Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Saudi Plan will Find no Traction in Sand Dunes of Refugees and Final Borders

Once again the Saudis have offered up a supposedly fair and far-reaching proposal, the new and improved 2002 Saudi initiative. But the same problems remain, only magnified by a recalcitrant and radical Hamas-led Palestinian government. What are those problems? The demand that Israel return completely to the pre-1967 borders (see the Bush letter to Sharon in April of 2004, affirming the major settlement blocks near Jerusalem as irrefutable 'facts on the ground'),
as well as the 'right of return' of Palestinian refugees-and their descendants-into Israel proper. These are non-starters for Israel, and even the most dovish of Israeli governments would be forced to reject them outright.
The Saudis of course know this, and are maneuvering cleverly to present themselves as fair arbiters to both sides, hoping to, if nothing else, win favor in Washington and with opinion elites the world over. Since the world is desperate for any sense of movement on the Israeli-Arab front, many are likely to prod Israel into entering negotiations without any pre-conditions.
Since the Saudis share an interest with Israel, namely to prevent the spread of the Iranian dominated Shia Crescent and to combat the continued growth of Sunni Jihadists, they could in fact, do much more. But for that, they will have to take some real risks, and not just posture with empty public relations ploys.

Arab Leaders Rule Out Amending Saudi Proposal
Last week the Arab League said it would relaunch the 2002 Saudi initiative, but Arab leaders said it would not include changes Israel has been pushing for. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria on Tuesday explained their reasons for turning down Israel's request to amend the proposal. "We have the Arab peace plan and we are committed to it as a whole. Talk about amending it is baseless," Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's spokesman Suleiman Awwad said, "Israel cannot pick and choose from the initiative and then jump into establishing normal relations with Arabs." Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said, "We have no desire to negotiate over this."

Overrated New Initiative - Hillel Halkin
Every couple of years, a much-ballyhooed new initiative has surfaced to solve the Israel-Arab problem. Will anyone remember the current "Saudi initiative" 40 or even five years from now? Not unless the Saudis are willing to go a lot further toward meeting minimal Israeli conditions for a peace agreement. There is no way that even the most dovish Israeli government can agree either to return all the way to the pre-1967 borders or to accept a massive influx of the descendants of the 1948 refugees. And because the Saudis know this, they also know that their initiative in its current form is no more than a propaganda ploy. This is not to say that the Saudis would not like to see Israel at peace with the Arab world as part of their efforts to contain the spread of Iranian and Sunni jihadist influence. They are simply not, so far, willing to take any real risks to do so.

See You Later, Riyadh - Eitan Haber
One has to know and remember that the "Saudi plan" in its current form is a recipe for the destruction of Israel. Agreement (over which there is not even the slightest possibility) to absorb in Israel hundreds of thousands or even millions of Palestinian refugees means from our standpoint that we have to pack our bags. The conclusion at this point can only be to agree to discuss the Saudi plan, but not agree to the lethal clauses that are contained in it. (Yediot Ahronot, 13Mar07)

The Saudi Mirage - Editorial (New York Sun)

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