Sunday, February 24, 2008

Goodwill Gestures Are Important

The Arab states are threatening to withdraw their "landmark offer of peace and full ties with Israel in exchange for a return of Arab lands, unless Israel explicitly accepts the initiative."

According to an Associated Press article, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal - whose country sponsored the Arab peace initiative, adopted by Arab nations in 2002 - warned Thursday that despair would force us to review these options, including withdrawing the proposal."

The initiative itself, while a huge step forward in the context of six decades of Arab rejection and intransigence, is not a serious initiative but a totally unacceptable ultimatum.

It might be reasonably viewed as a starting position, but should be viewed no more seriously than an analagous proposal by Israel.

To look at a few points:
  • The Saudis propose Israel go back to the armistice lines in effect prior to the 1967 war. Israel might similarly propose to go back to the Balfour Declaration, thus having Israel take over the West Bank, Gaza and Transjordan.
  • The Saudis propose all Israelis leave the disputed territories. Israel might similarly propose all Arabs leave Israel.
  • The Saudis propose that Israel give away its holiest city, Jerusalem, in addition to Hebron. Israel might propose the Saudis give away Mecca and Medina.
Such Israeli positions would rightly be ridiculed; the Arab League ultimatum deserves no less ridicule.

According to the article, al-Faisal "accused Israel of sabotaging the initiative, which is now facing grave danger."

Threats and false accusation from the Arab states are nothing new, but this one somehow makes me think about the value of goodwill gestures.

Certainly the Arabs believe goodwill gestures are critical; indeed, they keep insisting on the need for Israel to make them, to convince the Palestinian Arabs of its sincerity.

Israel has repeatedly made goodwill gestures, with results that undoubtedly make the Arabs happy but have yet to be reciprocated with anything but terror attacks and dead Israelis.

One popular goodwill gesture has been the release of "security prisoners," a euphemism for terrorists. Israel has released thousands. Generally, the released prisoners sign an agreement to not return to terrorism. This agreement is generally honored as much as the Palestinian Authority has honored its agreements with Israel, with a significant portion of the released prisoners going back to their hobby of murdering Jews.

Some other popular goodwill gestures:
  • Removing checkpoints. This is very effective in making it easier for terrorists to carry out their attacks.
  • Reducing operations against terrorists. This has the same effect.
  • Freezing construction in Jewish communities in the disputed territories. This increases Arab confidence in their ability to completely cleanse the disputed territories of any Jewish presence.
  • Removing unauthorized "settlements." This only refers to unauthorized Jewish homes. It has the same effect as freezing construction of Jewish communities.
  • Ignoring the rampant, illegal Arab construction in the disputed territories. This has the same effect.
All these goodwill gestures have generally been counterproductive, unreciprocated and often deadly.

Isn't it time for the Arabs to start making some goodwill gestures?

Here are just a handful of possibilities.
  • The Saudis might start by actually communicating their alleged offer to Israel. Indeed, how is Israel supposed to respond to an offer that was never made to it?
  • The Saudis might agree to shake hands with the Israelis when they come to a conference that's supposed to have something to do with bringing peace closer.
  • The Saudis and other Arabs might actually talk to Israelis during peace conferences.
And here are a few goodwill gestures the Palestinian Arabs might make.
  • They might stop glorifying terrorists.
  • They might stop teaching their children that murdering innocent Jews will earn then 72 virgins.
  • They might indicate they recognize the absurdity of not making a single concession in a decade and a half and start educating their people any peaceful solution entail compromise by both sides.
  • They might stop bombarding the civilians in Sederot with a daily dose of Kassam missiles.
  • They might publicly acknowledge the Jews were in Eretz Yisrael long before the ancestors of today's Palestinian Arabs and the role of the Temple Mount to Muslims derives solely from its central place in Judaism.
This is just a handful, none of which would cost the Arabs anything — in contrast to the tangible and costly gestures Israel has made.

Indeed, there can't be a real "peace process" until the Arabs start making gestures such as these.

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