I lived in Saudi Arabia for three years, and I have had the pleasure of visiting several other countries in the area - Jordan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Turkey. I also spend a week in Israel back in 1999. I loved Israel, and hope to return some day with Kathy and Noah. There is obviously much history, with much of it straight out of the Bible. I also admire the Israelis because I think their national spirit most closely approximates our own.
People of good will can debate the wisdom and fairness of the establishment of Israel but the fact of the matter is that it does, indeed, exist.
Bernard Lewis had interesting observations in an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal that I completely agree with.
Herewith some thoughts about tomorrow’s Annapolis peace conference, and the larger problem of how to approach the Israel-Palestine conflict. The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, “What is the conflict about?” There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.
If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.
If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.
In a related item, the Associated Press reports that "Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said when asked whether he would shake the hand of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, 'We're not ready to be part of a theatrical performance... We're not going there to shake anyone's hand or to demonstrate feelings we don't have'."
Somehow I don't smell a breakthrough in the Palestinian/Israeli stalemate.