Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Middle East mirage

Read this item from Tony Blankley, he puts forth some revealing numbers showing the great divide between the Western and Arab perceptions of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.


Middle East mirage
By Tony Blankley
Upon hearing of the death of a Turkish ambassador, the serpentine French diplomat Talleyrand was reputed to have responded, "I wonder what he meant by that." With that level of skepticism in mind, all shrewd diplomats and observers of diplomacy look beneath the surface language and actions of diplomacy to the underlying realities that will shape negotiations, because, as professor Angelo Codevilla explains, effective diplomacy is, at its core, a "verbal representation of a persuasive reality. Indubitable reality itself convinces — sometimes even without verbal expression, or through nonverbal expression."

As we enter this new round of U.S.-Israeli-Arab negotiations, one needs to keep firmly in mind the political realities that will either undergird or undermine the talks.

In the lead-up to the current round of meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, the constantly repeated background theme has been that now is the vital moment to actually bring into being an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. As I discussed in this space last week, President Obama is being put under extraordinary pressure — both by Arab leaders and commentators and by his own White House staff — to be personally responsible for the success or failure of these talks.

And in turn, Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming under even greater pressure to comply with the United States' proposed path to a "peace accord," the foundation of which is a two-state solution, that is to say, two sovereign nations side by side: Israel and a Palestinian state.

The Arab states never have been more united in preparing the diplomatic groundwork for these talks. In advance of this week's Washington talks, the Arab states have let it be known that they will "reward" Israel with "confidence-building measures" — as Nader Dahabi, Jordan's prime minister, said last weekend at a World Economic Forum in Jordan — should Israel cooperate in the negotiations. But the premise of Arab cooperation includes adherence to the key provisions of the Saudi-sponsored plan: giving Palestinian refugees the right to return to Israel and having the Israeli borders return to how they were before the 1967 war.