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May 16 2010

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Part 2 of 3: First the good news…

 Ray’s friend Paul Stahnke (a retired Foreign Service Officer) then forwarded this May 13 response (to Breger’s essay) by M. J. Rosenberg, adding this comment:

“As you m[a]y know, Rosenberg was once an official with AIPAC before he saw the light.”

Ray’s further comments by way of introducing Rosenberg’s response:

 “Rosenberg pulls no punches.  More and more like him and Breger are speaking out with candor and courage.  Slowly, slowly, their message (also being articulated very effectively by Jeremy Ben Ami and his J Street associates) is entering the mainstream of American political discourse, encouraging and emboldening more and more of the leadership class to think independently and to speak their minds.”

 “I also received a terse two-word response from Larry Wilkerson, who, as you know, was Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff when Powell was Secretary of State.  Larry said simply:  ‘Amen, brother.’”

 Below is Rosenberg’s response, which may also contain comments by Stahnke (it’s hard to tell since I don’t have a link to the original formatting)…

You will never get to peace without some kind of compromise on Jerusalem: Jerusalem is both a nationalist issue for Israelis and Palestinians and a religious issue for Jews and Muslims. If we refuse to work out a way to allow Muslims a place in Al Quds, we expand the conflict beyond the Palestinians to all Muslims and we ensure religious conflict with Islam for generations. And don’t be so sure that the Christian world will remain quiet on this subject….

So there it is: Some basic truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are true whether you believe that the children of Jacob and of Ishmael are consigned to eternal enmity or not.

 Unfortunately, the current Israeli government does not see things the way Breger does.  The Netanyahu crowd believes it can have it all: the West Bank, all of Jerusalem, and a caged Gaza, while still receiving more US aid, by far, than any other country.  And it believes that we will use our power to preserve a Middle East where Israel — and Israel alone — has nuclear weapons and the freedom of action that they provide.

 Dream on.

 Even the United States during the last few years has seen itself losing primacy as a superpower.  A few decades ago, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that the economic stability of the United States would hang on decisions made in Beijing and Tokyo.  Had anyone told Richard Nixon, at the time he opened relations with China in 1972, that less than 40 years later China would hold the upper hand in our relationship, he would have laughed.

 No one is laughing now.  The United States now treats Beijing the way renters treat landlords or mortgage holders treat the bank.

 Every nation in the world is constrained by reality.  And that includes Israel.

 That is why the Obama administration needs to move quickly from support for step-by-step proximity talks to an aggressive push for a comprehensive final status agreement.

 Fortunately, Obama does not need to devise his own plan.

 The Arab Initiative, endorsed by every Arab state as well as the Palestinians, offers Israel full peace, recognition, and normalization of relations in exchange for the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

 The Arab Initiative, in itself, is not a full-blown, detailed peace plan. It is an offer to Israel: full peace in exchange for full withdrawal. To get to the offer, negotiations need to first take place between Israel and the Palestinians.

 Once they reach agreement, the rest of the initiative comes into play. In the words of the Saudi government, “If Israel and the Palestinians can find a peaceful territorial compromise along the lines of UN Resolutions 242 and 338, under which Israel would withdraw from the lands it occupied in the 1967 War, including East Jerusalem, and make peace with a Palestinian state, then the Arab world would not only accept Israel’s existence, but have normal relations with it.”

 In other words, it’s up to the Israelis and Palestinians to come to a deal. Once they do, the Saudi offer takes effect.

 That is why it is silly to argue about the exact language of the initiative itself. It is not a peace treaty. Its terms, in the initiative’s own words, must be “agreed upon,” which means that Israelis who complain about the language on refugees have erected a straw man. If the provisions on refugees need to be accepted by Israel, as the initiative states, then what is there for Israel to worry about?

 Nothing.

 President Obama should unequivocally endorse the Arab Initiative as the rubric under which negotiations should begin.  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not like it. But so what? Netanyahu will never agree to anything unless pressured hard.

 Even after relations with the United States practically ruptured over the issue of settlement expansion in Jerusalem, Netanyahu keeps emphasizing that nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop him from building settlements and evacuating Palestinians from their homes whenever his rightwing coalition partners ask him to.

Sweet-talking Netanyahu won’t work.  Only pressure will.  So apply it — but not just over settlements — over borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian statehood, the Gaza blockade, all of it.

 That is the only way to achieve an agreement.  And it is the only way to save Israel from the zealots who, left to their own devices, will destroy a 1,900-year dream. It is your call, Mr. President.  Not Netanyahu’s.

 Friends do not let friends drive drunk. And no friend would let Israel continue to ignore an offer from the Arab League that addresses every legitimate Israeli concern but also will expire soon if not seized.

No wonder they say that the Israeli right never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2010/05/16/part-2-of-3-first-the-good-news/

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