We Won't Relinquish the Enemy

Israel refuses to recognize that the Arab world has offered an end to the conflict through the Saudi peace initiative.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

The Americans are once again disturbing our peace with their "peace process," and are already talking about continuing the settlement construction freeze. Everything was so simple with the three "no"s of Khartoum from September 1967: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization's armed conflict did cost us lives, but there's no need to talk peace with terrorists. When the Arabs refused to recognize us it was 10 times more convenient to settle, to annex and to assassinate. When the Arab world refused to negotiate with us, the Western world was a lot more friendly.

And then, one day in late March 2002, without any warning, the Arab League summit proved once again that you just can't trust the Arabs; the 22 members of the Arab League cruelly erased the three "no"s.

And they didn't make do with turning them into a yes to peace, yes to recognition and yes to negotiations. The Arab League (and subsequently, the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference ) suggested replacing its hostile relations with Israel with normalized relations. Every March since then, the umbrella organization of Arab states ratifies the formula: an end to the conflict in exchange for an end to the occupation.

As if that weren't enough, the Arab peace initiative skips over the settlement issue, leaving an opening for compromises like swapping territory. Similarly, it doesn't mention Jerusalem's Holy Basin. But there's no need to despair. The Jewish brain finds a cure for every peace disease: in this case, UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Israel Harel argued in this space last week, in a piece called "The Saudi bluff," that certain Israelis tried to whitewash the clause that demanded a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, in accordance with Resolution 194. He accused them of attempting "to blur a clear demand for a Palestinian right of return," which he said stems from the same UN resolution (which also appears in the Clinton peace plan from December 2000 ). Harel has certainly studied the Arab initiative, so it's hard to believe that he was unable to find in the plan the statement that the refugee problem must be both just and agreed upon.

Harel also wrote that yours truly "featured prominently" at a conference on the initiative held last week at Ben-Gurion University's Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy. Could it be that he forgot that he (and others who don't support the initiative ) spoke at the conference as well? The difference in our relative prominence was that I didn't come just to hear myself talk and take the opportunity to vilify academia, which Harel says is speaking in a uniform voice.

Had Harel bothered to attend Prof. Eyal Benvenisti's lecture, he would have heard a renowned expert in international law stating that Resolution 194 actually rejected the refugees' right to return to their homes. Benvenisti explained that the resolution left it up to Israel to decide whether, when and how many refugees it would accept - details that would be determined in a peace deal between the parties to the conflict.

But Harel and his comrades on the right (much like Muammar Gadhafi ) won't give in to the Arabs over the right of return. They have learned that even sworn opponents of the settlements remain silent in the face of that terrifying phrase. Harel complains that the king of Saudi Arabia hasn't come to Jerusalem to sell the Israelis on the Arab peace initiative.

And really, why not? The mayor will welcome him by demolishing homes in Silwan and if he's really lucky, the interior minister will honor him with the dedication of a new complex in Ramat Shlomo.

Al Jazeera will be able to report on the visit while showing images of the residents of Ofra pounding one more stake into the ground at the Migron outpost.

The Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers were sent to Jerusalem to present the peace plan to the Israeli public. The Palestinian Authority expressed its support in the form of ads in the Hebrew-language press, and has made its reconciliation with Hamas dependent on Hamas' acceptance of the plan, in its entirety.

But we won't relinquish the Arabs' "no"s. Or, as the poet Constantine Cavafy wrote in "Waiting for the Barbarians" (as translated into English by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard ): "And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, those people, a kind of solution."



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