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Not Another Saudi Peace Plan...

By David Warren

Oh no, not the Saudi peace plan again.

King Abdullah has resuscitated the proposal he last mooted in 2002 through the journalist, Thomas Friedman -- this time in the son et lumière of the 19th Arab League summit in Riyadh, with 14 other unelected Arab leaders signing on; and in the fawning presence of Condoleezza Rice of the U.S., Javier Solana of the E.U., and Ban Ki-moon of the U.N. Once again the proposal is merely declared. Israel gets to read about it in the papers, for as usual, the House of Saud will not speak to Jews directly.

The proposal is simple. Israel must withdraw to its boundaries before the 1967 Six Day War, surrendering much of Jerusalem and all its defensible military positions to a new Palestinian government dominated by the overtly terrorist party, Hamas. And then, Israel will allow a "right of return" to several million descendants of Palestinian refugees from 1948, swamping it with people who have all their lives vowed to destroy it. In return, Israel will be "recognized" by "all" Arab states. This is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, for as King Abdullah was quick to add, Israeli hesitation to meet any of these conditions will leave it at the mercy of the "lords of war."

And what is new? The proposal is part of a manoeuvre against the threat of Iran. The Saudis had just hosted an intra-Palestinian peace round, in which Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah was bullied into accepting the guiding role of Hamas. They are trying to lead the Muslim world's Sunni factions against the dynamic expansion of the revolutionary Shia Persian prestige. They must in effect compete with the ayatollahs in the evocation of Islamic triumphalism, and in sticking it to Israel. I can discern no sincerity in their peace proposal, whatever. From what appears to be coming, I can only advise my reader to invest in ethanol.

King Abdullah publicly asks, "What did anybody ever gain by trying to make peace with Israel?"

This is an odd rhetorical question from a party ostensibly proposing peace with Israel. But it is a commonplace of what we still fondly call the "Arab Street" (on the racist assumption that all Arabs think alike). The belief that Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein gained nothing by signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1978, is blatantly false. Egypt got back the Sinai, and a secure Suez Canal, for starters; and Jordan could have had almost all the West Bank had its late king not realized that he couldn't govern its "Palestinian" inhabitants, and that his fellow Arabs wouldn't let him. Both leaders were relieved of the tremendous fiscal, administrative, and psychological burden of having to maintain a country in readiness for war. That's not nothing.

"Land for peace" was only negotiable because, in the old Camp David agreements, a Palestinian "right of return" was not negotiable. You cannot ask the only Jewish state, occupying a miniscule patch within a vast Arab region, to be Arabized. You cannot ask this of an Israeli electorate consisting in high proportion of Jews whose own parents were rudely evicted from many Arab countries; and who, unlike the roughly equivalent number of Palestinian refugees created during the foundation of Israel in 1948, had to make their own way to safety. The United Nations takes care of refugee Palestinians (to whom other Arab states still refuse to grant citizenship), down to the third and fourth generation, with our tax money. Jews fend for themselves.

Now, Israel's disastrous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has bought rhetorically into the Saudi "peace plan," with the enthusiasm of a man suffering from Stockholm syndrome. The leader who made a botch of Israel's defence against Hezbollah, and has allowed the Iranian-sponsored terrorists to rebuild their infrastructure in southern Lebanon, seems to think there is some margin in "playing nice" to his country's tormentors. Israel has already incurred a heavy price for his Neville-Chamberlain premiership, and the Arabs are in a mood for collecting.

His thinking, so far as it can be thus described, was articulated by his defence minister yesterday. The incompetent Amir Peretz said, "Israel must not be seen as the party that rejected the plan." Surely, after six decades of consistent Arab malignity, Israel is beyond keeping up appearances.

The official West continues to buy into the fantasy that peace can only come by meeting the non-negotiable demands of tyrants half-way. The question for our diplomats can only be, "What did anybody ever gain by appeasement?"

© Ottawa Citizen

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