Saudi price for ties with Israel is Palestinian state, says Saudi royal
Saudi Arabia’s price for normalising relations with Israel is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, a senior member of the Saudi royal family reaffirmed on Friday.
Prince Turki al-Faisal was apparently responding to U.S. President Donald Trump who said on Wednesday he expected Saudi Arabia to join a deal announced last week by Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalise diplomatic ties.
The UAE is only the third Arab state in more than 70 years to forge full relations with Israel. Under the U.S.-brokered deal, Israel shelved plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians seek as part of a future state.
The UAE said Israel’s commitment had kept alive the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel hitherto had no formal ties with Gulf Arab states but shared concerns with the UAE about Iran’s regional influence and actions, along with the UAE’s role as a regional business hub, led to a limited thaw and discreet contacts in recent years.
The Middle East 'peace process': A slogan to mask the marking of time
"Sometime in the mid-1970s the term peace process became widely used to describe the American-led efforts to bring about a negotiated peace between Israel and its neighbours. The phrase stuck and ever since it has been synonymous with the gradual, step-by-step approach to resolving one of the world's most difficult conflicts." (William B. Quandt in the introduction to his book Peace Process)
UN Security Council Resolution 242, 1967: United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed on 22 November 1967, called for the exchange of land for peace. Since then, many of the attempts to establish peace in the region have referred to 242. The resolution was written in accordance with Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which resolutions are recommendations, not orders
Camp David Accords, 1978: this picture, taken on 26 March 1979, shows Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, his U.S. counterpart Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin after signing the peace treaty in Washington. A coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria, fought in the Yom Kippur or October War in October 1973. This war eventually led to the peace talks which lasted 12 days and resulted in two agreements
The Madrid Conference in 1991: the U.S. and the former Soviet Union came together to organise a conference in the Spanish capital city of Madrid. The discussions, which involved Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians, who met with Israeli negotiators for the first time, achieved little, although it did create the framework for later talks
Oslo Agreement, 1993: negotiations, which took place in Norway, between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) resulted in the first deal between the two sides, the Oslo Accord. The agreement was signed in the U.S. in September 1993. It demanded that Israeli troops withdraw from West Bank and Gaza and a self-governing, interim Palestinian authority be set up for a five-year transitional period
Camp David 2000: U.S. President, Bill Clinton, invited Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, to discuss borders, security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Despite more detailed negotiations than ever before, no agreement was reached. The failure to reach a consensus at Camp David was followed by renewed Palestinian uprising
The Arab Peace Initiative 2002: the Camp David negotiations were followed by meetings in Washington, then in Cairo and Taba, Egypt. They too were without results. Later, the Arab Peace Initiative was proposed in Beirut in March 2002. The plan called on Israel to withdraw to the lines of June 1967, so that a Palestinian state could be set up in the West Bank and Gaza. In return, Arab countries agreed to recognise Israel
The Roadmap, 2003: the U.S., EU, Russia and the UN worked together as the Middle East Quartet to develop a road map to peace. In June 2003, Prime Minister Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, accepted the road map, with the Security Council also approving it in November. The timetable called for the final agreement to be reached in 2005. Unfortunately, it was never implemented
Annapolis, 2007: in 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush hosted a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to re-launch the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, took part in talks with officials from the Quartet and over a dozen Arab states. It was agreed that further negotiations would be held with the goal of reaching a peace deal by the end of 2008
Washington 2010: in 2010, special U.S. Envoy George Mitchell’s efforts led to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to and implementing a ten-month moratorium on settlements in disputed territories. Later, Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all issues. Negotiations began in Washington in September 2010, but within weeks there was a deadlock
Cycle of escalation and ceasefire continues: a new round of violence broke out in and around Gaza late 2012. A ceasefire was reached between Israel and those in power in the Gaza Strip, which held until June 2014. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 resulted in renewed violence and eventually led to the launch of the Israeli military operation, Protective Edge, which ended with a ceasefire on 26 August 2014
Paris summit, 2017: envoys from over 70 countries gathered in Paris, France, to discuss the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu slammed the discussions as "rigged" against his country. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives attended the summit. "A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said at the opening of the event. By Aasim Saleem
The deal raised speculation that other U.S.-backed Gulf Arab countries might follow. But Prince Turki said Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power which has traditionally guided policy towards Israel, expected a higher return from Israel.
“Any Arab state that is considering following the UAE should demand in return a price, and it should be an expensive price,” he wrote in the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set a price for concluding peace between Israel and the Arabs - it is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, as provided for by the initiative of the late King Abdullah.”
That 2002 Arab League plan offered Israel normalised ties in return for Israeli withdrawal from all territories - the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem - captured in the 1967 Middle East war, and a Palestinian state there.
But Prince Turki also voiced understanding for the UAE’s decision, noting that Riyadh’s close ally had secured a key condition - a halt to Israeli annexation plans.
In the first Saudi reaction to the UAE-Israeli deal, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said on Wednesday Riyadh remained committed to the Arab peace initiative.
Prince Turki, a former ambassador to Washington and ex-intelligence chief, holds no government office now but remains influential as current chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. (Reuters)