span of 59 years.
Israel is a political and geopolitical fact, as well as a household name. If there is anyone who needs recognition, it is not Israel but the Palestinians, who will need ours, if they ever have the brains to adopt the UN resolution passed 60 years ago and get around to establishing a state of their own.
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