On Tuesday night, Bloomberg reported the following:
“There’s a very good chance that we will soon have relations with what we call the Saudi coalition,” said Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, the Israeli cabinet’s only Arab member. “The Palestinian issue is No. 3 on the agenda today,” he said, behind security concerns about Iran and terrorism that Israel and Saudi Arabia have in common.
There are very good reasons why this quote is questionable, not the least of which is that the Saudis and their Gulf neighbors don’t have to expose themselves to the scorn and wrath of a billion Arabs by recognizing the “Zionist entity” when they can get all the help and cooperation they need from said entity on the sly. And the “Palestinian issue” will never be demoted, at least officially, to third place, because it has to do with accepting the rule of an infidel over Haram land which used to be ruled by Muslims. It’s just not done.
Incidentally, there are two glaring errors in the Bloomberg paragraph above (had to get this off our chest): Ayoob Kara is not a cabinet minister, and he is not Arab. He is Druze (big difference in Israeli politics).
As to the actual message, namely that under the Iranian threat the Gulf States are willing to set aside their concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, it could be more wishful thinking than thinking.
The Bloomberg story, Kushner Paves Way for Accelerated U.S. Push on Mideast Peace, suggests that the fact that President Trump this week sends two of his closest advisors, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, to the region, means that the White House is applying serious pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Abbas into reviving their peace negotiations.
As Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon puts it in the Bloomberg story, Israel is feeling “mounting American pressure to advance a deal.” And Kahlon is a cabinet minister.
The same story says, “Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors have indicated a willingness to upgrade unofficial ties with Israel, but veteran diplomats say that will depend on Israel’s willingness to withdraw from West Bank territory and commit to a Palestinian statehood, as spelled out in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”
That’s generous. The actual plan, a.k.a. the “Saudi Initiative” (because it was originally floated by King Abdullah, who was still the crown prince of Saudi Arabia at the time), demands three fundamental concessions of Israel:
“Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon.
“Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194.
“Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In return for these three suicidal moves, the Arab states offered two pieces of paper:
“Consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region.
“Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace.”
It’s interesting, by the way, that no one has inquired why the Arab states won’t reverse the process: first recognize Israel and consider the conflict finished, and then launch detailed negotiations over withdrawal, refugees, etc.
Dan Shapiro, Obama’s Ambassador to Israel, is one of the few voices that are cheering on the Kushner-Greenblatt visit this week. He is quoted by Bloomberg as suggesting that Kushner’s presence, after Trump has made the peace negotiations a centerpiece of his first foreign trip as president, “raises the stakes for everybody.”
Shapiro, who stayed in Israel after January 20 to join the Tel Aviv-based think tank Institute for National Security Studies, held a conference call with reporters on Monday, where he said, “It’s very difficult for any party in the region to say no” to Trump, unless “the [criminal] investigations drag on for a long period of time and there begin to be questions raised about the future of his administration, that will contribute to a lessening of his leverage.”
Which is probably why everybody, at this point, is reluctant to take serious steps toward reviving the negotiations: who knows whether Trump will survive his first year in office, never mind do it long enough for the ceremony in Stockholm where he would receive the Nobel Prize for Peace (a must these days for US presidents).
Also, as far as we’re concerned, Netanyahu should invite Minister Kara to join the cabinet – if only because he could translate those magnanimous Saudi offers from Arabic.