Negotiations Forever

There is no one in Israel who will pick the Saudi initiative up off the floor and put it on the table, but you have to admit that the evasive maneuvers Israeli politicians are taking with regard to the initiative are brilliant.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

It was a lovely ad that the Palestinian Authority took out in Israel's daily newspapers on Thursday - a full translation into Hebrew of the Saudi initiative that came out of the 2002 summit in Beirut, adorned by 50 flags that frame the text.

More than half of those countries are not members of the Arab League, or in other words are not undersigned on the declaration. A third are Asian and African states that already maintain peaceful relations with Israel. But all are defined Muslim countries, even if their regimes are secular, as in Turkey.

It's the first Hebrew-language call by the Palestinian Authority to the people of Israel, as if to say: "This is what the Arab and Muslim world have to offer. Do you have any answer? Has anything changed over the past six years since the initiative was declared?"

And Israel says that indeed it does have an answer. It says that it cannot accept all the clauses of the Saudi initiative and that in truth, it is difficult to accept all the demands while certain parties in the region do not agree to peace.

That's what that Knight of Peace, Shimon Peres, declared last week from under his brand-new vermilion knight's cloak. First peace, then initiative, says Peres - the same Peres who warned that the settlements cannot be evacuated without sparking a civil war.

Ehud Barak has his own formula. He says a broad coalition is necessary for promoting the crucial regional issues, including the security issues, progress in the peace process with the Syrians, the Palestinians and even the Lebanese, all in parallel. Last month he explained that he hopes to form, with the prime minister, a comprehensive Israeli plan for regional peace that would also have an economical component. Is Barak advocating peace according to Benjamin Netanyahu's model of economy instead of territory? And what is comprehensive peace anyway? Does anyone understand who will be included in this peace?

Tzipi Livni, the self-appointed guardian of the Annapolis peace conference, said last month that the Saudi initiative cannot replace direct negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria. To get an idea of her true views, one needs to look to last year when she said the Saudi initiative is unacceptable because it addresses the Palestinian refugee problem.

"The Saudi initiative was at first a positive sign," Livni said in an interview for the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam in 2007. "But when radicals added onto it elements that reject the two-state principle, it turned into something that we cannot accept in its current form."

Livni's Annapolis summit, it merits noting, actually adopts the Saudi initiative.

In summation, there is no one in Israel who will pick the Saudi initiative up off the floor and put it on the table. But you have to admit that the evasive maneuvers Israeli politicians are taking with regard to the initiative are brilliant: "regional peace" or "comprehensive peace" or "direct negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians first." Anything to make sure that we are forever engaged in some negotiations.

Because that's the nature of the bluff. The campaign bus is so full of peace lovers that they are hanging onto the railings to hitch a ride. This applies to the freshly formed leftist bloc that put on a show last week, and to Labor, which keeps turning the peace process around as though it were a map in which someone forgot to indicate where north was, and to Kadima's crumpled center and its great love for the word "process."

Best decide to save the Israelis any more disgrace and the Palestinians any further waste of money for expensive ads. Because there will never be peace between Israel and the Palestinians until the Palestinians are prepared to do away with the refugee problem, and as long as they insist on receiving chunks of Jerusalem or demand that settlements be evacuated.

As for Syria, there will not be peace with Syria until it relinquishes the Golan Heights. That's the truth. The rest is all "negotiations." These are Israel's conditions for adopting the Saudi initiative. Until February, Israel will not have anyone to propose alternatives to the conditions stipulated in the Saudi initiative.

Presumably, the ad is meant to persuade the Israel public to elect leaders who will agree to adopt the initiative if they win in February. A lovely thought indeed, but only if Israel has a leader prepared to publicly endorse the initiative, or someone prepared to present a detailed Israeli alternative that will be defined by timetables, outlined by borders and demarcations, and well padded with a budget.

Do we have anyone like that? We don't? Good, then we can go on negotiating.



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