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Saudi Peace Initiative

14 March 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Suddenly the Saudi Initiative peace proposal of March 2002 (supported by the moderate Arab states Jordan, Egypt and the Emirates) has gained new momentum and is all the rage. The plan calls for a two state solution giving the Palestinians full sovereignty over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (to be its capital), a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines (incl. the Golan) and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem as determined in UN Res. 194. In return the Arab world is to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel and guarantee security for all peoples and states in the region, including Israel.

Full Palestinian sovereignty infers the development of its own army, and not the establishment of a demilitarized or non-militarized state. With Netanya 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the West Bank city of Tulkarm, Israel’s coastal population of several million would be in rocket range, including Tel Aviv in the end. Considering the outbreaks of anarchy in the Gaza Strip and the rocket fire faced by Israel, similar attacks could be expected to come out of the West Bank.

As for refugee issues, UN Res. 194 Article 11 (Dec. 1948) states the following: “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest possible date, and that compensation should be paid for the property which, under the principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;” (Bold italics mine – YN). One can rest assured that after almost 60 years of refugee status and the poisonous anti-Israel/anti-Semitic Palestinian education system that one would be hard pressed to find anyone willing to “live at peace with their neighbors”, meaning Israeli Jews. Therefore the issue would be compensation. But such a demand cuts both ways. Let us recall that there were approximately a million Jews who became refugees throughout the Middle East, whether due to the Arab invasion or as a result of the establishment of the State of Israel and backlash throughout the Arab world.

There are several reasons for the Saudi push at the moment. The “moderate” Arab world is petrified of Iranian Shi’ite influence and the inroads being made in organizations like Hamas. The thinking is that conflict resolution with Israel will undercut all the radicals including the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of which Hamas is the Palestinian arm. Israeli return of the Golan to Syria would supposedly detach Damascus from both the Iranians and the Hezbollah, thereby weakening the former and seriously undermining the second. Hezbollah could be defeated by internal Arab world forces whether originating in Lebanon or not.

Israel would have peace with non-defensible borders. It appears that the Jewish State would not have to absorb Palestinian refugees but rather compensation would be negotiated. Being the Palestinians and Arab world rejected the two-state solution in 1947-48 they are the aggressors and should be responsible for compensating their own people. But they will certainly make demands on the Israeli treasury.

Israel is being asked to pay the price to strengthen the Arab world in its battles against Iran and Sunni extremists (Moslem Brotherhood and bin Laden’s Al Qaeda). Israel is to relinquish strategic assets in return for peace and security. But will those making the promises keep their word? Better yet, will those moderate Arab regimes survive and not be overthrown by the Islamic extremists?

The Jewish State is being offered that very tempting concept “End of Conflict” with its inferred recognition of Jewish national legitimacy, at least in its declared form as part of a final agreement. But the price set is extremely high – dependence on the Arab World for Israel’s continued existence, meaning not only the “moderates” must come out the winners in their battle against Islamic extremism, but the future of the Jewish State and People is dependent upon them keeping their word. To project into the future a generation or so, we are speaking of the Arab World as the new patron for the Zionist movement.

Many Israeli politicians on the Left, Center and even moderate Right are willing to enter negotiations with no pre-conditions. The Arab “moderates” are hinting that the initiative is unchangeable, meaning “Take it or leave it.” The Clinton Outline (Dec. 2000), the Roadmap (2003) and Bush-Sharon Commitments (April 2004) are not mentioned.

Most agree that to talk will not hurt. Israelis need to keep in mind that the “moderates” in the Arab World are under pressure, for better and for worse and the Saudi initiative is not the last word. Israel needs peace with the Arabs, overall security and a continuing strategic relationship with the US while expanding its horizons to Europe. Whether all this can be achieved in tandem with the Arab World is the fundamental question.