Saudi Arabia’s New Peace Proposal?

Risk-taking in Riyadh

As the Forward went to press this week, reports from a senior Israeli journalist currently in Riyadh — those words themselves bespeak a revolution in Arab-Israeli relations — indicate that Saudi Arabia is preparing to roll out an elaborate new peace proposal. Formulated in the course of secret talks with Israeli and American officials, the new proposal reportedly is meant to fill the gaps that Israel finds most worrisome in the existing Saudi peace plan.

The main Saudi plan, first floated in 2002, promises Israel diplomatic relations and permanent peace with all 22 Arab states in return for withdrawal to the 1967 borders, establishment of a Palestinian state and honoring the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return.” Israel, after initially ignoring the plan, has lately taken to calling it “positive,” but rejects the idea of taking in a flood of Palestinian refugees. Israelis also worry about the apparent all-or-nothing nature of the plan; they want to talk it through, haggle over precise borders and build in reliable guarantees of their own security.

Those are the objections that the reputed new Saudi proposals are meant to answer. According to reporter Orly Azoulay, the Washington correspondent of Yediot Aharonot, who was in Riyadh to cover this week’s Arab League summit, the Saudis are developing on a plan to establish joint Israeli-Arab working groups that would negotiate the various specific elements and timing of the overall peace plan. The working groups would include representatives of the diplomatic Quartet — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — and would operate under the auspices of an international conference to be convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In a separate report, Yediot stated that the Saudis had reached an agreement in secret talks with Washington and Jerusalem on a refugee deal that would give Palestinians a choice between financial compensation in the countries where they now live or applying for resettlement in the new Palestinian state.

The newspaper reported that the new proposals were to be aired only in the most general terms at this week’s Riyadh summit, where the original Saudi plan was to be revived. The plan won unanimous approval when it was first presented to the Arab League in 2002, but reportedly faces bitter opposition this time from Syria and Libya. Other states are likely to seek a middle ground in order to preserve the semblance of consensus, which could spell trouble for the Saudi efforts to move toward Israel.

Israel faces its own minefields. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was elected on a promise to seek a settlement, and public opinion favors a deal. It’s not clear, though, that Israelis are prepared for the magnitude of the sacrifice that will be demanded of them. Reaching a deal will require leadership and courage, and both of those commodities are in short supply in Jerusalem right now. Olmert’s political career hangs by a dozen fraying threads, and his main challenges come from the right.

This is a fragile moment, fraught with opportunity and danger. Opponents of any Israeli compromise will dredge up every argument in the book to discredit the Saudis and the rest of the Arab states. They’ll question the viability of the plan and the wisdom of Israeli security experts who favor it. Friends of Israel, seeking only to protect the Jewish state from its enemies, may be tempted to join the fray by picking up the warnings and repeating them loudly, thinking they’re building pressure for a better deal.

But that’s the wrong response. The Saudi plan contains risks for Israel, but those are risks that Israelis are capable of navigating. The greatest danger right now is that a genuine opportunity for peace will be lost. The Saudis are taking an enormous risk in exposing themselves to hardliners as Israel’s advocates. They need encouragement, not abuse.

Comments (74)

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51. sam said:

Ford Perfect,

You forgot King George’s statement that “Sharon is a man of peace”.

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March 31st, 2007, 3:59 am


52. Habib said:

What’s up with Jordan’s quiet stature lately. They seem to be under the Kennebunkport table, while the Saudi’s came up for a bit of air…a bit odd idn’t it?

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March 31st, 2007, 4:01 am


53. sam said:

It was a spit in the face to the arabs. It come in the aftermath of the massacre in Jenin. (that the Isrealis covered up, and bulldozed over the evidence, and wouldn’t let in journalist to tell of the horror)

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March 31st, 2007, 4:03 am


54. Zenobia said:

Stalinist? Alex is a stalinist? I had no idea. …..All I know is that I don’t understand that graph…..

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March 31st, 2007, 6:26 am


55. Alex said:

Innocent criminal,

Would you consider the three strikes rule for those who still write comments as if they are still arguing with their teen friends on the streets in Beirut?

Sheikh Mohammad,

You are welcome to participate in our discussions, but please, if you want to question King Abdallah’s motives, there is no need to attack Sunnis, Christians and Jews in the process.

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March 31st, 2007, 6:28 am


56. Alex said:

Asharq alawsat’s editor today barely managed to not ridicule the Syrians like he usually does.

But it seems the fact the Emir of Qatar decided to attend the summit will not stop the daily attacks on him in Asharq Alawsat.

Read the last paragraph:

نحن في حاجة للمصارحة مع النفس، وهذا ما حدث بالرياض، حيث أظهرت الصور قادة يشبهوننا بابتساماتهم، لا قادة متجهمين، ولا زعيما حالما واهما ينظر للسماء مخونا الجميع.

هل حلت كل الملفات؟ بالطبع لا! وإنما تبددت غيمة سوداء. خرجت سوريا من عزلتها، وعلها تحل العقد، وهذا ما سنراه، وقد سمعنا العاهل السعودي يقول إن لبنان «تتحول شوارعه إلى فنادق».

كذلك عقلن السودانيون مواقفهم، ورأينا العراقيين في مكانهم الصحيح، وقيل لهم ما يجب أن يقال. كما تم تفعيل المبادرة العربية، وقبلها العرب، ورحبت بها الخارجية الأميركية، والإسرائيليون منقسمون حولها.

لكن ماذا عن عبارة «احتلال أجنبي غير مشروع» بالعراق وهذا نص كلام العاهل السعودي، ورد الفعل الأميركي؟ تعريف الأمم المتحدة للوجود الأميركي بالعراق أنه احتلال. ولم نسمع عن احتلال بغيض واحتلال حميد.

فبدلا من أن يحتفى بما قاله العاهل السعودي عن لوم القادة لأنفسهم، وهذا ما لم نسمعه من قبل، نسمع اليوم عن من يتحدث عن محاولة سعودية يزعم أنها لتجنب الظهور بمظهر الحليف لواشنطن ليتسنى لها قيادة المنطقة. وهذا كلام غير منطقي، فلا يمكن أن تكون قائدا من دون حلفاء، وعلاقات مميزة مع المجتمع الدولي، على أن تراعي مصالح بلادك، وشعبك، وإلا كانت الكارثة.

وهناك مبالغة في تصوير الأمور، وخير مثال اعتذار الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز عن دعوة بوش له لتناول العشاء في أبريل بالبيت الأبيض. صور الأمر على أن السعودية تخشى إيران ولا تريد أن تظهر حليفا لواشنطن. والحقيقة أن إحدى أهم أوراق السعودية في المنطقة حسن علاقاتها مع أميركا وأوروبا، حيث للرياض مصداقية تمنحها دور الوسيط الجاد، وهذا ما قامت به حتى بين واشنطن وبكين، ونتج عنه إطلاق سراح طاقم طائرة أميركية في بداية ولاية بوش الأولى.

تقصيت من مصدر بالرياض عن الاعتذار عن دعوة العشاء فقال لي إن الرد السعودي كان «لا مشكلة لدينا يا فخامة الرئيس نلبي دعوتكم، ولكن ما الذي سنخرج به من هذا اللقاء؟ هل هناك أمر محدد نخرج به للناس ونقول هذه نتيجة الزيارة؟ لا نريدها زيارة فقط للزيارة، بل للخروج بنتائج».

وهذا كلام واقعي، فالعاهل السعودي ليس زعيما يريد الخروج من عزلته بالتقاط صور بالبيت الأبيض، عكس موقف القطريين، حيث علمت من مصدر بواشنطن أنه عندما طلب من القطريين التصويت على العقوبات الأخيرة ضد إيران، كان الرد القطري على لسان مسؤول كبير بالدوحة «تطلبون منا أشياء ونلبيها، لكنكم لا تلبون مطالبنا، فمن أكثر من سنة وأميرنا يريد زيارة واشنطن وانتم ترفضون، وحتى وزير الخارجية زاركم ثلاث مرات مؤخرا ورفض البيت الأبيض استقباله».

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March 31st, 2007, 7:09 am


57. Alex said:

And a last one before I go to sleep,

Moualem said that the American delegation at the Baghdad conference asked the Syrian delegation to continue their produuctive dialogue, but Mr. Ahmad Arnous apologized saying “we are not authorized to disuss other things, but you are most welcome to discuss all the regional problems IN DAMASCUS … PROVIDED YOU CAN RESPECT THE RULES OF POLITE DIALOGUE.

الوزير المعلم : واشنطن طالبت دمشق بفتح حوار معها خلال مشاركتها في مؤتمر دول الجوار في العراق …. قلنا لهم اهلا وكن في دمشق

قال وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم، أمس، إنّ واشنطن طالبت دمشق بفتح حوار معها خلال مشاركتها في مؤتمر دول الجوار في العراق، مضيفاً أنّ الوفد السوري أبلغ الأميركيين بأنّه ليس مخولاً البحث في هذا الموضوع في بغداد بل في دمشق. وأشار المعلم إلى أنّ دمشق أوضحت خلال مشاركتها في المؤتمر موقفها من المسألة العراقية، المستند إلى قرار وزراء الخارجية العرب في القاهرة، موضحاً أنّ هذا الموقف لقي استحساناً لدى الوفد الأميركي المشارك في المؤتمر. وأوضح المعلم أنّ «الوفد الأميركي طالب بفتح حوار مع سوريا فأجاب الوفد السوري بأنه ليس مخولاً له الحوار في بغداد… وإذا كنتم تريدون الحوار فأهلاً وسهلاً بكم في دمشق لبحث كافة المشاكل الموجودة بالمنطقة مع الحفاظ على آداب الحوار».
ونفى المعلم أي تدخل سوري في الشؤون الداخلية للبنان، مشدّداً على اعتبار موضوع المحكمة الدولية الخاصة بجريمة اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري «شأناً لبنانياً داخلياً ولا علاقة لسوريا به»، داعياً الأطراف اللبنانيين إلى التوافق على مبدأ المحكمة لمنع تسييسها.
(أ ش أ)

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March 31st, 2007, 7:15 am


58. Innocent_Criminal said:


Gibran is out.

Sheikh Mohammed/ Imad Makhlouf ,

Do NOT post under different names and if you make anymore anti-jewish or any other religious comments you’ll be banned.

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March 31st, 2007, 8:04 am


59. Syrian said:


Did you ban Gibran? If so, I would like to make a motion to unban him. He is annoying and lots of what he says does not contribute to anything; but we have to learn to work through the noise. Censorship is not what we need here.

We make lots of arguments about respecting others’ opinions but we turn around and we supress the opinion of the stupid!!?

Is it possible for us to accept that no matter how many people you annoy, you are still allowed to voice your view (even if it is dumb and idiotic).

I would not have any problem with deleting or editing hate language as a means of preserving civility in discussion; but to completely suppress speech is unnecessary.

Is this a first step to becoming like the blogs we earlier criticised?

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March 31st, 2007, 4:23 pm


60. Akbar Palace said:

Imad Makhloof said:

“…smart people wised up and start calling it “Conspiracy facts””


“Arabs are very well educated nowadays and will not fall for these kind of Jewish conspired and dictated scams”

Good, then I guess you’ll find most Arabs agreeing with the NIST report:

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March 31st, 2007, 4:55 pm


61. ausamaa said:

Alex, I.C.

Second what Syrian said. Is he banned for a while only as a warning to take the improper words out?

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March 31st, 2007, 5:17 pm


62. Alex said:

Ausamaa, Syrian,

I did not ban Gibran.

I.C. takes care of monitoring the content of comments and making sure there no hate, threats, or dirty language posted.

I was only suggesting to him a three strikes rule, which is common on many forums. I find it fair enough to warn people who lose their temper and start crossing the lines. Three warnings are fair enough …for intelligent people who are sensitive enough.

So yesterday Gibran used sexual insults (to me, and to the Syrian president)… after his endless rude comments and attacks on SC commentators he did not agree with.

I only suggested to give him a first warning for the sexual comment. Not to ban him .. unless he goes for it two more times… then it would be his choice to be banned. He is an adult I assume.

Don’t worry, if you noticed yesterday I actually enjoy getting on his nerves when he starts his silly attacks on me … but yesterday’s street language was not a direction we should allow here. If FOX NEWS does not allow it, we should not allow it… I assure you if we tolerate it, G and Gibran will make it a habit, then some will respond to them with the same language.

So If it up to me, I would consider that Gibran has two more warnings before he should be banned.

Ausamaa, this has nothing to do with banning opinions .. G and Gibran already left a million comments. Did we ever try to limit their ability to express opinions?

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March 31st, 2007, 5:53 pm


63. ausamaa said:

Of course, I know. I have seen more “mature” and “different” opinions here before.
I have not seen those latest Gibran insults anyway!But he could be feeling very bad seeing how things seem to be unraveling for the 14 Feb crowd. Not an execuse for bad language in any case!

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March 31st, 2007, 6:10 pm


64. ausamaa said:


Maybe, but do you not think that Syrian policy makers are aware of those possibilities?

They have played the external policy game well so far!

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March 31st, 2007, 6:20 pm


65. Ford Prefect said:

Imad Makhloof,
I agree with your number 1 above: the US is in Iraq to stay. Not only it is building the largest US Embassy in world, but also a number of vast military bases all over the Iraq (According to the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. is constructing 14 “enduring bases,” to serve as long-term encampments for thousands of American troops).

However, the other two pints in your essay indicate that there are planners, with semi-functioning brains somewhere on the inside of their heads, planning and plotting a grand scheme of “things”. While such a scheme might possible be in the heads of some delusional academics and neo-something or another, such a master plan lacks any “execution” credibility. To execute any plan, you need a leader with some kind of a mandate from his/her constituents (I am talking, of course, of the Western democracies).

Case in point: Let’s take a look at the job approval rating of the leaders who might be capable of executing such a plan: Bush 33%, Blair 28%, Chirac 24%, and Olmert: 23%. (If Olmert gets any lower, he might qualify for margin of error rebate!) These numbers indicate lame duck leaders barely capable of holding a state dinner – let alone a grand plan of re-working the Middle East.

There are no “executable” master plans for the Middle East, in as much as no there were no master plans for the Middle East upon the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Historians now point to the confusion, mistakes, and haphazard approach that characterized the British and the French debacle when they inherited the Middle East. It is no different today than it was 100 years ago – the West is capable of neither controlling nor rearranging the Middle East.

Today, as a result of the colossal failure of the US and Britain in Iraq and the humiliating defeat of the highly-capable Israeli army by 3,000 guerrilla fighters, never in history has been so much overwhelming power and capacity rendered as irrelevant and meaningless. The might of the US, British, NATO, and Israeli military forces have been irreparably marginalized and, in fact, proven to produce undesirable results that none had ever imagined.

The more things change, the more the stay the same. George Bernard Shaw couldn’t have said it better: “ Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.”

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March 31st, 2007, 9:17 pm


66. Gibran said:

Hey Guys all/Josh:
First IC must apologize, refrain from banning or unbanning any commenter in the future, repost what he deleted and promise not to touch any future posts.
Second, I don’t abide by any rules.
Third, SC is full of nonsense to the point that it will not cause any loss of sleep to anyone being ‘banned’ from posting.

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April 1st, 2007, 4:20 pm


67. Alex said:


It is very simple. Your Ideas and thoughts and opinions are always welcome.

But your street language willl not be allowed, and if you persist then you will be banned. If I did the same I will be banned. Just like any other blog.

If you feel that personal insults and repeated accusations are the only thing you can contribute then I think we can do without you.

There will be no apology. No need to dramatize things. I did not ask you for an apology for all your insults. I have better things to do.

Basically, we do not want you to turn this blog into a circus.

Joshua will write a post to explain teh rules that will apply to everyone. It is his blog, remember?

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April 1st, 2007, 4:49 pm


68. Gibran said:

The so-called rules of this Alex and IC will not be observed. Else we have no interest in visiting your blog. I still demand an apology from IC, reposting what he deleted and a promise he will not touch any post of any commenter in the future.

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April 1st, 2007, 4:55 pm


69. Innocent_Criminal said:


Keep dreaming, and speaking about yourself in the plural 3rd person reminds me if a certain schizophrenic spammer

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April 1st, 2007, 6:12 pm


70. Syrian said:


How many would be offended if someone stopped visiting this blog?

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April 1st, 2007, 6:39 pm


71. Gibran said:

Your state of mental retardation speaks for itself. Obviously, you can’t find a decent job beside this triviality of SC. So, hang on to it with all your teeth. Who has the time to waste on your likes?

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April 1st, 2007, 7:46 pm


72. Alex said:

Gibran 7abibi,

Simple question, so that we can go back to more intersting issues:

Do you want to continue posting here while respecting our right to express our opinions without having to read your repetitive follow up of accusations and insults? … you know that if you can manage to do so, others will treat you with the same respect in return?

You can still be sarcastic .. minus the accusations.

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April 1st, 2007, 7:55 pm


73. Gibran said:

You, Josh and this retarded IC must observe the following:

First IC must apologize, refrain from banning or unbanning any commenter in the future, repost what he deleted and promise not to touch any future posts.
Second, I don’t abide by any rules.
Third, SC is full of nonsense to the point that it will not cause any loss of sleep to anyone being ‘banned’ from posting.

Otherwise, I have no interest in SC triviality. Period.

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April 1st, 2007, 8:08 pm


74. nemoforone said:

What about the possibility of pulling out of Iraq, letting Iran invade and lose resources fighting their own kind,
and then come in and mop up the dregs?

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April 4th, 2007, 4:32 am


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