Anyone who follows developments in the Middle East will have found it hard to escape the latest fuss about the resurrected Saudi peace initiative .
This is the plan that demands a full withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and ‘the right of return’ to Israel for Palestinian refugees – in exchange for ‘normalisation’ of relations between Israel and the Arab world.
While the Israeli government has rightly rejected the ‘right of return for Palestinians’ as asking Israel to commit demographic suicide, it is bizarre – and alarming – that neither the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, nor the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, has even mentioned the rights of Jewish refugees.
Because Israel has not even tried to widen the agenda for discussion, it reinforces the Arab perception that they are the sole victims of injustice. By ignoring the Jewish refugees, Israel is doing nothing to prepare the Arab world for any demands for compensation, let alone admission of guilt for causing the Jewish exodus.
The concept of an ‘exchange of populations’ of roughly equal numbers of refugees has not even penetrated Arab consciousness.
And as long as the Arabs are shielded from feeling any responsibility for the flight of a million Jews, there is little chance of true reconciliation.