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Following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's US visit and a "new" initiative floated by France, Spain, and Italy, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met at the weekend to look for ways to "break the deadlock" with the Palestinians. Olmert himself has said he wants to "get the ball rolling," and reportedly suggested new versions of his convergence plan while in Washington.
The pressure on Israel and the US to fill the diplomatic vacuum, following the post-war political collapse of convergence, seems to be growing.
A vacuum, however, cannot be filled by simply repackaging the policies that failed to fill it, namely the Quartet's road map and Israel's unilateral withdrawal track. Both these policies have become stalled, or worse, because they ignore the root cause of the problem. Both pretend that the obstacle to peace is the lack of a Palestinian state, when in reality the obstacle to such a state - and to Arab-Israeli peace - is the Arab refusal to accept Israel's right to exist.
It has been obvious at least since 2000, when Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a state on a silver platter, that the Palestinians could have a state over almost all of the West Bank and all of Gaza whenever they wanted. The fight is not over the remaining narrow strips of land but over something much more fundamental, whether the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world are willing to give up their desire to destroy Israel itself.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan was quoted over the weekend as declaring: "I promise you, the occupation [Israel] won't last long. We've seen this in history. States based on oppression have been taken apart. ... We'll continue to fight it until we return to the homes we were expelled from in the Palestine of 1948."
This point of view cannot be dismissed as the province of extremists. First, Hamas is the party in power, not a fringe group. But even Mahmoud Abbas, as MEMRI founder Yigal Carmon points out, is quite radical and specific when it comes to the "right of return," claiming that 3 million Palestinians must be allowed to "return" to Israel.
In the Arab and Muslim world today there are the "radicals" who openly call for Israel's destruction and support terrorism as a means to accomplish this. But there is no significant opposing peace camp arguing that Israel does have a right to exist, or even a pragmatic camp openly arguing for peace for the Arabs' own sake.
In such an atmosphere, no peace process worthy of the name is possible, and new American, Israeli, or European plans repackaging the offer of a Palestinian state will not only be for naught, but will tend to encourage Arab radicalism.
In this context, our government has an obligation to say the truth, not just play along with harmful myths. Israel should have a peace plan: for Western nations that want peace to demand that the Arab world end its war against Israel.
The Palestinians and Arab states often claim to be ready for peace. The well-worn pattern, however, is this: Israel yearns for peace while being wary of "peace plans;" the Arabs attack and prepare for war while claiming to embrace "peace."
It is time for Israel to urge the US to call the Arab bluff. If Arab leaders really want peace, they should help the Palestinians out of their suicidal stalemate by setting three critical examples: 1) meeting with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem and their own capitals, 2) calling on Palestinians to give up the dream of "returning" to Israel by the millions, 3) beginning to settle Palestinian "refugees" rather than continuing to use them as pawns against Israel.
In addition the Arab states could be called upon to stop fomenting anti-Semitism and supporting groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah.
We understand that if Israel advocates such a policy, we will not be able to persuade the US, let alone Europe, to adopt it overnight. Yet if Israel is unwilling to tell the truth and advocate for its own interests, who will? How can we expect any other country to stand for a sensible policy with a chance of success if we ourselves do not?
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