The question is whether the diplomat lies only to others, or also to himself.
I am asking this these days when I follow the arduous efforts of John Kerry, the new American foreign secretary, to jump-start the Israeli-Arab "peace process."
Kerry seems to be an honest man. A serious man. A patient man. But does he really believe that his endeavors will lead anywhere?
TRUE, THIS week Kerry did achieve a remarkable success.
A delegation of Arab foreign ministers, including the Palestinian, met with him in Washington. They were led by the Qatari prime minister -- a relative of the Emir, of course -- whose country is assuming a more and more prominent role in the Arab world.
At the meeting, the ministers emphasized that the Arab Peace Initiative is still valid.
This initiative, forged 10 years ago by then Saudi Crown Prince (and present King) Abdullah, was endorsed by the entire Arab League in the March 2002 Summit Conference in Beirut. Yasser Arafat could not attend, because Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that if he left the country, he would not be allowed to return. But Arafat officially accepted the initiative.
It will be remembered that soon after the 1967 war, the Arab Summit Conference in Khartoum promulgated the Three Noes: No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel. The new initiative was a total reversal of that resolution, which was born out of humiliation and despair.
The Saudi initiative was reaffirmed unanimously in the 2007 Summit Conference in Riyadh. All Arab rulers attended, including Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine who voted in favor, excluding only Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
The initiative says unequivocally that all Arab countries would announce the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, sign peace treaties with Israel, and institute normal relations with Israel. In return, Israel would withdraw to the June 4, 1967 border (the Green Line). The State of Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem, would be established. The refugee problem would be solved by agreement (meaning agreement with Israel).
As I wrote at the time, if anyone had told us in May 1967 that the Arab world would make such an offer, they would have been locked up in an institution for the mentally ill. But those of us who advocated the acceptance of the Arab initiative were branded as traitors.
In his conference with the Arab ministers this week, John Kerry succeeded in pushing them a step further. They agreed to add that the 1967 Green Line may be changed by swaps of territories. This means that the large settlements along the border, where the great majority of the settlers reside, would be annexed to Israel, in return for largely inferior Israeli land.
WHEN THE initiative was first aired, the Israeli government was desperately looking for a way out.
The first excuse that sprang to mind -- then as always -- was the refugee problem. It is easy to create panic in Israel with the nightmare of millions of refugees "flooding" Israel, putting an end to the Jewishness of the Jewish State.
Sharon, the Prime Minister at the time, willfully ignored the crucial clause inserted by the Saudis into their plan: that there would be an "agreed" solution. This clearly means that Israel was accorded the right to veto any solution. In practice, this would amount to the return of a symbolic number, if any at all.
Why did the initiative mention the refugees at all? Well, no Arab could possibly publish a peace plan that did not mention them. Even so, the Lebanese objected to the clause, because it would leave the refugees in Lebanon.