Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Rich Lowry gives a blow-by-blow of Tim Russert's interview with Adel al-Jubeir, foreign-policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah. And in the process of skewering the Saudi, he makes a key point. Here's an extract from the original interview:
MR. RUSSERT: As a way to bridge the path to peace, why won’t Saudi Arabia today unilaterally say, “We recognize Israel’s right to exist and we urge all other Arab nations to do the same”?
MR. AL-JUBEIR: We’ve done that at the Arab summit. The Arab summit adopted the crown prince’s initiative. You have 22 Arab countries that have said yes to normalization with Israel, yes to peace with Israel, yes to peace agreements with Israel in exchange for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
This is, of course, a non-answer to Russert's question, which was Rich Lowry's point: all of al-Jubeir's answers are non-sequiturs. But what I think is more notable is Russert's suggestion. It is reasonable for Israel - and for that matter, America - to demand unconditional recognition on the part of the Arab world as a precondition for peace negotiations. France and Germany recognized each other's existence before the Franco-Prussian War, and their war aims with respect to one another were limited. Similarly, there is no reason why Syria cannot recognize Israel's legitimacy and still maintain a state of belligerency until the Golan is returned. But Israel should be under no obligation to speak to anyone about peace who is unwilling to accept at the outset that Israel is a legitimate state, who's war aims are not limited but extend to the annihilation of Israel. And I see no reason why America should not back Israel up in this. We're currently in the process of convening a big international peace conference, supposedly to be attended by much of the Arab world with a view to making progress on the pan-Arab dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict (such as Muslim rights to holy places under Israeli control). It should be a precondition for attendance to the conference that the invitees unconditionally recognize Israel's legitimacy. There is little that the U.S. could do to further Mideast peace than to make it clear that to the world's only superpower, the only power capable of influencing Israeli policy and the only power capable of removing the government of any Arab state, does not consider the Jewish State's existence to be on the table. Borders, settlements, security arrangements, holy places, water rights, the dimensions and character of a Palestinian entity; all these things are matters for negotiation. But any power that questions Israel's legitimacy is not welcome. And, indeed, likely not long for this world.