The two-day Arab summit in Riydah now taking place is considered pretty important: Ban Ki-moon, the general secretary of the UN is attending as is Javier Solana (the European Union’s foreign policy chief). The main focus is on the reviving of the 2002 initiative in which Arab countries offered full diplomatic and economic normalization with Israel if they would agree to 1967 borders, a East Jerusalem capital for Palestine, and a right of return. The initiative was ignored both in Israel and in the US. The plan, then and now, is considered a starting point for all parties. It’s serious and is the best (and perhaps only) real peace plan that has appeared for years. So, big news right? Well, sort of.
In Israel, the paper of record, Haaretz, today has the summit as both a lead story and the lead editorial while the New York Times buries the story in the second half of an article that has the headline “Saudi King Condemns Occupation of Iraq.”
It was also buried in the second half of a quite decent although too optimistic article on US “shuttle diplomacy” further in the world section, - Mideast Leaders to hold talks twice a month.
The difference of emphasis between the Israeli and US papers of record are marked. Haaretz is much more supportive of the summit than is the NY Times. While the NY Times is more optimistic about US diplomacy than is Haaretz , this is not rocket science. The US paper of record will obviously have more interest in US political initiatives than in those occurring abroad, yet the Arab summit is really big news and sets out the possibility of a concrete breakthrough dependent, of course, on US and Israeli responses. The US initiative is more on the level of a incremental process (per the usual) and very little about actual peace. Indeed, Haaretz called Ms. Rice’s most recent trip “disappointing.” The fact that the US paper of record is less interested in the Arab summit than is the Israeli paper of record is not very different than the oft cited phenomena of US voices being more reactionary than Israeli voices regarding a possible peace with the Palestinians (and Israel’s Arab neighbors generally).