Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's Really All About Reciprocity

That's not completely true, since ultimately in any negotiations Israel will not be getting anything tangible it doesn't already have and will be giving the Arabs territory to which Israel has at least as great, if not a greater, legal, moral and historical claim. The crux of the matter is alluded to at the end, but ... there does need to be at least a minimal amount of reciprocity, at least some willingness on the part of the Palestinian Arabs to compromise on their outrageous demands.

The following description of remarks by Danny Ayalon are from an article Grapevine: Two stars are born by Greer Fay Cashman, published in The Jerusalem Post.

If the international community wants Israel to make concessions, Ayalon told the event, the same should be expected of the Palestinians. Noting that Israel has consistently made and been urged to make concessions to the Palestinians, Ayalon said: "We should receive the same commitments from the Palestinians as they ask from us. What are they asked to give up?"

The whole process of negotiations is lopsided, Ayalon insisted. The formula is one of political concessions by Israel on territory, refugees and Jerusalem, whereas the Palestinians are asked to stop terror and incitement and to build institutions for governance.

On the refugee issue, said Ayalon, Israel should receive a commitment that all Palestinian refugees will come only to a Palestinian state and not to the State of Israel.

While Israel is ready to divide Jerusalem, he continued, the Palestinians are not, and want sovereignty over the Temple Mount. When Yasser Arafat and then prime minister Ehud Barak met at Camp David in 2000 Ayalon recalled, Barak kept offering to make concessions, but Arafat never made a counter offer. Israeli leaders, including Binyamin Netanyahu, successively made concessions even before Oslo, said Ayalon, but no concessions were forthcoming from the Arab world.

Still, he attributed the impasse in negotiations in part to intransigence on both sides. "If we all concentrate on our own historic narratives, it's not a recipe for peace," he said, adding that Annapolis was important from the perspective of preventing further deterioration of the situation. "What President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice are trying to do is to keep things as they are without further escalation of the conflict," opined Ayalon.

In Ayalon's view the conflict is not really about territory or natural resources or even religious sites. It's about a clash of cultures. Not all Arabs or Muslims are terrorists he said, "But all terrorists are Muslims who deny us our legitimacy and deny us the right to our own history."

Ayalon does not think that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the cause of all the problems in the Middle East. "It has a big influence, but the cause is really the clash of civilizations," he stated. There are those in the US State Department who believe that the isolation of the US in the Arab world is due to the fact that America identifies with Israel, but it's really the other way around, he observed. "It's because Israel identifies with the US and the West."

The last remark goes to the heart of the conflict: the refusal of the rest of the Middle East to countenance the existence of a free non-Arab, non-Muslim, liberal and multicultural Western-oriented democracy in their midst.

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