Last week’s Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, stirred interest for its reaffirmation of the league’s 2002 offer of peace with Israel, and for remarks by Saudi King Abdullah about the “illegitimate” occupation of Iraq. But the reason for taking these positions was revealed in Abdullah’s lament for the fractiousness of the Arab world. Instead of blaming non-Arab outsiders for the “abhorrent sectarianism” tearing Iraq apart and the plight of Palestinians, Abdullah told his invitees a harsh truth: “The real blame falls on us, leaders of the Arab nation... for our refusal to get united.”This open self-criticism may presage a healthy transformation. He has shown a willingness to confront regional conflicts. Most evident is the renewed offer to Israel of normalised relations with all Arab states.

Israel’s vice premier, Shimon Peres, said on Thursday: “It is time to start negotiating and not only to make announcements.” He recognises the common interest of the Arab states and Israel in forging a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The states represented in Riyadh and Israel are threatened by forces of extremism. Those states urgently want an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Condoleezza Rice’s mission in the Mideast should be to push Israel as hard as she has been pushing the Arab states to start a negotiating process. — The Boston Globe