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Saudi Arabia and Israel: A Game of Points - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We seem to be heading towards an international battle of points between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

It is obvious that the Mecca Agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the activation and the unanimous approval of the Arab initiative in the Riyadh summit of solidarity and Saudi efforts to realign the moderate states in the region has cornered the Olmert government and has led to Israel losing positive points on the international stage.

Israel can no longer claim that there are no moderate states or partners in peace in the region. However, instead of declaring its approval of the Arab initiative and considering it a favorable opportunity for peace – which it is –, it preferred to play a public relations game with this historical opportunity, with the intention of just scoring points.

In a statement to the New York Times our colleague, Jamal Khashoggi said that, “The Israelis want to win the lottery without paying for a ticket. The lottery is normalized relations with Saudi Arabia, but first they must pay for the ticket by reaching an agreement with the Palestinians,” and here may I add the withdrawal from the occupied Golan [Heights]. But what happened?

We saw Israel trying its best to embarrass the Saudis with flattery, knowing that its praise is viewed as condemnation in our Arab world.

When the Saudis did not heed and proceeded with responsible political action, we came to hear very often that the Saudis secretly met with the Israelis. When the Saudis staunchly denied this, we saw Olmert propose an Arab summit in Riyadh with Israel’s attendance.

The question here is: Is it the Saudis who have occupied territories or is in a state of confrontation with Israel in order for it to fly a helicopter into Tel Aviv, as suggested by writer Thomas Friedman?

It is odd that in 2002, it was said that then Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s initiative was intended to improve Saudi Arabia’s image post-September 11, yet today it is asked ‘Why don’t you sit with the Israelis to prove your good intentions?!’

This is the behavior of those who miss out on peace opportunities rather than seek them. The truth is that Israel is the archenemy of moderation. Egypt is a stronghold of moderation in the region and is consistently slammed by the Muslim Brotherhood for its political moderation on account of its peace accord with Israel. Another case is Jordan, which has entered into peace with Israel. But what did Israel offer other than embarrassing both states? Today is the appropriate time for peace. All parties, including Syria, regardless of what is said, are willing to work to achieve peace. This is the time for peace, but unfortunately there is no international sponsor of peace, and by that I mean America, which, due to the clash between the Democrats and the Republicans, has resulted in it being a hostage of square one, namely Iraq, while the historical opportunity is favorable today to resolve the most complex issues in the history of our region. Peace needs an international deterrent, and I doubt that Bush is capable of doing this. When the late Arafat (may God rest his soul) missed out on the so-called Clinton proposal, his actions were labeled a crime. Today, we are undoubtedly faced with the Olmert crime. Olmert is not a man of peace but a statesman who wants to score points.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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