Some eight years ago, in February 2002, I interviewed then-Crown Prince-now-King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at his horse farm outside Riyadh. I shared with him a column I had written -- suggesting that the Arab League put forth a peace plan offering Israel full peace for full withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state -- when he feigned surprise and said: "Have you broken into my desk?" The Saudi leader said he was preparing the exact same plan and offered it up -- "full withdrawal from all the occupied territories, in accord with U.N. resolutions, including in Jerusalem, for full normalization of relations." He added: "I wanted to find a way to make clear to the Israeli people that the Arabs don't reject or despise them."
It was an important, visionary move by Abdullah, and his plan was quickly adopted by the Arab League, with some amendments. It has been floating out there in the ether of diplomatic possibilities ever since. But all that it has been doing is floating. It is time to bring it out of the air. King Abdullah should invite Mr. Netanyahu to Riyadh and present it to him personally.
Never mind that Friedman has since criticized Abdullah for not following though with his "peace plan." (Actually it's more of a peace ultimatum or fraud.) But Friedman here, acknowledges "...his plan was quickly adopted by the Arab League, with some amendments..." but doesn't specify what those amendments were. One of them was the last part of this:
Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
Why's this important and why does Friedman ignore it? Well two years earlier Israel withdrew from Lebanon and was determined by the United Nations to be occupying Lebanon no longer.
After consultations throughout the weekend, the Security Council this afternoon endorsed the work done by the United Nations as mandated by the Security Council, including the Secretary-General's conclusion that, as of 16 June, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978).
So for the Saudi "peace" plan to demand an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory is dishonest. What happened is that when Abdullah went to drum up support for his plan, he went to Syria. President Bashar Assad insisted that Abdullah include language demanding an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. Toward that end, Assad claimed that Shebaa Farms, which had been captured from Syria in 1967, was really Lebanese territory. This meant that Hezbollah still had a pretext to continue attacking Israel.
It also meant that the Arab world changed the terms of what would be necessary for peace. Israel abided by 425 and now the Arab world said that it wasn't good enough. What does that say about the future? If this change was allowed, who's to say that the Arabs wouldn't change future demands; denying Israeli concessions by changing the terms?
The U.N. in a rare display of integrity, would not endorse the Saudi plan for exactly this reason.
Some provisions in the plan run counter to existing Security Council resolutions, an official here said. Among these is the call by the Saudi plan for an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. The Council does not consider Israel to be in control of any Lebanese land after the Israeli withdrawal from the border area two years ago. In Beirut this week, Lebanon revived its claim to a small part of the Israeli-held Golan Heights known as the Sheba Farms.Friedman knows this very well, it's why doesn't mention it specifically. This amendment including Lebanon, says a lot about the Arab commitment to peace with Israel. Friedman's silence on the topic says a lot about his integrity.
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