Netanyahu Must Appeal Directly to the Arab and Islamic World

The prime minister must propose Jewish-Islamic-Christian rule in Jerusalem’s Old City, and full normalization between Israel and every Arab and Islamic state.

Yehezkel Dror
Yehezkel Dror
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Yehezkel Dror
Yehezkel Dror

Soon Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver another major address akin to his Bar-Ilan speech on the peace process. This provides an opportunity that must not be missed to employ statecraft radically different from the Israeli routine of reacting to others’ moves.

A serious initiative is needed for three pressing reasons: dangerous regional and global trends, including Iran’s improved image and the erosion of the United States’ standing; justified apprehensions that the talks with the Palestinians will fail in their current format; and the need to balance stern measures Israel may have to take regarding Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the occupied territories.

But the main reason for a radical initiative stems from the nature of the Arab-Islamic, Israeli-Jewish conflict as a protracted annihilatory collision. Its forms change with time, but the rationale remains the same: opposition to Israel’s very existence.

Israel must not misread historical processes. The Arab states’ current weakness and Sunni-Shi’ite conflicts will not prevent attacks on Israel for long; improvements in instruments of destruction and killing are likely to cause serious damage despite Israel’s superior strength. Alternatively, the increasing availability of mass-killing instruments will speed up international efforts to settle disputes, including the imposition of a Mideast settlement that won’t satisfy Israel’s basic needs.

To prevent such serious events and improve the future of the Middle East as a whole, the prime minister must throw a surprise at history while upgrading Israel’s defensive capabilities. He must present a plan that will reframe the discussion of the conflict and improve Israel’s international standing. Most importantly, he should start bending dangerous historical trajectories in a desirable direction, even if this takes time.

The main recommendation includes a direct appeal to the Arab people and leaders, mentioning the Arab-Islamic peace initiative, to begin a process toward a comprehensive Mideast peace settlement. This includes establishment of a Palestinian state and shared Jewish-Islamic-Christian rule of the sacred sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, and full normalization between Israel and every Arab and Islamic state. All this would include credible security arrangements, cooperation against terror, and progress toward a Middle East free of weapons of mass killing once a stable peace is secured.

Here I should mention the 1814-15 Congress of Vienna, which thanks to the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars stabilized Europe for many decades. The contemporary Middle East is different, but the Congress of Vienna demonstrates the paradox that turmoil and bloodshed can produce agreements that otherwise would be impossible – if statesmen of Metternich’s caliber rise to the occasion.

The prime minister of course must continue warning about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and prepare appropriate countermeasures. But he should also stress that Israel is happy to establish good relations with Iran in a Mideast agreement.

Short-term domestic and external considerations are of little weight compared to the prime minister’s historic mission to present a Middle East peace initiative, something essential for our long-term national security. The Chapters of the Fathers indeed postulate “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” But they continue: “But if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly, Oct. 1, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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