A VACUOUS PROPOSAL
By Major Shawn Pine
The international community, and the Israeli left, has lauded the Saudi proposal as a significant breakthrough that will revive the dying peace process. However, in reality, the Saudi proposal for full normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories captured in the 1967 War, is little more than a facade and a Saudi attempt to extricate Arafat and the Palestinians from the abyss.
The Saudi proposal goes far beyond what was agreed upon under Oslo and even UN resolution 242. Unlike Oslo, and the language of UN resolution 242, this proposal does not contemplate a negotiated return of the territories captured in the June 1967 War. Rather, it calls for a complete withdrawal from all the territories. In return for these significant and tangible concessions the Saudis are offering the Israelis recognition and "normalization" of relations.
However, to understand what the Saudis are offering requires one to understand what the Saudis are saying. The Saudi rhetoric is reflective of the doublespeak of the Arab world. In essence, the Saudi proposal is analogous to the now famous statement that to know what they are really offering depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. For the Saudis, and most of the Arab people in the region, terrorism is not defined by the act. Rather, it is defined by the motives behind the act. In their surreal world, blowing up teenagers at a disco, attacking a pizzeria, blowing up buses, or attacking a Bat Mitzvah party is not terrorism.
For example, Saudi foreign policy minister Adel al-Jubeir appeared on national news shows promoting the Saudi proposal. During a February 24 interview he reiterated the Saudi position as condemning terrorism. However, what al-Jubeir failed to explain is that the Saudi definition of what constitutes terrorism is different than that understood by most Americans. While he was condemning terrorism, King Fahd and Prince Abdullah proclaimed that any definition of terrorism needs to "consider the right of the peoples under occupation to resistance." Additionally, on January 30, the Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif, referring to Israel's presence in the territories, called for "a distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for the defense of dignity and land." Ironically, this is the same logic and rationale used by the Bin Laden to justify his attacks on America. Bin Laden always proclaimed that his immediate goal was to secure the removal of Western presence from Islamic holy territories. Moreover, this is precisely the rhetoric that is used by Arafat to justify his failure to live up to any of the agreements he signed since Oslo and the Palestinians to justify their attacks on Israeli civilians.
At the core of the Saudi's proposal is that they are suggesting that Israel once make tangible concessions for some nebulous promise of normalization and recognition. In the final analysis, the one lesson from Oslo that the Israelis should have learned is that such agreements are vacuous absence a real commitment and desire for peace. The Saudi rhetoric, as well as that emanating from virtually every other Arab country in the region, suggests that the time is not propitious for such a proposal. What the Saudi's are essentially offering is an absence of war. Which is what Israel already enjoys with Saudi Arabia. While the establishment of an Israeli embassy in Riyadh may warm the insides of supporters of the peace process it will not represent a fundamental shift in either the attitudes of those countries or their desire or willingness to integrate Israel in the region.
If history is any indication, this current "breakthrough" will go the way of every other agreement with the Palestinians. Israel will make further territorial withdrawals, as part of a phased implementation of the new process, and issues of contention will be left for the final talks after the two sides have developed the requisite mutual trust (that was precisely how the Oslo process was designed). After Israel withdrawals from most of the territories, the talks will collapse and the Arab states will use this as a rational for not normalizing relations with Israel. In this respect, the Israelis would be wise to look at their experience in Lebanon and Hizballah where, notwithstanding a total Israeli withdraw from that country, Hizballah uses the Israeli presence at Shebaa Farms to continue its attacks on that country.
The one constant in Palestinian diplomacy is their unwillingness to face reality and to make the painful concessions that require a negotiated settlement. Arafat's and Palestinian support for Saddam Hussien's invasion of Kuwait, Arafat's categorical rejection of Baraks offer at Camp David, and the cheering of Palestinians over the attacks of September 11, make it clear that Palestinian radicalism is alive and well.
The United States, rather than seek was to reestablish the peace process, should tell Arafat that he either immediately, and unconditionally, rein in Palestinian terrorist groups or be prepared to go the way of the Taliban. The U.S. should unequivocally tell Arafat that he is either against terrorism, as defined by the US, or a supporter of it. Moreover, rather than try to get the Israelis to the negotiating table, we should be pressuring them to take more decisive action against. As far as the French and the Europeans are concerned, President Bush should remember that many of the current conflicts in the world were a result of the enlightened foreign policy of the Europeans. Moreover, twice within the last century we had to step in and end world conflicts that were precipitated by the Europeans. Given that history, a "simplistic" approach to terrorism may be what is needed.
Shawn Pine is a Major in the active US Army Reserves specializing in counterintelligence and is a military/strategic analyst. He has published a number of articles concerning the prevailing political, military, and strategic environment in the Middle East and is a research associate of the Israeli-based Ariel Center for Policy Research and the US-based Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.