The crown prince of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, writes in the Washington Post Friday that Arabs and Israelis need to talk to each other more:
Our biggest mistake has been to assume that you can simply switch peace on like a light bulb. The reality is that peace is a process, contingent on a good idea but also requiring a great deal of campaigning — patiently and repeatedly targeting all relevant parties. This is where we as Arabs have not done enough to communicate directly with the people of Israel.
An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only one he hears. Just as an Arab might be forgiven for thinking every Israeli wants the destruction of every Palestinian.
Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths. Others have been less reticent, recognizing that our success would threaten their vested interest in keeping Palestinians and Israelis at each other’s throats. They want victims to stay victims so they can be manipulated as proxies in a wider game for power. The rest of us — the overwhelming majority — have the opposite interest.
The prince, in particular, wants Arab leaders to use the Israeli media:
We should move toward real peace now by consulting and educating our people and by reaching out to the Israeli public to highlight the benefits of a genuine peace.
To be effective, we must acknowledge that, like people everywhere, the average Israeli’s primary window on the world is his or her local and national media. Our job, therefore, is to tell our story more directly to the Israeli people by getting the message out to their media, a message reflecting the hopes of the Arab mainstream that confirms peace as a strategic option and advocates the Arab Peace Initiative as a means to this end. Some conciliatory voices in reply from Israel would help speed the process.
Some Arabs, simplistically equating communication with normalization, may think we are moving too fast toward normalization. But we all know that dialogue must be enhanced for genuine progress. We all, together, need to take the first crucial step to lay the groundwork to effectively achieve peace. So we must all invest more in communication.
Al-Khalifa’s argument that dialogue is necessary is enhanced by the fact that Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States, Houda Nonoo, is a Jewish woman, and its king has invited Jewish expatriates to return.