For about two days, the Israeli press celebrated the “fruit of peace” in the wake of the disengagement, until it turned out it was all wishful thinking.Guy Bechor is an occasional Yedioth Ahronoth commentator on Arab affairs
Diplomatic ties with Pakistan have not been initiated, Jordan’s King Abdullah did not arrive in Israel, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dismissed reports in Israel regarding his “willingness” to visit the country.
Meanwhile, relations with Morocco, Tunisia or Persian Gulf states have not been upgraded. As usual in Israel, there are many indications of oil – but no oil.
For a long time now, Arab and Islamic countries exploited Israel to facilitate better relations with the United States. There is nothing new about that. This is how late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat acted. He merely wanted peace with the United States, and the bridge to get there was Israel.
This is what other leaders in the region are doing as they keep their focus on Washington, as Pakistan’s president did this time around.
They have no genuine interest in Israel, its economy, or its people. Yet in the past, Arab and Islamic leaders had to pay for this cynical use of Israel with an official visit here or even the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.
Today, there is no need for that any more: A photo opportunity with Israeli leaders will suffice.
Israel, excited about gaining legitimacy in the Arab world, makes do with a meeting in a third country between foreign ministers. By doing so, it exempts Arab countries from paying for taking advantage of the Jewish state, to those countries’ great joy.
This is how Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf gained Israeli legitimacy, which will allow him next week to deliver a speech before the influential World Jewish Congress in Washington, without paying Israel a thing in return.
Israel must exact a price
As public opinion in the Arab and Islamic world is so hostile to Israel, no Arab leader would dare jeopardize his stability and travel to Israel itself, or establish formal diplomatic ties with it.
The Israeli reader has no idea regarding the extent of the hatred to Israel on the Arab street, and how deeply the Palestinian were able to taint that public opinion during five years of intifada.
When will an Arab leader arrive in Israel or strike a peace deal with it? Only when all hope is lost and this is the only possibility left to ensure the leader’s survival. A quick review reveals that all the Arab leaders who struck a peace agreement with us did so for lack of other choice.
Sadat, who in January 1977 was on the brink of economic extinction; Lebanon’s Bashir Gemayel, who had no other friend left in the world; Yasser Arafat, who in 1991 was doomed for international oblivion; Jordan’s King Hussein, who was horrified to discover Israel finalized the Oslo Accord with Arafat. In those cases, Israel provided legitimacy.
Israel must abandon the perception prevalent in the 1990s, which maintained that we must beg every Arab dictator to meet with us, and realize that Pakistan is not doing Israel a favor with a photo opportunity. Indeed, we need to exact a price.
Israel must demand an immediate payment for every such meeting, in the form of full diplomatic relations or another political reward.
Israel always volunteers to first be concerned about the others, without understanding that in the Middle East the opposite rule applies, as the well-known Arab proverb says: He who does not respect himself is not respected by others.