Monday, April 06, 2009

Obama Inching Towards Accepting The Saudi Initiative (Updated)

It's only a matter of time.

On November 16, 2008, Uzi Mahnaimi reported in The Times Online:
Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal

Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect.

Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima party.

...On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse a deal that could “give them peace with the Muslim world”, according to a senior Obama adviser.
At the time, there were reasons to doubt the story, and the Obama camp denied that Obama backed the plan:
Top Obama aide denies report president-elect will back Arab peace plan

A senior adviser to Barack Obama on Sunday denied reports that the U.S. president-elect plans to throw his weight behind the 2002 Arab peace plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories captured during the 1967 Six-Day War in exchange for normalized ties with the Arab world.

...Dennis Ross, Obama's adviser on Middle East policy, issued a statement Sunday, saying "I was in the meeting in Ramallah. Then-senator Obama did not say this, the story is false."

The Times cited a senior adviser who quoted Obama as telling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: "The Israelis would be crazy not to accept this initiative. It would give them peace with the Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco.
Maybe what Obama said at the time was false, but the story that Obama backed the Saudi Plan apparently remained true. The Financial Times reported about Obama on January 22nd that:
He called on Arab governments to “act on” the promise of a Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative by supporting the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas “taking steps towards normalising relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.”
Four days later Obama was even more explicit. In describing George Mitchell's itinerary to the Middle East, the ABC News blog noted:
A visit to Saudi Arabia is a nod to the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative, which Obama said Thursday "contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts." Mitchell will also make stops in Europe to make sure allies are all on board.
Lasting peace requires more than a long cease-fire. And that's why I will sustain an active commitment to seek two states living side by side in peace and security. Senator Mitchell will carry forward this commitment, as well as the effort to help Israel reach a broader peace with the Arab world that recognizes its rightful place in the community of nations.

I should add that the Arab Peace Initiative contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts. Now -- now is the time for Arab states to act on the initiatives promised by supporting the Palestinian government under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, taking steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.
Biden is doing his share as well to lay the foundation for acceptance of the Saudi Plan. On February 7th, he said at the Munich Conference on Security Policy that:
we must lay the foundation for a broader peacemaking effort. In the past -- well, look at it this way -- it's long time passed for us to secure a just, two-state solution. We will work to achieve it. And we'll work to defeat extremists who perpetuate the conflict. And in building on positive elements of the Arab Peace Initiative put forward by Saudi Arabia, we'll work toward a broader regional peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and we'll responsibly draw down our forces that are in Iraq in the process.
The latest read on Obama's support for the Saudi Initiative comes on April 3rd from The Jerusalem Post:
On Thursday night, US President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the Saudi Mideast peace initiative in a meeting with King Abdullah, the White House said in a statement.
The full text of the White House release is:
The President met with King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia today in London. The leaders reaffirmed the long-standing, strong relationship between the two countries. They discussed international cooperation regarding the global economy, regional political and security issues, and cooperation against terrorism. The President reiterated his appreciation for Saudi Arabia's leadership in promoting the Arab Peace Initiative. He and King Abdullah agreed to continue close consultations on a range of bilateral and regional issues.
Obama may not have come straight out and declared that the Saudi Initiative is the way to go, but neither has Obama--contrary to what Dennis Ross appeared to say--dropped the idea entirely.

The basics of the peace initiative as provided in The Beirut Declaration are:
A. Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon.

B. Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194.

C. Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In return the Arab states will do the following:

Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region

Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace
In other words, in exchange for Israel accepting indefensible borders, diluting the Israeli majority and creating an unstable terrorist state on its border--Israel will receive a peace similar to what it has now with Egypt, where the government-regulated press still comes out with anti-Israel material.

But this is the direction Obama appears to be headed.

UPDATE: At American Thinker, Leo Rennert discusses the same issue in more detail and discusses the consequences.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad
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