The question is posed by Henry Siegman in a New York Times Op-Ed (Thurs., Feb. 22): “Will Israel Take a Chance?”
Siegman’s column followed an interview that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah gave to the Times’ Tom Friedman earlier this week. Abdullah claimed that he was prepared to give a speech in which he would offer “full normalized relations” with Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders.
Siegman builds the case that Abdullah’s statement is “of great importance… a dramatic change” and that Israel’s failure to respond is proof that Prime Minister Sharon never intended to negotiate peace with the Palestinians.
Siegman attacks Israel and Sharon for “greet[ing Abdullah’s comments] with a yawn… One would… have expected the Israeli government to use this long hoped-for development to renew a diplomatic dialogue with the Palestinians.” Siegman charges that the lack of response “prove[s] what should have been evident all along — that the Sharon government seeks pretexts to avoid a political process, not ways to renew it… Sharon’s refusal to take any notice of the new Saudi position [proves] that Mr. Sharon’s insistence that there be no negotiations until all Palestinian violence ceases can only be an excuse to hold onto the West Bank and Gaza.”
A close reading of Siegman’s column shows a serious inconsistency. While Siegman’s exhibits his frisson for Abdullah’s interview, he also reveals that Abdullah made the same offer to him “two years ago.”
Indeed, Abdullah is consistent. The idea is similar to one put forward in 1981 by Saudi King Fahd, when he was crown prince.
Isn’t that reason enough for a yawn over “this latest development?” Why, then, did Siegman write the Op-Ed?
An Internet search for Siegman’s latest writings reveals his mission to blast the Israeli government at every opportunity. The Abdullah interview was just a pretext.
Siegman’s anti-Israel bias is evident by what he does not write. He does not question Yasir Arafat’s integrity. He never challenges Arafat to live up to his commitments. He does not condemn the violence that Arafat unleashed. He does not mention Arafat’s cozying up to Iran, or his lying about the attempts to smuggle offensive weapons into the Palestinian Authority.
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To the Editor:
Henry Siegman Op-Ed asks, “Will Israel Take a Chance?” (Feb. 22). He charges that Israel failed to respond to Prince Abdullah’s “latest development,” but he also admits that Abdullah made the same offer to him two years ago.
Abdullah’s offer is not new. The idea is similar to one put forward in 1981 by Saudi King Fahd, when he was crown prince.
Siegman’s challenge to Israel to “take a chance” is misplaced, particularly at a time when Arafat’s forces are escalating their attacks. Israel has already taken mortal risks with the Oslo process, allowing Arafat and his PLO infrastructure into the West Bank and Gaza, and permitting the arming of Arafat’s soldiers.
Siegman emphasizes Prince Abdullah’s statements while he muffles Arafat’s recent calls on Palestinian TV for “a million martyrs” and “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad” Perhaps a more helpful approach would be for Siegman to call on Arafat to “take a chance” of ceasing incitement and quashing the terrorist organizations under his patronage.