How princes understand ‘negotiations’

This is the attitude you get if you are a member of a royal family:

Saudi Arabia criticised Israel on Tuesday for setting preconditions to Middle East peace talks and urged it to accept an Arab initiative first proposed in 2002 and discuss details later.

“We only hear of conditions from Israel about everything, but no acceptance. You cannot have negotiations like that, you accept the proposals then you talk about this,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said.

A 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut adopted a Saudi initiative offering Israel normal ties with Arab countries in return for full withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war [and the estalishment of a Palestinian state as well as a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem acceptable to the Arab nations — ed.] — Ha’aretz

The text of the Saudi/Arab League initiative is here. My primary objection to it is that even if the ‘details’ of full withdrawal to 1967 borders and ‘return’ of Palestinian refugees to Israel could be worked out, the initiative, which calls for Israel to make concrete security concessions in return for a promise of normal relations and peace — but significantly, not ‘recognition’ — totally accepts the Arab story, in which Israel bears all responsibility for the conflict and therefore must take all the risks in ending it.

I would advise the Israeli government to reject this proposal in toto, rather than try to use it as a framework, as Olmert and Livni have suggested. It seems to me that the Arab states and the Palestinians bear a great amount of responsibility for the persistence of the conflict because of their repeated choices of war and terrorism. Any solution that doesn’t include an understanding that both sides need to accept responsibility, and which does not at the outset assert that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, should be viewed as unacceptable. Otherwise there is no reason to think that working out the ‘details’ will be anything other than an exercise in futility that will not lead to peace.

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