More Important Than Baker-Hamilton

'The Arab states are prepared to establish normal and full relations with Israel in the context of a comprehensive peace,' Bahrain told the UN in September.

In an interview on the Arab Web site al-Harir, published several weeks ago, Khaled Meshal was asked whether Hamas was not concerned that the Palestinian people would turn their backs on the organization if it did not budge from its positions. The short answer of the Hamas political bureau chief is much more significant for us than the more than 160 pages of the Baker-Hamilton report, which was presented last week to President George W. Bush and to Congress.

"Our people will not complain about its leadership because it knows that currently there is no diplomatic initiative that we are passing up," Meshal said. "The people turned to resistance in the first and second intifadas and will do the same a third time, since Israel has slammed all the doors shut and closed all avenues." The Hamas leader expressed his confidence that as long as the doors are shut, "the strength of resistance" will continue to flourish.

In other words, Meshal confirms that the diplomatic impasse, just like the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, constitutes the best public relations for the Palestinian rejectionist front. It can also be put this way: A diplomatic option is the last obstacle facing the Sunni-Shi'ite alliance that is being formed in the Gaza Strip and is sliding toward the West Bank. No panel of experts is necessary in order to know that even if Israel is not the reason for all the conflicts in the region, it is the one fueling the radicals. It will also be one of the first that they will seek to crush under their wheels.

Despite all the willingness to assist friends, the American need to be rid of the burden of the Iraqi occupation is no reason to withdraw from territories Israel occupied 40 years ago in a war that was imposed on it. The Israeli public will not surrender the Golan because a document dealing with American troubles in Iraq recommends the renewal of negotiations with Syria.

Bolstering the strength of the Arab opposition to Iran - however important that may be - is not an argument that can convince thousands of Jews to leave their homes. Such dramatic developments, which involve a daring political gamble, cannot simply be an ingredient in an American recipe.

Israel has no need for an American recipe, just like the Baker-Hamilton committee did not have to reinvent the wheel, as if the world has stood still for the 15 years since the Madrid Conference. If the members of the panel had bothered to look at the United Nations archive, they would have found the following statement in the transcript of the September 21, 2006 Security Council session: "I recall what Yitzhak Rabin said in the Knesset in 1993: 'We are destined to live together on the same soil in the same land.' I know that quoting the words of Rabin will cause me to be criticized in my country, but they are words of truth." The speaker was Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al-Thani.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, spoke earlier, on behalf of the Arab League. No Israeli government should ignore these statements, which received no attention from the media. "The Arab states are prepared to consider that it is possible to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict; they are prepared to enter into a peace agreement between themselves and Israel; they are prepared to establish normal and full relations with Israel in the context of a comprehensive peace." The minister also spelled out the price for this: "full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories; arriving at a just and agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 194 (III); and acceptance of the establishment of an independent sovereign Palestinian state with holy Jerusalem as its capital."

The formula presented as the position of the Arab League (including Syria and Libya), is not limited to "normalization," as mentioned in the Beirut resolution of 2002, but promises "full" relations with Israel. The price, on the other hand, includes a hefty discount when compared to the Beirut resolution. Sheikh al-Khalifa, on behalf of the Arab League, makes do with "full withdrawal" and does not stress that these are the June 4, 1967, or the international lines. Once more the formula does not mention the evacuation of settlements, and leaves room for the possibility of an exchange of territory. Again, Israel is granted veto rights on the issue of the refugees.

Sometimes the answer is right under your nose. You must simply bother to look - before the lights are turned off.