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The Saudi Ceiling - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ever since the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian cause has had a pivotal position in the country’s foreign policy. The successive assurances given by the Saudi leadership in this regard is no secret, not to mention their refusal to grant any concessions and their continued and unwavering demands for rights such as the restoration of the occupied territories in return for a comprehensive peace.

In a meeting held between Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and his American counterpart Hilary Clinton in Washington a few days ago, Prince al-Faisal reiterated the Saudi position that there would be granting of concessions with regards to normalizing relations with Israel until Israel makes a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Prince Saud al-Faisal also didn’t pass up the opportunity to make the ironic comment “You call upon the Arabs to normalize relations whereas you can’t even stop the Israelis from settlement building.”

The American negotiator believes that the key to the solution lies in pressurising the Arabs to normalize relations with Israel; however this is undoubtedly a deficient viewpoint. Thanks in large part to Saudi efforts the Arabs today speak in a unified voice with regards to the peace process, namely in agreeing a comprehensive initiative agreed upon by all Arabs, a peace initiative away from the “individualism” of the Camp David accord, and the “secrecy” of the Oslo accord.

This initiative is complete, comprehensive, and clear. A firm stand must be taken against the injustice that is taking place against the occupied Arab territories, as well as the infringement of international resolutions and Israel’s criminal activities. It is therefore important to understand the sensitivity displayed by Arabs with regards to normalizing relations with Israeli before a permanent solution is agreed upon. Normalization of relations must be the result, rather than a bonus to be offered without serious and concrete efforts to end the unjust conditions which that lasted for so long.

The ball is now in Israel’s court with regards to the peace process, and unless Israel grant what has been described there as serious and painful concessions, no progress will ever be made in the Arab – Israeli conflict. It is now known what is required of Israel, and there is no need to enter into pointless arguments, as this is a whirlpool that Israel would love to pull all parties into.

Today there is a Saudi ceiling that any settlement must reach. The role carried out by Saudi Arabian diplomacy aims to unify the pan-Arab objectives and establish a practical and effective Arab vision for peace. This role is not confined to merely negotiating with the US mediator or even presenting a comprehensive peace initiative, rather this role has gone beyond this to include delving into the details of inter-Palestinian relations, and examining the extreme discord in the Palestinian camp. Saudi Arabia has proposed one initiative after another in an attempt to patch up these differences, heal the rift, and bring the Palestinian parties closer together in a practical, effective, and tangible manner.

This Saudi ceiling that is currently being constructed is built upon moral obligations and a basic human principle that has been agreed upon by all countries, nations, and peoples. It is therefore difficult to criticize this or bet against it, however its ultimate success depends on its ability to obligate other parties to honour their commitment, make concessions, and realize the magnitude of their responsibility with regards to the future direction that this issue may take.

The options are clear. There is a road to peace, however maintaining the status quo will only lead to war and destruction. The Arabs will not remain silent whilst their rights are being usurped. If this generation remains silent, one can be certain that the coming generations will not.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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