A few words about the Saudi Peace Initiative—and a few questions…
Text: Arab peace plan of 2002
This is the official translation of the Saudi-proposed Arab peace initiative adopted at the annual Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002 (as it appeared on http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1844214.stm).
The Council of the League of Arab States at the Summit Level, at its 14th Ordinary Session,
– Reaffirming the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Extra-Ordinary Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab Countries, to be achieved in accordance with International Legality, and which would require a comparable commitment on the part of the Israeli Government.
– Having listened to the statement made by His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in which his Highness presented his Initiative, calling for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land for peace principle, and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.
– Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
c. The acceptance of the establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab Countries affirm the following:
a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the Government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab Countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability, and prosperity.
6. Invites the International Community and all countries and Organizations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the Chairman of the Summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim States and the European Union.
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On the face of it, this proposal sounds fine, other than the fact that it was presented as an “all-or-nothing”, “take-it-or-leave-it” proposal. That is, until you read the relevant documents mentioned. There are issues (purposely?) left untouched and a number of very pertinent questions that must be answered.
Despite this Saudi “all or nothing” ultimatum, I have a few questions that I’d like answered before I can even decide whether this is a serious offer for peace, or just more smoke and mirrors.
Can the 19 Arab League countries still “at war” with Israel (Egypt and Jordan already have separate treaties with Israel) guarantee that all the 36 non-Arab Muslim member nations of the OIC (specifically including Iran) will abide by this agreement?
For that matter, can they guarantee that “non-government resistance parties” such as Hamas and Hizballah will abide by it? Can they guarantee that Hamas or Fatah will renounce their declared objective of destroying Israel?
Now let’s take the UN Resolutions mentioned in order:
UNGA Resolution 194 specifically states:
“Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;
“Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;”
Three points are relevant here: first, the Arab League in its entirety rejected this resolution in 1949. Can anyone resurrect a UN Resolution thatthey themselves killed 63 years ago? Is history like a schoolyard game, where the loser can cry “Do Over” long after the game has ended? Second, the statement says that those “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours” should be allowed to do so. Since this is offered as a “package deal”, there must be some guarantee that those allowed to return to their homes actually intend to “live at peace with their neighbours”. Can any such guarantees be provided? So far, the answer is a resounding “No”.
Third, does this include the more than one million Jewish refugees (and their descendants) from the Arab and Muslim states (including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan) who were dispossessed, disenfranchised and expelled, often with only $50 and one suitcase per person?
UNSC Resolution 242 states:
“Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
“Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
“Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;
“Affirms further the necessity
“For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area; (Remember, the original cause of the 6-Day War was the Egyptian blockade of the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping.)
“For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
“For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;”
We come back to the same questions as above:
Can the Arab League speak for the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference)? 35 of the 56 Member nations are non-Arab countries, and will not be bound by this peace initiative unless they specifically ratify it. [To date – the end of 2012 – this plan hasn’t even been brought before the OIC for discussion, let alone ratification.]
Can the Arab League guarantee that Hizballah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the other non-state entities involved in the conflict will “terminate all claims or states of belligerency”?
Once again, does the “achieving a just settlement for the refugee problem” include the Jewish refugees from Arab/Muslim states? Experts in international law claim that it MUST include the Jewish refugees, or there is no “just settlement”.
Another point to note is that while the “Saudi Peace Initiative” demands the withdrawal of Israeli forced from “all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.” UNSC Resolution does no such thing. The words “all the” are NOT included in UNSCR 242, and for good reason… over the objections of the USSR and the Arab states involved. The 1949 Cease-fire lines are just that– lines where the forces were positioned when a cease-fire agreement was reached. There was never any intention, then or now, among the writers of the resolution, that the 1949 Cease-fire lines would, could or should be the final borders.
UNSC Resolution 338 states:
“The Security Council,
“Calls upon all parties to present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately, no later than 12 hours after the moment of the adoption of this decision, in the positions after the moment of the adoption of this decision, in the positions they now occupy;
“Calls upon all parties concerned to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) in all of its parts;
“Decides that, immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”
The first part of this resolution has been fulfilled, what remains is the second part. Any “durable peace in the Middle East” MUST include the issue of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries in accordance with the same criteria used for the Arab refugees. Anything else is doomed to failure.
Any “durable peace in the Middle East” MUST include the disarmament and abolishment of any non-government force, whether it is Hamas, Fatah, Hizballah, Islamic Jihad or any other non-state entity.
In the absence of Saudi Arabia agreeing to negotiate on the basis of these terms or, indeed, to even clarify their meanings and scope, one has to wonder if the initiative is purely political and not guided by a genuine desire for peace. One also has to wonder at the timing—this proposal was aired only a few months after 9/11/2001, at a time when anti-Saudi feelings in the US were at an all-time high. There has been much speculation in diplomatic circles as to whether this was a tactic to distract the Western public from the role Saudi citizens played in 9/11 or not. It’s a relevant question, since if it was intended as a distraction, then it’s real worth towards finding a solution to the conflict is nil.
Before agreeing to such a blank check, Israel must see that this initiative is ratified not only by the individual governments of the Arab League states, but by all the member states of the OIC. Prior to making a proposal intended to bind the entire Muslim world, the Saudi government has to verify that it does indeed speak for that community of nations. Without that verification, open for all to see, this “initiative” has to be viewed as just another subterfuge to pressure Israel into agreeing to its own destruction.
Nowhere in international law can one find any statement that requires a sovereign country to commit suicide. Blind acceptance of the Saudi initiative without clarifications, negotiations of the details and guarantees of adherence by ALL parties would be such an act.
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I wrote this and posted it in a number of forums almost ten years ago, when the so-called Saudi Peace Plan” was first brought up. It’s basically a reiteration of the Arab demands immediately following the 6-Day War. My questions remain unanswered. In the interim, it has stopped being called the “Saudi Initiative”, and is now called the “Arab Initiative”. That is the only thing that’s changed. It’s still an “All-or-nothing”, “take-it-or-leave-it” document leaving no room for clarifications, explanations or negotiations.
Until such time as my questions are answered to my satisfaction, there is no way that I (or most Israelis who think objectively and want peace) can accept this “initiative” as it stands. Show me the international law that requires a country to commit national suicide.