Israel 'holds secret Saudi talks'
Israeli officials are saying that Israel has held 'secret talks' with Saudi Arabia. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has held an unprecedented meeting with a senior member of the Saudi royal family,
"I did not meet the Saudi king and I did not meet with any element that should have caused a media sensation," said Ehud Olmert according to a statement published by Yediot's website, reports Haaretz.com.
Like most things that occur in secrecy shrouded Middle East, the news of a meeting between Ehud Olmert and Saudi officials began in denial.
So he did meet someone. When? And what transpired?
About twelve days ago, Haaretz reported Olmert met Prince Bander. The prince has positioned himself as Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council. Until last year Prince Bander was one of the longest serving Saudi Ambassador in Washington D.C. He was a beltway insider for close to twenty two years: a confidante of Presidents and Senators and Congressmen.
The only other person King Abdullah could have trusted with this task would have been Prince Faisal al Saud, the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister. Then the ironic twist of history would come have come full circle. The other Prince Faisal got along famously with Chaim Weizmann in 1919. Both shared a disdain for the Palestinians.
Why this sudden re-emergence of the Abdullah Peace Plan, first promoted in 2002?
One word answer, Lebanon!
The Lebanese excursion has wounded Ehud Olmert badly. His credibility took a big hit. The Hezbollah resistance has made the Saudis uncomfortable too. They do not like Iran’s increasing influence in the region. There are other factors playing here too.
The Arab Peace Initiative
At the Beirut Summit of the Arab League on Mar 28, 2002, then Crown Prince, now King Abdullah, published this peace plan with the unanimous consent of all members of the League.
It called for the recognition of State of Israel and establishment of cordial relations with it by all Arab States. In return, State of Israel will withdraw its forces to pre 1967 borders and recognize the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. Text of Document here
The turbulence in the Middle East overtook the good intents of this Plan. While this was a first step in the direction of a comprehensive and long term peace in this region it purposefully left out issues to be settled later.
Some of the major issues it did not address:
* The role of USA, the UN and other world Agencies as a guarantor
* The border and militarization of the State of Palestine
* Return of the Jewish and Palestinian Diaspora
* Prisoner exchange
* Distribution of water resources
By guaranteeing recognition and peaceful coexistence this peace Initiative went a long way in addressing modern Israel’s perennial insecurity: that of her lack of strategic depth. Abdullah rightly regarded this as a first step. Comprehensive peace would follow.
With the amount of hostility and suspicion generated between Israel and her neighbors since 1948, it is not illogical to understand that Israeli politicians would extract airtight guarantees from the rest of the world also. Enter the US, the UN, NATO perhaps, Japan, Russia, India.
One big obstacle to peace in the region would be big business. If there is peace, Ike’s ‘military-industrial-complex’ would lose. Also, not to be overlooked are people who do not want peace. This includes hard liners, both Israeli and Palestinian, as well as those in neighboring Arab countries and Iran.