Those who watched the panel discussion between General Amos Yadlin and HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, were in for quite an enlightening experience.
There were several interesting points along this discussion, which Amos Yadlin handled exceptionally well, but two caught my attention – and in my view are linked. Those were the invitation that Yadlin extended to the Prince to pray in Jerusalem and to speak to the Knesset, and the glass of water that Yadlin offered the Prince.
The Prince rejected the invitation outright and said that the initiative to jumpstart a peace process should come from the Israeli leaders by accepting the Arab peace plan as a basis for negotiation. A few moments later, through what seemed to be a very insignificant act, the Prince himself showed why he was wrong in his answer: Yadlin poured water in a glass and offered to the Prince, who without hesitation thankfully accepted it. David Ignatius – the moderator – then said “I am going to salute the gesture by General Yadlin” to what the Prince exclaimed “You should salute me for taking it…”
You know what? The Prince was right. The occasions when Arab leaders publicly accept any Israeli offer are so rare, that when they do accept, they should be saluted.
Other than that, once again, in a public discussion between an Israeli and an Arab, you could see clearly that the Arabs are not willing to concede at all that maybe they are not 100% right in all their actions and ways of thinking.
Yadlin said that “reaching a comprehensive agreement is “very difficult as long as the two leaders cannot lead their people to do the concessions that are needed” and that “there are very difficult concessions that each side should do.”
Note that Yadlin did not say “as long as Abbas cannot lead his people to make concessions” or “there are concessions that the Palestinians should do.” Yadlin recognized that this is a two-way street and he placed the responsibility on both leaders.
Did Prince Turki feel the same way – that this is a two-way street? Not at all. In fact, he unjustly criticized Netanyahu by saying that he is not willing to accept a Palestinian state, when the truth is, like Amos Yadlin said, in 2009 Netanyahu gave a major speech at Bar-Ilan University recognizing that a solution should come through two states – a Palestinian state and a Jewish state.
It was also unfortunate to see Prince Turki not willing to address the Iranian threat in a direct way. Instead, and in order to show that he was not prepared to publicly side with Israel in this issue, he chose to say that Saudi Arabia adheres to the principle of a nuclear free Middle East, i.e., he deviated from a direct answer to the Iranian problem, because no matter what – and here is the essence of the problem – the Arabs need to always find ways to criticize Israel.
There were other such instances, but I won’t address them here. You can see it by yourself at http://www.gmfus.org/archives/israel-and-the-middle-east-seeking-common-ground/
But I won’t finish without going back to the glass of water: if the Prince is seeking to be saluted, he missed the opportunity of being saluted in a big way, by accepting not just the glass of water, but also the invitation to pray in Jerusalem and present to the Knesset the Saudi peace initiative as a basis for negotiation. I am sure that the odds of success would be much bigger than Kerry’s mileage program.