Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Saudi Peace Plan: Hillary Clinton vs. Richard Holbrooke

I posted about Hillary Clinton's appearance last week at the Saban Forum, where Hillary spoke publicly about the US endorsement of the Saudi peace plan:
Clinton also offered the most pronounced to date U.S. endorsement of the Arab League Initiative, which proposes a blanket peace deal with all Arab countries in exchange for Israel's proximate return to the 1967 borders.
"This landmark proposal rests on the basic bargain that peace between Israel and her neighbors will bring recognition and normalization from all the Arab states," she said. "It is time to advance this vision with actions, as well as words. And Israel should seize the opportunity presented by this initiative while it is still available."

Clinton's wording, echoing Arab leaders' claim that the offer is time-sensitive and suggesting that it is Israel's responsibility to "seize" it, goes beyond previous U.S. statements that have merely praised the initiative as one of several positive proposals.[emphasis added]
Whether you refer to it as the Saudi peace plan or the Arab League Initiative, the plan is flawed, though you would not know that from the high praise Hillary Clinton gives the plan--or the veiled warning she gives Israel.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who just passed away, had a much better grasp of the facts. In an address he gave in June 2007, Ambassador Holbrooke explained the failings in the Saudi peace plan:
the Saudi peace proposal adopted at the Beirut Summit on March 28, 2002, often referred to as a conciliatory proposal by the Saudis, mentions Resolution 242, mistakenly claiming that it calls for withdrawal from all occupied territories — it uses the phrase “full withdrawal from all Arab territories.” More importantly, it sets up a sequence that is in direct contradiction to Resolution 242, demanding Israeli compliance with all demands before offering Israel anything, including normal relations. The press has often reported that Saudi Arabia offered recognition to Israel for the first time in its proposal. However, the word recognition is not used, but rather the term “normal relations” — there may be a difference in meaning. More significant, what this proposal really does is to lay out as a precondition for the negotiation the very thing being negotiated: this is a fundamental flaw. Although many, including the Bush administration, regard the Saudi proposal of 2002 as a very important breakthrough, this is clearly a mistake. Its fundamental flaw, along with the fact that the Saudis are not willing to participate in the negotiations themselves, clearly diminishes utility and hopes of success.
Read the whole thing.

I don't know why Clinton dredged up the Arab League Initiative. Maybe the Obama administration is planning on a new emphasis on it as an alternative to its failed attempt to drag Abbas to the negotiating table.

Be that as it may, we should keep in mind that the Saudi plan, like Obama's plan to shove a plan based on unilateral concessions down Israel's throat, is destined for failure and reveals a shallow understanding of the very plan that is being pushed.

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