The New York Times inadvertently highlights how much more intransigent than Israel most Arab states are. President Barack Obama is soon heading to Saudi Arabia, where he will present wish-lists from the U.S. government, from the Israeli government, and from the Palestinian Authority. Israel isn’t asking for much – just a few symbolic tourist visas, meetings between Saudi officials and their Israeli counterparts, and the opening of a Saudi interests office in Tel Aviv. “These would be a tall order for the Arab kingdom,” the Times says.
Good grief. The Obama Administration expects Israelis to stop building houses in Jewish neighborhoods in suburban Jerusalem that they never intend to abandon, yet the Saudis won’t even talk to Israelis or let a few Jews visit the beach.
Once in a while, it’s wise to refuse meetings with enemies. President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t negotiate with Adolf Hitler or Emperor Hirohito during World War II. President Obama won’t hold a summit with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar or with Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. Israel, though, isn’t a threat to Saudi Arabia. Israel has never attacked Saudi Arabia. Israel almost certainly never will attack Saudi Arabia. The overwhelming majority of Israelis want peace and normal relations with Saudi Arabia now. Saudi Arabia’s refusal to even speak to Israelis under these circumstances makes its government more reactionary than Israel’s would have been had then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin refused to meet with then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979.
The idea that Saudi Arabia “can’t” have diplomatic relations with Israel until the Palestinian question is resolved has become mainstream, even axiomatic, but it’s nonsense.