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Behind the Saudi Peace Plan

Behind the Saudi Peace Plan

Saudi Arabia talks peace from one side, and war from the other.


Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah says that his proposed speech for Middle East peace sits on his desk undelivered.

Never has a non-speech created such a hubbub. European and American emissaries rushed to meet the Crown Prince. Presidents Bush, Mubarak and Katsav have all responded to the non-speech with expressions of support or the desire to explore it further. Ariel Sharon called for a direct meeting with the Saudi Prince.

Optimistically, perhaps the Saudi plan marks the first step out of the abyss that Arafat has dug for the region. We are skeptical, however. The Saudi prince has not revealed details of the plan, only saying that his idea calls for "full normalization of relations" with Israel in exchange for "withdrawal from all the occupied territory, in accordance with UN resolutions, including in Jerusalem."

As editorial writers and columnists click away on their keyboards, Secretary of State Colin Powell cautioned that the Abdullah non-speech was "easily said, but a very difficult concept to get total agreement on... We need to flesh this out more before we declare we have a solution. It isn't a solution in and of itself..."

Powell continued: "The one thing I'm absolutely sure [is that] unless the violence goes down to some level that allows Israel to continue to engage and continue to engage, then all of these various ideas will just peter out. The violence has to go down; the pressure has to remain on Arafat to do as much as he can... But it's important that this process get started, and I think it gets started by Mr. Arafat doing everything in his power, a 100 percent effort, and as close to 100 percent performance as is possible to get the violence under control."

In an interview with The New York Times (Feb. 28), Arafat interpreted the Saudi non-speech differently. He saw it as another means for the world to pressure Israel and to impose a solution on Israel, not for him to change his ways. Asked about the initiative, Arafat responded, "The most important thing that this has been accepted by the Europeans, by the Russians, by the Americans... [T]here must be a very important and very strong and very quick push [on Israel] from outside."

War Drums

More skepticism: Is the Saudi plan more of the same duplicity we have seen throughout the years – of Arab leaders talking peace to the western media, but thumping the war drum in pro-Arab forums?

On Feb. 27, Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Fawzi Shobokshi spoke at the UN Security Council and devoted most of the speech to an attack on Israel. The Associated Press reports that Shobokshi declared that "Israel has no desire for peace," and said that Israel was guilty of "racism" and "systematic terrorism."

Israel's Deputy UN Ambassador Aaron Jacob responded: "If Saudi Arabia or any other country wants to promote peace, then first and foremost they should gain the trust of the people of Israel. Using confrontational language will not advance such a goal."

Speaking in Syria nine months ago, Prince Abdullah declared: "Sharon can do what he likes: for today might be his day. Yet tomorrow, God willing, is ours. Every single drop of Arab blood that has been spilled on our usurped Arab territories will be duly wrested from those who dared to shed it. The womb of every Arab woman carries retribution and every fallen martyr has left behind a loud roar, vibrating in the chest of every child who is looking towards martyrdom."

We are also skeptical if Islamic religious traditions (which much of the Arab world is beholden to) even allow for the Saudi plan. In 1995, the Jerusalem Post reported that the mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin-Baz, handed down a religious ruling to the effect that Islamic law does not rule out peace with Israel. However, under pressure from extreme Islamic circles, the sheikh was forced to retract. What he had intended, he explained, was to declare that "peace with Israel is permissible only on condition that it is a temporary peace, until the Moslems build up the [military] strength needed to expel the Jews."

And while some Islamic authorities have so far ordered only men, not women, to become suicide bombers, Palestinians eagerly cite last August's fatwa issued by the Saudi High Islamic Council exhorting women to become suicide bombers as well.

Talking Points

As editorials and columnists discuss Crown Prince Abdullah's speech, it is important to consider the following points:

• Abdullah's plan makes no mention of the refugee issue. Is he prepared to defy Arafat and forego the so-called "right of return" to flood Israeli cities with millions of Arabs?

• The Camp David-Taba negotiations were based on Israel retaining "settlement blocs" and not returning to 1967 lines. Is Abdullah demanding more than the Palestinian negotiators were considering?

• Is Abdullah's plan an opening negotiating position, or are his demands non-negotiable?

• The cornerstone of Middle East negotiations, UN Resolution 242, calls for Israel to withdraw from territory, but not "all" territory back to the June 1967 lines (that Abba Eban once called "Auschwitz lines").

• Abdullah's plan calls for the redivision of Jerusalem.

• Is the Abdullah plan a public relations ploy to ingratiate Western audiences? By sounding the trumpet of peace, the Saudis divert attention from the extensive Saudi involvement in the al Qaeda terrorist organization, where 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers were Saudis, and at least one entered the US on a Saudi diplomatic passport. And by diverting attention from the report in the leading German daily "Die Welt" that Saudi officials have helped place many al Qaeda terrorists in the Ein Hilwe Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, and plan to finance their relocation to territory controlled by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, giving $5,000 cash to each al-Qaeda member willing to be smuggled into the West Bank and Gaza.

• Can Saudi Arabia be considered an honest peace broker, given the revelation (also in Die Welt) that Saudi officials paid Iran $10 million to buy the weapons for the Palestinian Authority that were captured by Israel in the Red Sea on January 3?

• Over the years, Saudi Arabia's refusal to endorse the agreements Israel signed with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians slowed movement to regional peace. Are the Saudis ready to lead efforts to achieve a comprehensive regional peace – including pressing Arafat to stop all violence and cutting off economic assistance to Hamas, of which the Saudi government is chief financial backer?

March 2, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Anonymous, March 10, 2002 12:00 AM

there will never be any peaceful resolution to this problem

i believe that this so called "Saudi Plan" that is proposed be the Crowned Prince Abdullah is nothing more than a plead to the other Arab Nations to go and help the Palestinians take over and destroy the Nation of Israel. There will be no peace without a war to finally settle the dispute over the land. If it were not for the United States and the European Union, Israel would have waged a full on war against the Palestinian people. Hopefully, one day soon this will be all over, and all of my generation (15-18 yrs old) will be able to go and visit our land with a clear mind in hand.

(10) , March 10, 2002 12:00 AM

Reply to "Concerned" comment on 3/6/2002:

To quote you: "To force uniformity and a single interpretation and belief, in my opinion, is an assault on the market place of ideas."

It never ceases to amaze me how those purporting tolerance and democracy, are only so willing to be tolerant and democratic towards those with views similar to their own…

No one is "forcing" anything on you. You came to the Aish website as all the rest of us have -- of your own free will. And if you are opposed in any way to the content of the articles, by all means, voice your opinion. That's what the comments feature is for. But just because you yourself feel threatened by a point of view differing from your own, does not mean that Aish or anyone else should try to align themselves with YOUR opinion. How can you deride others "arrogantly proclaiming what is truth and what is not" and then procede to do the same?? You play the naming game quite well yourself, your letter riddled with "alarmist", "absolutist", "religious fundamentalism".

How very "big" of you to understand "that people's emotions can get the best of them" - because of course anyone with opinions other than yours must be irrationally blinded by his emotions! As you say, "there are many different denominations, interpretations and beliefs associated with and tied to the Torah, Israel and the Jewish religion as a whole. And we need to respect them and be sensitive to all points of view" -- just as long as they are not too "fanatic", i.e., more scrupulous in religious practice than you are.

I would suggest that you honestly and non-defensively explore why it is you are so "concerned" by the content on this website. I suspect it has less to do with preventing "polarization and division" of the Jewish nation and "antagonizing and getting a rise out of the worst sides of us" than you think it does.

(9) Michael Levett, March 7, 2002 12:00 AM

Such an easy peace plan...

So simple and wonderful is this peace plan that I wonder why the U.S. did not come up with such a plan in the "Cold-War" era...just think of it...we could have had world peace sooner if only we had offered to give Alaska back to Russia...and oh, how about the war of 1812....we could have had an early peace if only we had offered to give the British back say a state or two...uhhh-right! So you give them land for peace now and say in twenty years you need to give them more land for another peace and where does it end.

(8) david Buxbaum, March 6, 2002 12:00 AM

Good story, but too kind to the the "prince"

The well researched story about the make believe 'peace plan' launched by the Saudi 'prince' is clearly designed to divert attention from the fact that this 'prince'; or swine more properly, is one of the leaders of the corrupt brutal Saudi regime, that does not welcome most any Jews to visit the desert kingdom. Saudi Arabia is the most bigoted regime in the whole world. In basically hates all other groups and even woman. Saudi Arabia exports the ideology that forms the basis of most Muslim terrorist organizations; most of the terrorist who attacked the World Trade Center in New York came from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the prince have refused to cut off funds to Ben Laden. The peace proposal is designed hide the reality of this evil pack of killers.

(7) Aaron, March 6, 2002 12:00 AM


I didn't quite know where to put these comments so I figured that I will just put them here. As a frequen visitor to the Aish website, I have read many of the articles and comments associated with them, past and present. I have even opined on several issues. I believe for the most part that Aish has many good things to offer and does a wonderful service to the Jewish community around the world. However in recent months I have become very concerned, confused and even upset with the tenor and content that has been published on this site. Now I first want to prefice by saying that I am a staunch supporter of free speech and believe that everyone has the right to have and voice their opinions. The times in which we live right now are stressful and controversial subjects when addressed, (and they should be) understandably ignite very strong and fierce emotions from both sides of the arguments. I have noticed that many of the comments expressed on the articles and even the articles themselves seem to be a sounding board for people to vent emotions thus rhetoric getting heated, battle lines drawn, name calling begins, generalizations and oversimplifications rendered, insensitivity is displayed and divisions occurr. While it is understandable that people's emotions can get the best of them, we are all human after all. I offer a suggestion that we all just take a few steps back, take a few deep breaths and really think about the implications of what we write before we write them. Over the last several months I have been horrified by some of the things that have been written. I can go through the website and pck out numerous examples from both comments and articles but in the interest of time and writing space I will refrain. Suffice it to say that I have read comments and articles where absolutist and alarmist positions have been taken and advocated, beliefs and motives attempting to be imposed on others and very complex and difficult issues that contain many variables over simplified and very unfair sterotypes and generalizations made. I suggest that we all just lower the volume a few notches and calm down a bit and think about the image that Aish and the world Jewish community want to project to others. From what I have read Aish is an organization that tries to answer the question of why be Jewish and inspire and education both committed Jews of all denominations and those on the fense, as well as serve as a bridge to unify world Jewry. Those are very noble endevours and they are ones that I agree with and support. However we also have to realize and remember that there are many different denominations, interpretations and beliefs associated with and tied to the Torah, Israel and the Jewish religion as a whole. And we need to respect them and be sensitive to all points of view. I can easily see where someone who is on the fence of religious life would be turned off to Judaism completely and forever after reading some of the articles and comments on this website. To force uniformity and a single interpretation and belief, in my opinion, is an assault on the market place of ideas. Which is something we all cherish. May I suggest that in our comments on various issues, instead of just continually attacking and in some cases arrogantly proclaiming what is truth and what is not, offer meaningful and realistic potential solutions to the problems that we are confronted with, things that hold merit and could even be viable in the world community. For those writing articles, how about writing about new issues that need to be addressed and corrected, such as dangerous religious fundamentalism that exists within Judaism, and an interpretation of the issues and events like the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision regarding the Law of Return. Personal human interest stories about women in the rabbinate for example could be addressed, the list goes on and on. Instead of constantly lamenting about the latest suicide bombing in Israel, or throwing the word anti-semitism around, or trying to impose on people where their "homeland" is or should be, issues that constantly do nothing but bring out the worst in people, how about address controversial, important issues that bring out the best in each of us and bring us together. There are issues and ideas expressed where I agree with Aish in spirit, but in the midst of absolutist and insensitive rhetoric the spirit gets lost and polarization and division occurrs. Lets all do our part to showcase the best and beautiful about each of us instead of antagonizing and getting a rise out of the worst sides of us. Thank you for reading.

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