The official Saudi position on the Mideast peace plan presented last week by U.S. President Donald Trump was one of qualified support.
A Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction to the plan’s release stated, inter alia, that “the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”
At the same time, the Saudi press reported that King Salman had spoken by phone with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has rejected the U.S. plan out of hand, to “stress to him the Kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.” The king reportedly added: “The Kingdom stands alongside the Palestinian people and supports its choices and what[ever] will actualize its hopes and aspirations.”
Despite this qualified stance, there has been support for the Trump initiative in the Saudi government media and in tweets by journalists and intellectuals. Some called on the Palestinians not to miss this opportunity for an arrangement and to approach the plan with a positive mindset. The articles and tweets stated that history shows that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one before it, and that if they reject the “deal of the century” now, they will long for it in the future.
Saudi Shura Council member Ibrahim al-Nahas, who lectures on political science at King Saud University, told the Saudi daily ‘Okaz: “‘Trump’s Peace Plan,’ or, as media call it, the ‘deal of the century,’ is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general.”
This, he said, “does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives; however, it should be kept in mind that all the Americans’ proposed peace plans, including this one, have always been based on the current situation, not on international resolutions and legislation.”
He added that “all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience.”
“Arab elements too,” he said, “must closely examine Trump’s peace plan before releasing their decisions, which largely match the emotional aspect,” because “history has proven [such decisions] wrong.”
Saudi journalist Ahmad ‘Adnan wrote in his column in the ‘Okaz: “The P.A. has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis. Let us present a few regrettable examples.
“At the 1939 London conference, and before that at the Cyprus conference, the Arabs rejected the Zionist proposal that the percentage of Jewish members of parliament in the future state in Palestine should be 33% so that the parliament in that Arab country would not pass laws against them. The Arabs rejected the Partition Plan [U.N. Resolution] 181 in 1947. Tunisian president [Habib] Bourguiba’s statements about peace in Jericho in 1965 [garnered] Palestinian and Arab condemnation. The Arabs ignored the Arab kingdom’s initiative proposed by King Hussein bin Talal [of Jordan] in 1972.
“The Arabs boycotted Egypt after the1978 Camp David Accords; [Syrian president] Hafez al-Assad rejected the ‘Rabin Deposit’ [proposal for Israel-Syria normalization] (1994-96); Yasser Arafat thwarted the Camp David II summit in 2000; some Arabs (Qatar, Syria, and Hamas) conspired against the Arab peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 at the Beirut summit in accordance with a Saudi proposal.
“With regard to the Palestinian refugees, I will mention president Bill Clinton’s and [Israeli prime minister] Ehud Barak’s proposal to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit to allow the refugees to return to an independent Palestinian state and the return of 50,000 refugees every year to the State of Israel as part of family reunification, and [paying] reparations to refugees who do not want to return. Clinton committed to a sum of $20 billion along with his efforts to obtain a similar sum from Europe, Japan and the Gulf states.
“This historical review is important to anyone who says ‘If we curse it, why should we sign it?’ seeing the glass as half empty. In [this] arrangement, as in every arrangement throughout history, there are negative and positive [sides]. The gains and losses are determined by the balance of power, that is not in our favor. This deal is the hard core that will enable the Arabs at some future time to propose a new arrangement, after the balance of power shifts in their favor.
“There are bitter facts that the Palestinians must ponder. In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause—not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar, and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region. [For example, Turkish President] Mr. [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is establishing the closest of ties with Israel, and Qatar is following in his path, while Iran, which promised to destroy Israel in seven minutes is, with its Iranized Arab militias, completely preoccupied in occupying and destroying the Arab world, and expelling [its people].
“Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the deal of the century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the deal of the century—while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians….”
The full article is available at the MEMRI website.