Suzanne Fields

The brutal winter ebbs at last, giving way to the season of hope, deliverance and renewal.

The celebrations of Passover and Easter, marking the beginning of spring, overlap this year, as they often do. Jewish children practice reciting the four questions and dream of finding the hidden Passover mazoh. Christian children celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, decorating eggs and hiding them for a hunt.

Nature awakens, and suddenly all things look possible again. Just not for a lasting peace in the Middle East. President Obama, with Secretary of State John F. Kerry as his messenger and chief instigator, badly misjudged the timing of his latest approach to talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Negotiations are meant to continue until the end of April, but both Arab and Jew share only pessimism. Mr. Kerry was correct for once when he said it's time for "a reality check" -- and it's his reality that needs the check.

Critics, analysts and observers -- no shortage there -- blame both sides for failing to forge a peace and for not living together side by side as civilized people everywhere must do. But realistic negotiations are impossible when one side disputes the other side's right even to exist. Arab countries have denied that fundamental right of the Jews since Israel proclaimed itself a nation in 1948. Mahmoud Abbas defiantly offers that same unrealistic stance now.

When Israel gave back land to Egypt that it won in the 1967 war and the two nations recognized each other, Anwar Sadat, the brave Egyptian president responsible for that breakthrough, paid with his life, taken by an Egyptian assassin.

Now, Mr. Abbas, a small player with a big problem, not only refuses to accept Israel's right to live, but abandons the peace talks to persuade various agencies at the United Nations, always hostile to the Jews, to get the recognition he wants. He breaks agreements signed by Palestinians in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

No one imagines that resolving the anger and hostility between Israel and the Palestinians will be easy, but the history of the region, from the moment the United Nations voted to recognize Israel, reveals the terrible miscalculation of the Arabs.

The day after the state of Israel was proclaimed, on May 14, 1948, five Arab nations -- Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon -- invaded the tiny Jewish state. Israel defeated them all, and when the war was over, Israel had more land than when the fighting began.

It doesn't have to be that way. Once there was a realistic dream that Arabs and Jews could flourish together. In 1919, the man who would become King Faisal I of Syria, which the British then expanded to include Iraq, expressed support for a national home for the Jews in Palestine. In a new book, "Faisal I of Iraq," Ali A. Allawi quotes the king as saying: "No true Arab can be suspicious or afraid of Jewish nationalism. ... We are demanding Arab freedom, and we would show ourselves unworthy of it, if we did not now, as I do, say to the Jews: Welcome back home."

King Faisal wrote a letter to Felix Frankfurter, a dedicated Zionist who later became an influential justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to express his confidence that peace could descend on the Middle East: "We feel the Arabs and Jews are cousins in race, suffered similar oppressions at the hands of powers stronger than themselves. ... The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement."

There are various interpretations of Faisal's overtures. Perhaps he wanted to tap into Jewish influence and money, needed to establish an independent Arab state. He understood how Arabs aligned with the Jews could advance prosperity for all.

But constructive patriotism gave way to destructive nationalism, unleashing fierce anti-Semitism and unrelenting hatred for the very idea of a Jewish state. The rest of the world would hold Israel to a higher standard of behavior.

Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, tells Newsmax that Israeli "imperfections and deserved criticism cannot even begin to explain, much less justify, the disproportionate hatred directed against the only nation-state of the Jewish people and the disproportionate silence regarding the far greater imperfections and deserved criticism of other nations and groups -- including the Palestinians."

Reality often intrudes on the most precious hopes of men and women of good will, and King Faisal's dream of Arabs and Jews as cousins working together to create a modern Middle East was not to be.

Nevertheless, this is the season of hope and renewal. The first brave flowers of spring, after all, usually must push their way through a carpet of melting snow. But we must keep hope alive.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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