The Saudi Nonplan
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had the proper response to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace initiative: We’re interested in hearing your ideas, I look forward to meeting an emissary from Saudi Arabia to discuss it. This should be the American Jewish community’s response as well. We welcome Saudi Arabia’s new willingness to use the word peace and Israel in the same sentence and hope the Crown Prince will aggressively pursue his initiative in direct negotiations with Israel.
While we wait for the mashiach and the Saudi representative to arrive in Jerusalem, we might as well spend a few moments dissecting the Saudi plan. Ok, time’s up. What is there to analyze, after all, there is no plan. All the Crown Prince has done is restate the Arab interpretation of UN Resolution 242, which is that the Arabs will make peace with Israel if it withdraws to the 1967 borders.
There’s one small problem. This isn’t what 242 says and that is why there is nothing new here. The resolution calls on Israel to withdraw from territories occupied during the war, not “all” the territories in exchange for peace. It goes further and says that every state has the right to live within “secure and recognizable boundaries,” which all military analysts have understood to mean the 1967 borders with modifications to guarantee Israel’ security. Incidentally, the resolution does not say that one comes before the other, rather, they are equal principles. Israel is under no obligation to withdraw before the Arabs agree to live in peace.
Let’s also consider the source of this initiative that is capturing so much media attention. Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most anti-Semitic nation on earth. In one 1972 interview, for example, King Faisal repeated the blood libel. Just read accounts of Faisal’s anti-Semitic rants in meetings with American officials who happen to be Jewish, such as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
And just why isn’t Saudi Arabia at peace with Israel now? Funny that none of our brilliant journalists have thought to ask that question. What Saudi territory does Israel hold? Sure they give lip service to the Palestinian cause, but how does Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians justify Saudi belligerence?
Abdullah generously offered a trade of Israeli land for Arab peace, but he speaks for no Arab leader except himself. Other Arab governments, such as his Gulf neighbors, and some of those in North Africa, had already begun to normalize relations with Israel before the latest outbreak of violence. And who was the most vocal critic of these moves toward Arab rapprochement? Take one guess.
For now, the Saudis have no plan and there won’t be anything to discuss unless Abdullah writes down details and persuades the Arab League to accept them. Iraq and Libya already have said they oppose Abdullah’s “vision,” and Syria has been wishy-washy. The Egyptians resent the presumption that the Saudis have usurped their role as the leaders of the Arab world and Mubarak tried to sidetrack the whole idea by proposing a Sharon-Arafat summit in Cairo. Meanwhile, Abdullah is already making excuses for why he won’t even bring his ideas to the Arab League meeting, so it will surprise no one if the whole matter is dropped immediately afterward.
I do give Abdullah high marks for public relations. No doubt the high-priced team of former State Department officials that advise the government came up with this clever gambit to deflect attention from the fact that Saudi Arabia is a major sponsor of terrorism and one of the worst abusers of human rights in the world. The Saudis were being pilloried in the press daily as columnists woke up to the reality that the kingdom is an apartheid state that shares with the United States only an interest in keeping up the flow of oil.
The “peace plan” was a brilliant ploy, but the fact that it is just that is already clear. Soon the Saudis will again face the barrage of criticism they deserve for their corrupt, offensive, anti-democratic, and anti-Semitic regime.