Wednesday, February 20, 2008

His Place Setting

Dry Bones cartoon: Olmert Gov't in Secret Negotiations On Jerusalem.
There's a wonderful anecdote about Abba Eban. Eban was Israel's Foreign Minister in 1967. He was a noted linguist and so, the story goes, when Judea and Samaria were liberated from Jordanian occupation in '67, Eban was invited to speak to a group of West Bank "notables". Eban spoke in classical Arabic. When he concluded, one of the attending Arab leaders and clan heads asked if Eban would now "speak to them in Arabic". The locals, who only spoke the Palestinian dialect of Arabic assumed that Eban had spoken in Hebrew!

I thought of this story yesterday when, at the Jerusalem Conference I heard Israel's current Foreign Minister deliver a speech. It would have been a wonderful speech if only she had been the Palestinian Foreign Minister. She explained that the goal of the negotiations was to establish a viable Palestinian State and that time was not on Israel's side. She spoke of the rights of the Palestinian Arab refugees. She explained that Arabs living in Israel would be satisfied with their national aspirations being fulfilled in the new state of Palestine "next door". As I said, a wonderful speech if only she had been the Palestinian Foreign Minister.

Surely an Israeli Foreign Minister would have focused on recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, spoken of the rights of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries in '48, discussed the future of Jews living in the proposed "Palestinian state" next door, and restated that Jerusalem was and would remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

Like those Arabs who had listened to Abba Eban back in 1967, this Jew in 2008 had no idea what the Israeli Foreign Minister was really trying to say.

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