Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A new storm?

I have an uneasy feeling that we are approaching a dangerous new period in our relations with our Arab neighbours.

Olmert's response to the Arab League peace initiative has been arrogant and short-sighted - predicting peace with all the Arab states within 5 years while simultaneously not accepting the initiative as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians. Henry Siegman wrote an interesting article on the initiative and Israel's response to it in the International Herald Tribune

A more positive Israeli response might serve to swing Arab public opinion against the powerful militant Islamic groups in its midst. A perceived rejection will do the opposite. It could provide the justification for a new round of violence whether it be a third intifada or a clash with Syria or a heightened wave of Islamic terror attacks against Israel.

This is therefore a critical time. When hopes are raised and then dashed, there is bound to be an effect, just as the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000 led to tghe outbreak of the second intifada.

I don't know whether Olmert's position stems from his political weakness or from an ideological position but the result is the same. Israel, shamefully, is rejecting an Arab peace offer based on the same principles adopted by the entire international community as the formula for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Public discussion of the Arab peace initiative in Israel has not been that intense. There are so many other issues for the media to focus on : corruption at the top, what's up with Azmi Bishara, an aborted terror attack in Tel Aviv, the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit and the teachers' strike. But turning our backs to this offer might mean that we are turning our backs on the last chance for a two state solution.

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