“All 22 members of the Arab League, including the Palestinian Authority, offered a comprehensive peace in exchange for a two state solution not once, but twice: in 2002 and 2007. Both times, Israel entirely ignored the offer.”
I wrote these words in good faith, but it turns out I was wrong. Wrong matters.
Late Monday night, while he was speaking to the annual J Street conference, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this: “Those who say that Israel did not address itself to the Arab Peace Initiative do not speak the truth. Israel was prepared to negotiate within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative.”
I took note but was busy transcribing the speech for a client, so couldn’t do anything at the moment. By the time Olmert was done, JTA’s Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas had tweeted:
Olmert is right tt he said he was ready to talk Arab peace initiative at Annapolis. Saudis freaked, started babbling antizionism
— Ron Kampeas (@kampeas) March 27, 2012
I tweeted back a question asking for clarification, and he very kindly obliged — and lo, it turns out that at the Annapolis Peace Conference in November 2007, then-Prime Minister Olmert said in his address:
I am familiar with the Arab peace initiative, which was born in Riyadh, affirmed in Beirut [in 2002] and recently reaffirmed by you in Riyadh. I value this initiative, acknowledge its importance and highly appreciate its contribution. I have no doubt that it will be referred to in the course of the negotiations between us and the Palestinian leadership.
So first of all: I was wrong.
This is information that I didn’t have, and I’ve been functioning under, and spreading, a misconception for years.
I can even tell you why I was wrong: I had so little faith that anything would come out of Annapolis (and, in the end, nothing did) that I paid no attention to the proceedings. I have only rarely in my life been paid to pay attention to these things, and when I’m not being paid, my despair will sometimes overcome my curiosity and thoroughness — and that, as we can see, is not helpful. Because aside from anything else, it leads to enormous error.
I apologize for that error.
I didn’t address this yesterday, because I was hoping to find the time to do a little research. The question for me now becomes about the significance of Olmert’s remarks: Israeli officials are forever saying the right thing, and then doing something else all together. Witness my most recent post about the settlements; witness Netanyahu’s verbal insistence that he’s all about a two-state solution, vs his constant and consistent efforts to undermine any progress toward such an agreement. It’s also meaningful that the Israeli public as a whole remains unaware that the Arab Peace Initiative even exists — I believe that if the government had any genuine interest in pursuing the API (or any peace initiative), it would have worked its way into (or, indeed, been purposely introduced to) public discourse. It never has.
But I haven’t found the time I need to really dig into these questions, and at a certain point, knowing that you’re wrong but leaving that fact unremarked (other than a few tweets) is just not ok. So, inspired by my Twitter pal @dotanh, who has issued his own, Hebrew-language correction, I decided to write the above. I’m hoping to write something more in-depth soon, but for the time-being, I will leave it at:
I was really, really wrong. And I am deeply sorry for (and more than a little horrified by) the error.