I woke up this morning with an email from my friend Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, former commodore in the Saudi Navy, asking me if I read the op-ed by the Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal, published in Haaretz.
I replied to Abdulateef that I had read it and was sending my observations through a post in The Times of Israel.
As I prepared to write my comments, I watched Abbas saying in Ramallah that “Israel is committing a genocide.” Without even referring to WWII or Rwanda, or to what is going on in Syria, perhaps Abbas should be reminded of what Hamas did to his own people in Gaza, back in June of 2007?
So, my wishful thinking that Abbas would use the last days’ rocket firing into Israel to distance himself from Hamas went up in flames – no pun intended… Abbas showed that he is incapable of leading his people to an initiative that would offer them, and the Israelis as well, a glimpse of hope.
In his pathetic address to his cabinet – televised to the Arab population in order to provoke more incitement, simply put — he showed that he is not a leader, but rather, a coward.
Which brings me to Prince Turki’s piece at Haaretz, where he reiterates that the road to peace is the 2002 Saudi Peace Initiative.
While I agree with many things that the Prince writes, including that the Saudi initiative could be a template, the Prince should recognize that like any template, it needs to be adapted to the appropriate situation.
But even before adapting to the current situation, there are historical facts that raise a big question mark regarding a fundamental piece of the Saudi proposal. As we all know, and I have mentioned this in the past, the primary concern of Israel is its security. The Saudi initiative proposes to leave Israel’s security in the hands of the United Nations. Reminder: in 1967, UN forces quickly withdrew from their positions in the Sinai Peninsula at the request of the Egyptians, who then amassed huge forces to attack Israel. Need I also mention the UN’s failure in more recent events, such as Bangladesh, Bosnia and Darfur?
Prince Turki, this is the first item that needs to be fixed in the Saudi template.
Other items? Following are just a couple more:
– You say “Golan Heights can be put under UN administration until a new government can take them…” I will not refer to the UN portion, as I already did above. So, lets talk about “until a new government can take them.” Which government? Assad? The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant? Do you really think it would be wise for Israel to relinquish that piece of land under the current circumstances? As far I know from the latest news, even Saudi Arabia is now threatened by ISIL….
– According to you, the initiative could “be adjusted to take account of whatever was freely agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians in their negotiations.” Negotiations? Like the one we just saw last month, when Abbas added Hamas to their government? The same Hamas that has been constantly and indiscriminately pounding Israel with its rockets? Negotiations with Abbas, who instead of taking this occasion to reject Hamas, is in fact endorsing them and claiming that Israel “is doing a genocide”?
Yes, I agree with you: the entire region could flourish tremendously if conflicts in the area would end. But the first step is not forcing on Israel to accept a resolution that endangers its own existence. The first step is for leaders like you to recognize that there is something much deeper bothering Arabs all around the Middle East, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is just an excuse. Your best bet is to support Israel against extremism and to support the improvement of the lives of Arabs in the entire Middle East.
Prince Turki, you know that you live in an environment as unstable as Israel does. Money from oil has only helped your Kingdom buy time and protection. You know that well. But one day, things can turn against the Kingdom and it will not be easy to stay in power.
As a regional power, Saudi Arabia can have a significant place in the history of the Middle East. And you could have your own place by accepting Amos Yadlin’s invitation to visit Israel, speak to the Knesset, and start a dialogue that I am sure would be followed by people with goodwill.