Thursday, September 23, 2010

Giving the Palestinians a Way Out

Roger Cohen - A Test of Israel’s Character - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

Once again Roger Cohen is placing the onus of peace talk success entirely on Israel. It will all depend on Israel extending the settlement freeze; no one could blame Abbas for walking out of the talks if they don't extend that freeze. Cohen proclaims, "Abbas is serious about peace." Period. He bases this on the economic development and institution-building carried out in the West Bank. Yes it is good to see this happening. It should have been happening all along (although we know that it didn't happen for ideological reasons.) It seems that at least some in the Palestinian hierarchy have realized that they have to show their weary population that they can get things done. It may even earn them some trust among their people. But what have their leaders done to prepare Palestinians (in the West Bank - never mind Gaza) for peace? Are they showing Israel on their maps yet? Are they preventing or encouraging anti-Semitic programs on television? Are they still commemorating place names with those of terrorists? (Still publicly morning the death of one of the architects of the Munich Olympic Massacre?) It was easy enough to demand that Israel stop the settlements, but what are the equivalent benchmarks for the Palestinians?

Arab League refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state -- after 62 years!

I happen to agree that it would be foolish not to freeze the settlements for a variety of reasons -- enough is enough. Even better, Netanyahu should extend the freeze in order to call Abbas' bluff. Let's get to the next layer of disagreement. Will it be the return of refugees? I hope so. It is here that Abbas and the Arab states really need to show us who really wants peace.


President Obama did one good thing in his UN speech today. He demanded that the Arab/Muslim countries stop delegitimizing Israel and start putting their money and influence where their mouths are. If they're serious about peace, that is. Again, easy to ask for, but what are those benchmarks? Why isn't Obama putting a time frame on diplomatic recognition of Israel?  Or, what about stopping the economic boycott or state-controlled media demonization of Israel. There are some simple steps here that could foster Israeli trust. 

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