The Times Online has two articles on the upcoming events concerning yet another round of talks to resolve the problem of Israel. The first article is simply a straightforward interview with King Abdullah; the second is an editorial based on that interview.
Before discussing the interview, look at its resonant headline:
That phrase, “a 57-state solution” will echo loudly for Americans. We remember well when Obama, on being queried during the campaign as to how many of the (United) states he’d visited during his election tour, answered “fifty-seven. Yeah, I think we’ve been to all fifty-seven”. At the time people made fun of this, given that we only have fifty American states. Republicans, as usual, commented on the fact that McCain would not have been given a break by the press for such a huge show of ignorance. Needless to say, Obama got a pass for a simple mistake, a mistake a 4th grader wouldn’t make.
But now it feels creepy, because we realize where the number originated. Mr. Obama didn’t just dream it up: The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), headquartered in Tehran, has fifty-seven member states.
It feels creepy because Obama conflated America and the Ummah, albeit oblivious of his mistake. As Freud said, there are no accidents. Looking back, that is a huge slip of the tongue. Were we more cognizant of what goes on outside our borders, that number would have been instantly recognizable.
It remains important anyway, because King Abdullah implies that Israel lacks true legitimacy due to the fact that 57 nations in the world do not grant it recognition. He fails to mention that these are 57 Muslim, anti-semitic states, some of whom accuse Jews of running the world. This is from their conference in 2003:
The OIC attracted attention at the opening session of the meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 16 October 2003, where Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia in his speech argued that the Jews control the world: “They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power”. He also said that “The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them”.
The speech was very well received by the delegates, including many high ranking politicians, who responded with standing ovations”.
These are the folks who are going to negotiate in good faith with Israel. Sure they are.
I think the President [Obama] is committed to the two-state solution. He is committed to the two-state solution now. He feels the urgency of the need to move today. Because we’re not working for peace in a vacuum, with others not there. So this is a critical moment.
A cynic might say, we’ve had the Annapolis peace conference, we’ve had the road map for peace, the Arab initiative, almost a decade with no results. What’s the difference now?
Four or five decades! There are two major factors. We are sick and tired of the process. We are talking about direct negotiations. That is a major point. We are approaching this in a regional context. You could say through the Arab peace proposal. The Americans see this as we do and I think the Europeans. Britain is playing a very vital pro-active role, more than I have ever seen in the ten years of my experience in bringing people together.
What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese. And with the Arabs and the Muslim world lined up to open direct negotiations with Israelis at the same time. So it’s the work that needs to be done over the next couple of months that has a regional answer to this – that is not a two-state solution, it is a 57-state solution.
That is the tipping point that shakes up Israeli politicians and the Israeli public. Do you want to stay Fortress Israel for the next ten years? The calamity that that would bring to all of us, including the West? This has become a global problem.
This is cynical and disturbing. No mention of the failed Arab attacks against Israel over the years, the funding of Palestine, the refusal by his own kingdom to grant Palestinians citizenship, though that would be a logical “solution”, or the refusals to negotiate in the past. Not a word about the repeated threats to push Israel into the sea.
If this is “a global problem” as the King claims, that is only because of the intransigence of the Middle East regarding Israel’s existence. And Abdullah doesn’t have the integrity to be at least a bit embarrassed about the self-righteous hectoring. Instead, in the interview we get this sigh of resigned impatience with Israel:
You have a very right-wing Government in Israel which does not even accept a two-state solution. How do you overcome that?
We have to deal with what we’re stuck with. Just because there is a right-wing government in Israel does not mean that we should chuck in the towel. There are a lot of American Jews and Israelis who tell me that it takes a right-wing Israeli government to do it. I said, I hope so! Netanyahu has a lot on his shoulders as he goes to Washington. I think the international atmosphere is not going to be in favour of wasting time; it is going to be very much “we are getting sick and tired of this”.
Here is one final opportunity. If the only player in this equation between the West, the Arabs and the Muslims that is not being helpful and is against peace is Israel, then let’s call it for what it is. Let Israel understand that the world sees Israeli policy for what it is.
Have you dealt with Netanyahu before?
I had three months with the overlap [after the death of King Hussein]. These were probably the least pleasant of my ten years. However, a lot has happened in the last ten years and we are looking at the bigger picture, and looking for what’s best for Israel, which I believe is the two-state solution.
Israel is not being “helpful”??? The man is blinded by his own doctrines if he believes that. If he says it for political purposes, well…he’s a politician who twists words to his advantage. But an honest broker he’s not.
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You can read the rest of the interview here.
The Times’ analysis of the interview adds some background fill to the story:
President Obama’s critical meeting with Binyamin Netanyahu next week has become the acid test for the Administration’s commitment to peace in the Middle East, King Abdullah of Jordan said yesterday.
The monarch does not conceal his feelings about the Israeli leader. He described their last encounter – 10 years ago when he had just come to the throne – as the “least pleasant” of his reign. But he, and President Mubarak of Egypt, are expected to meet the Israeli leader before his trip to Washington, where the future course of the region could be decided.
The King said that he was prepared to believe what Israelis have told him – that a right-wing Government in Israel is better able to deliver peace than the Left.
“All eyes will be looking to Washington,” he said. “If there are no clear signals and no clear directives to all of us, there will be a feeling that this is just another American Government that is going to let us all down.”
If Israel procrastinated on a two-state solution, or if there was no clear American vision on what should happen this year, the “tremendous credibility” that Mr Obama had built up in the Arab world would evaporate overnight.
Obviously, Obama is in a rush, just as he was with the American Congress regarding the stimulus
attack package, demanding that they pass this misbegotten piece of legislation immediately, if not sooner.
Here we have the same pushed feeling:
He [Abdullah] was the first Arab leader to call on President Obama in Washington two weeks ago, and is now leading the hectic Arab efforts to respond to the Administration’s determination to seek a comprehensive peace.
Mr Obama is expected to lay this out to the Muslim world in a visit to Cairo next month.
The King travels today to Damascus to urge President Assad to join the Arab efforts to seek a settlement with Israel, based on the Arab peace plan adopted in 2002. Brokered by the Americans, this would be the most comprehensive deal attempted since the opening of the Madrid conference in 1991. It would offer Israel immediate benefits, such as entry visas to every Arab country, the right of El Al, Israel’s national airline, to overfly Arab territory, and the eventual recognition of Israel by all 57 members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
In return, the Israelis would have to put an immediate stop to the building and expansion of settlements and agree to withdraw from territories occupied since 1967. The two most sensitive issues – the future status of Jerusalem and the right of return by Palestinians who fled in 1948 – would be negotiated within the framework of the peace plan.
The analysis noted an important move by Abdullah, avoiding what could be the deal-breaker – and everyone knows it:
The King yesterday sidestepped reports that he had been asked by the Americans to clarify the Arab proposals on making East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state and the Palestinian right of return, the two most contentious issues in Israel. Mr Netanyahu has frequently said these were not negotiable.
“I was very specific in carrying a letter on behalf of the Arab League highlighting the Arab peace proposal, their desire to work with President Obama to make this successful, their commitment in the peace proposal in extending the hand of friendship to the Israelis,” he said.
Jerusalem was not an international problem but an “international solution”, he insisted. A symbol of conflict for centuries, it was now desperately needed to become a symbol of hope. And hinting at the Arab demand for international control of the old city, he said that Islam, Christianity and Judaism should make it a “pillar for the future of this century”. He sensed a lot more understanding in these times of cultural and religious suspicions that “Jerusalem could be the binder that we need”.
In other words, who owns Jerusalem owns the deal. Fork it over, Israel.
It might be a good idea to contemplate what Sultan Knish prognosticates about Israel’s future in the hands of this American administration. We’ll see how close this new, hurry-hurry “peace” plan follows what SK believes is the future.
Abdullah claims this a “critical moment”. He hasn’t noticed that the last sixty years have been, for Israel, a lurch from one critical moment to the next?
How conveniently blind those Middle East monarchs are.