ISSN 2330-717X

A Saudi-Israeli-Palestinian Negotiation Table – OpEd

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By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

The Palestinians met the Israelis in Jordan for the first time in 16 months. And these days there is talk about what is the best solution to end the issue of the Palestinian refugees before the UN withdraws its financial support. In addition to serious talks about a two-state solution. But, the whole world heard this many times before. So, is the Palestinian issue solvable and who can really have a solution? Could it be some one the Israelis never met? Here is my humble opinion:

In the historic meeting between the founder of modern Saudi Arabia (King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud) and the world leader at the time, the American President (Franklin D. Roosevelt) which took place on Feb.14, 1945 aboard US Navy Cruiser Quincy, one of the topics which were discussed was the Palestinian issue. That was three years before the UN vote for the establishment of the State of Israel. So, Saudi Arabia had a very early interest in the Palestinian issue, and the Saudis always put the Palestinian issue in their foreign policy agenda.

In later years, the Palestinian issue took a major turn in the world arena. King Faisal in 1973 used the oil as a means of pressuring the West to look more closely at the Palestinian issue. This time, Saudi Arabia gave the issue a priority over its own economic and political interests. Oil is the bread and butter of Saudi Arabia.

The issue became the focus of the world during a visit by King Fahd to the United States in 1985. President Ronald Reagan at the time had a different point of view from King Fahd. Reagan didn’t want the discussions of specific points in regard to the Palestinians with King Fahd during his visit to Washington D.C., but, Reagan knew the heavy weight Saudi Arabia and King Fahd had in the Arab, Islamic and international arena. We all remember, it was King Fahd’s phone call to Reagan that guaranteed the safe departure of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from Lebanon in the early 1980s. Both leaders, King Fahd and President Reagan ended up giving the Palestinian issue the attention it needed at that time. During that period, Fahd had a plan for a solution for the Palestinian issue. It was an irony that the Palestinians are the ones who refused it. And now they are regretting it. It was King Fahd’s 8-point plan in 1981. Later on, it was named Fez (Morocco) initiative in 1982. Again, in 2002, Saudi Arabia had an Arab Peace Initiative. It was proposed by King Abdullah (crown prince at the time). Now, the Israelis are the ones who rejected it, even though some Israeli leaders such as Shimon Perez liked the initiative. So, Saudi Arabia went the extra mile to solve the Palestinian issue. And the strangest thing about the efforts of Saudi Arabia to solve this issue is that, it is all done and not one single meeting between the Saudis and Israelis ever took place. Now, can the Saudis solve the Palestinian issue without seeing or talking to the Israelis face-to-face?

When I was a student in the US during the Camp David peace agreement between the Egyptians and the Israelis in the late 1970s, I wished the Syrians would follow with an agreement that would get them back the Golan Heights. And the Palestinians would solve the refugee issue and have a place they can call home.

The Syrians and Palestinians refused even to talk about a peace agreement with the Israelis. And I still remember setting next to an Israeli-American in a restaurant on Nov. 23, 1978 in New York and watching my favorite team on television, the Dallas Cowboys beating Washington Red Skins 37-10 who simply told me, the Palestinians and Syrians are against the Camp David Accord. So, from now on, the Palestinian crisis will only be solved by the Saudis…and only a Saudi king can do what President Jimmy Carter, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin couldn’t do. And Riyadh will achieve what Camp David wasn’t able to accomplish.

Saudi Arabia had always mastered the art of negotiations. Once given, Saudi words and promises are kept. And it is Saudi Arabia who has the ability to influence the big powers to solve the Palestinian issue. After the Arab Spring, it is obvious that Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria are sidelined, and the Palestinians have Riyadh to really rely on for support. And the negotiation table will be enough for three people, a Saudi, an Israeli and a Palestinian. Now, how do we get the three to sit down and solve the most complicated and most agonizing issue in modern history? Now, people are losing interest in the Palestinian issue. And the Palestinian refugees, sooner or later, will no longer be under the umbrella of the United Nations. But, Saudis, Israelis and Palestinian negotiators must keep the extremists away from the negotiation table. Solving the refugee issue is the biggest step to solving the Palestinian issue.

— Write to Abdulateef Al-Mulhim at: [email protected]

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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