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And Diplomacy as a Poke in the Eye

Yesterday’s JINSA Report noting a specific diplomatic gesture by Saudi Arabia to Israel, which we believe signals real Saudi concern for Iran, provoked some outrage from our readers.


Yesterday’s JINSA Report noting a specific diplomatic gesture by Saudi Arabia to Israel, which we believe signals real Saudi concern for Iran, provoked some outrage from our readers.

There were those who were upset because we failed to be snarky about Saudi Arabia being at a conference on religious tolerance. We could have been; surely there is enough to say about Saudi Arabia’s version of religious, ethnic, social and religious tolerance, but it is all old news. The new news is what they did there. There were also those who said we were na├»ve – the Saudi king only remained in the room because Israeli President Peres was talking about the “Saudi Peace Plan.” True, and that’s news too, because whatever shortcomings are in the plan, they are best discussed with Israelis and Arabs in the same place. Finally, there were those who thought we read too much into one tuchus in one chair one time. We disagree. First of all, it wasn’t any old tuchus; it was the tuchus of the king of Saudi Arabia. And having once accepted that Israeli government officials have a legitimate voice at the podium of a multinational organization, you cannot unaccept, cannot unsit and cannot unlisten.

Moreover, we weren’t commenting on the Saudis as much as on diplomacy, an art that when best practiced, allows countries to find areas of common understanding and activity. It does not mean you find friendship, forget differences or drop your own red lines. It simply offers a mechanism for acting against high priority threats in a meaningful way.

And it’s better than a poke in the eye. Which brings us to the other notable moment at the UN interfaith conference – brought to you by America’s favorite Palestinian, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.

Prime Minister Fayad, considered by the Bush Administration to be a progressive force in Palestinian politics, told the conference that Jerusalem is holy to two religions – Islam and Christianity. Fayad said, “Jerusalem is home to the third most holy place to Islam, the place where Muhammad rose to the heavens, and the place where Jesus, the Christian, was resurrected.”

Fayad also said Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and called for it to become the Palestinian capital. Add to this the fact that Hamas, in the 10th day of rocketing Israel, hit Sderot with 11 rockets and Ashkelon with five Grad rockets – an upgrade from the lowly Kassam.

We repeat our call for the outgoing and incoming American administrations to acknowledge that this would be the wrong moment to increase pressure on Israel (or the Palestinians) for a narrow deal. It would be a mistake to mortgage the delicate understandings between Israel and countries of the region to the extremism and internal chaos of Palestinian irredentism and terrorism.

The enormity of the threat posed by Iran – both in its quest for nuclear capability and its support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere – should prompt all parties to focus on their security priorities and let the Palestinians catch up if and when they can.

Or not.