The following is the heart of M. J. Rosenberg’s sage column of March 9, 2007. Both here and at the bottom of these selections, we link to the Israel Policy Forum’s Web site for Rosenberg’s entire piece.
Olmert’s best chance of saving his job lies in making progress toward an agreement with the Palestinians and, ideally, the Arab world in general. Luckily for him (and for Israel) this appears to be an opportune moment on both fronts….
Neither the platform establishing the unity government nor the Arab League Initiative is perfect from Israel’s (or America’s) point of view. Hamas has not agreed to recognize Israel or to fully accept Israel’s previously negotiated agreements with the PLO. The Arab League Initiative still calls for the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel (not only to a new Palestinian state) and for an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders.
In the eyes of many, these defects make the proposals non-starters, not worth the paper they are written on. But viewing them that way is a mistake. In the case of the Arab League Initiative Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both now concede that Israel blundered when Ariel Sharon dismissed it out of hand in 2002. Both now say there are elements in the plan worth considering. Although they have not come around to seeing positive elements in the Palestinian unity agreement, that does not mean that there aren’t any which will perhaps only be recognized when the opportunity passes.
That is the story of Middle East diplomacy. Each side insists on seeing a half-empty glass [as] completely empty.
…. Given a choice between seeing the best or the worst in the adversary’s position, they invariably choose the worst. And invariably it is the worst that then happens.
…. From Israel’s point of view, the initiative’s calls for the return of refugees and full withdrawal make it less than optimal. But, in a meeting with the Saudi ambassador this winter, Israel Policy Forum was told that the initiative was not a take-it-or-leave-it offer but an invitation to start a process. The Ambassador told IPF President, Seymour Reich, that Israel need only agree to negotiate and Prime Minister Olmert would see how far the Arabs were willing to go.
And now Hamas is saying that it too might endorse the plan, if only to ingratiate itself with the Saudis, the European Union, and the United States.
Dr. Ziad Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine and a prominent advocate of the two-state formula believes that is very good news. Writing in yesterday’s Washington Times, Asali said: “The new Palestinian unity government should unconditionally accept the Arab League Initiative as the first serious step toward a meaningful political process. A political tango of statements and actions, ranging from the articulation of Israel’s genuine interest in this initiative, even with reservations, to releasing captured Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, as well the release of Palestinian prisoners could initiate a cascade toward a new political horizon.
“The Arab League initiative is a good starting point for negotiations between all parties interested in ending the conflict and the occupation. To bring these negotiations to fruition, Israel must accept the need to end the occupation, and the Palestinians must have a government that articulates a clear position for a two-state solution, one that says, ‘we seek to negotiate an independent state along the 1967 borders to live alongside Israel in peace – no more and no less.”
Dr. Asali has it exactly right. What is wrong with exploring the possibilities offered by the Arab League Plan? What is wrong with seeing if there is any “give” in Hamas’ position?
Click here to read full article at IPF Web site.