Why doesn’t Israel accept the Arab peace initiative? It offers Israel normalization with all Arab states (though not Iran) in exchange for returning to the 1967 borders, Jerusalem, and a solution to the refugee problem. That’s basically what the Israeli government agreed to; most Israelis accept the solution except for the partitioning of Jerusalem. The differences are mundane: the Saudis want full return to the 1967 borders while Israel offered to exchange settlement blocs for similar tracts of empty land, and the Palestinians agreed. The peace plan does not require Israel to accept the refugees, just to find a solution: presumably, compensation will do, and the US and EU would be happy to foot the bill for resettling the refugees in Palestine.

The issue of Jerusalem is a matter of names. What is the Jerusalem which Jews want for our eternal capital? The sprawling Arab neighborhoods of “East Jerusalem” are not Jerusalem in the biblical sense. Jews lived there, but we also lived in Hebron, Schem, and all of Judea. In religious terms, giving away Hebron and Schem (which the majority of Israelis accept) is a crime incomparably worse than abandoning districts of no special significance east of the ancient Jerusalem.

The Old City issue is commonly misunderstood. The Old City of Jerusalem is merely an Ottoman structure. Razing the Old City’s walls would clarify the point that most of it lacks biblical significance. The only real problem is the Temple Mount, a land plot of tremendous importance to both Jews and Arabs. It is unthinkable for a state claiming biblical rights for its existence to abandon the most central place in Judaism. Although unthinkable, it is actually taking place now: Israel bans praying Jews from the Temple Mount while Arabs enjoy the place even for their latrines.

So what are the options regarding the Temple Mount? First and preferably, raze the Muslim structures and build the Third Temple. That, however, won’t come to be. The combined opposition of leftists, assimilated Jews, and religious Jews would preclude such a scenario. To clarify, almost all religious Jews believe that the Third Temple will supernaturally descend from the sky. Maimonides derided that view, but it took root among the clerics who would rather be praying than doing anything.

The second option, advocated by some nationalist Jews, is to build the Temple on the Temple Mount without destroying the Muslim shrines. That too is unrealistic, as Muslims would object to the desecration of their holy place, religious Jews would demand a supernatural Messiah coming on the clouds, and animal rights groups would protest the intended offerings.

Counter-intuitively, Jews save their national face by abandoning the Temple Mount. If the place is not in our hands, then at least we can claim innocence for not building the Temple. And if a true leader like Meir Kahane would arise, he would have no trouble cleansing the Arabs out of the Temple Mount, Judea, Samaria, and all the way to the Nile and Euphrates.

If we do not intend to build a religious state of Judaism, if we are not going to maintain a Jewish state by expelling the Arabs, then it makes every sense to accept the Arab peace initiative.

Jewish peace or Saudi peace initiative?