Secretary Rice’s Shuttle
We do not believe in shuttle diplomacy. The potential for obfuscation (deliberate or not) by speaking through another person/country rather than to another person/country can have dire consequences, particularly in the Middle East where nuance is critical. We believe it is beneath the Secretary of State of the United States to carry messages.
We do not believe in shuttle diplomacy. The potential for obfuscation (deliberate or not) by speaking through another person/country rather than to another person/country can have dire consequences, particularly in the Middle East where nuance is critical. We believe it is beneath the Secretary of State of the United States to carry messages. And in this particular case, we think the Secretary should consider her hands full with Iran, Iraq, North Korea, China, Darfur, Venezuela/Cuba, Russia and Kosovo – not to mention our friends – leaving no time to beat the dead horse of Palestinian independence.
That said, we are pleased that Dr. Rice has moved from Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy to Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Acknowledging publicly that the Palestinian government is unable to conclude a secure deal with Israel, she laid an obligation at the doorstep of the Arab countries. “The Arab states must be reaching out to Israel… to show Israel that they accept its place in the Middle East,” she said. She is right. Arab states that a) are worried about Iran’s increasing brazenness in the region and b) want the US and/or Israel to help deal with it should pave the way by making an approach to Israel, allowing for discussions (if not negotiations) between states, rather than a state (Israel) and an unacceptable non-state actor (the Hamas-dominated PA government).
The devil, as usual, will be in the details, so they should be kept as simple as possible – ruling out the Saudi Plan as a basis for conversation. The Saudi Plan contains many of the fundamental flaws that led to previous collapses in diplomacy, including the so-called “right of return,” the treatment of armistice lines as borders, the re-division of Jerusalem, and the restoration of the Golan Heights to Syria without a peace treaty. It calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State regardless of the willingness of the Palestinians to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. According to the plan, only after Israel takes Arab-dictated steps to dismantle itself and legitimize the aggression against it, will the Arab states come forward to “make peace.” Even then, only those Arab states that choose to do it will do it – if they don’t, who will make them?
Since the Saudi Plan claims to be based in part on UN Resolution 242, why not start the discussion there? Res. 242 contains obligations accruing to the Arab countries without reference to actions to be taken by Israel – most notably, “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” It should be that to which Secretary Rice refers when she mentions obligations. And, since Israel has already met more than 90% of its obligation under the Resolution, Res. 242 is an excellent basis for a conversation between Arab states and Israel and for Arab recognition of the legitimacy of Israel.
Instead of shuttling around the region, perhaps Secretary Rice could simply issue invitations to a meeting based on UN Resolution 242, announce that the US will be there, and expect that the others will show up. It would be simple, save time, save airline miles and have the added benefit of going to the heart of the problem.