Riyadh, Asharq al-Awsat – Riyadh reiterated yesterday its firm stand on normalization with Israel which will not happen before full withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories and Tel Aviv’s acceptance of the two Palestinian and Israeli states principle. A Gulf official meanwhile asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat the receipt of messages from US President Barack Obama to take initiatives.
But a Saudi official announced yesterday, through Agence France Presse, that “Riyadh will not recognize Israel until after its withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories and its acceptance of the two-state principle.”
“It is Israel that has to move seriously towards the peace process,” Saudi foreign ministry spokesman Osama Nugali said.
“As we all know, Israel is continuing to take unilateral measures by changing the geographic and demographic facts on the ground, by building settlements and expanding the existing ones,” he told AFP.
Nugali said Israeli settlement expansion on occupied Arab land continues to impede any progress toward a lasting two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israelis.
“We have been seeing a schizophrenic Israeli policy. On one hand you talk about peace and their interest to achieve peace,” he said. “On the other hand they take actions against the peace process that complicate it and put it in jeopardy.”
On the other hand, a senior Gulf official told Asharq al-Awsat that his country received Obama’s message about taking concrete steps toward Israel but the official asserted at the same time that these messages “did not include any call for normalizing relations with Tel Aviv, at least for the present time, and focused on offering initiatives of any kind in that direction.” The Gulf official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed details of these messages which he said were sent almost before three weeks, saying “they were written messages sent to several Arab leaders and not all of them.” He pointed out that the messages were sent to the Arab countries that have strong relations with the United States and “not to all the Arab countries.”
According to the Gulf official, President Obama’s messages revolved around having the Arab countries take initiatives toward accelerating the peace process “but Obama did not demand that these initiatives should be defined and left it to each country and they did not reach the level of full normalization, which the Arab countries have agreed should be contingent on Israel’s acceptance of the Arab peace initiative.” According to him, Obama’s messages to the Arab leaders included the demand from them to offer “initiatives that demonstrate their good intentions so as to push the peace process forward. Obama asserted at the same time that he would back these anticipated Arab steps with US ones to make Israel give in and offer initiatives of its good intentions on its part.” The Gulf official said “Obama’s messages were a basic element in US Peace Envoy George Mitchell’s tour of the region and his talks with the Arab officials and leaders he met during it.”
But the Gulf official went on to say that the Arab countries are still afraid to take positive steps toward Israel in these initiatives “at a time when Tel Aviv is becoming more intransigent in the peace process and in any good intentions steps that support what the US administration is saying.” He added that several Arab countries want preliminary guarantees from the United States before starting to take steps and said: “It is true that we trust the new US administration’s approach under President Obama but such steps like those it is demanding will be sensitive and very embarrassing if the present Israeli Government does not appreciate them, which is what is expected from it.” He refrained from giving any additional details about the steps which the Arab countries, or at least his country, intend to take and said “we are still in the stage of consultations. Such steps need a study in depth before starting to implement them.”