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Friday, March 23, 2007

Isreali Negotiating With Saudi Arabia? Peace For The Middle East

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Peace is the only way of life, well we all knows that and pray for them some how, but why can't the Middle East have PEACE or smell PEACE? So we came across this article, we did our taughts on it and asked lot of Questions.

Until now such thoughts would fall exclusively into the utopian category. Wishful thinking for the doves. It was in fact quite unthinkable to imagine Saudi Arabia, of all the Arab countries, to be the one initiating direct talks with Israel. But King Abdullah jumped the gun. If the United States were not going to get involved in its traditional role of peace mediator in the Middle East, then by all means, he would.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will host a summit March 28-29 bringing together 21 of the 22 Arab kings, presidents, princes and prime ministers in a renewed effort to revive the stalled Middle East peace talks. Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has made it known he would not "waste his time" with such events.

Should some positive initiatives emerge from the labors of the summit, such as an understanding between Palestinians and Israelis, the credit would largely be due to the efforts of two men: Saudi's King Abdullah and his former ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar.

After leaving the embassy, Bandar became more and more involved in behind-the-scene negotiations, making several trips back and forth across the Atlantic, meeting with U.S. officials and, according to an Israeli report, meeting with "a high-ranking Israeli official," presumably, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself.

The feeling that something is afoot seems to fit in with the continuous ballet of Arab diplomats and politicians who have traveled to Washington over the last few months. It also partially explains the reason behind Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's sudden urge to undertake more trips to the Middle East in the last six months than she has taken since she was appointed to the post.

So what can one expect from this summit?

For the Saudis, it would be the first time King Abdullah tries openly to present himself as the "elder" of the Arab world and of the Muslim world, too.

Today, countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel are working together in an effort to reach a settlement of the crisis affecting the region. In the noticeable absence of an aggressive U.S. participation and lack of U.S. leadership in the quest for peace, it is Saudi Arabia that seems to have stepped up to the plate.

Spearheading this initiative is Prince Bandar. Since resigning his position as this country's top representative to Washington, Bandar has undertaken multiple trips to the United States, as well as to other undisclosed locations, to meet with a wide range of officials, including Israeli officials. Of course, Saudi Arabia denies that any such meetings ever took place. But reports in the Israeli press leave room to believe that there was at least one meeting between Prince Bandar and a high-level Israeli official in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Bandar, most likely, was acting on instructions from King Abdullah. Maybe the spate of homegrown terrorism that shook Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago has convinced the Saudi monarch -- and rightfully so -- that no lasting peace in the Middle East will ever be possible so long as the Palestinian-Israeli dispute remains unsolved. Indeed, in efforts to recruit more supporters and followers to its cause, al-Qaida has frequently turned to the Palestinian issue as a recruiting poster. As another Middle East leader commented to this reporter some time back, "al-Qaida has hijacked the Palestinian cause."

So keep your eyes and ears tuned to the next Arab summit due to be held in Saudi Arabia March 28-29. King Abdullah will revive what became known as the Arab Peace Initiative, which was presented and endorsed at the 2002 Beirut Arab summit. At the time the idea was instantly rejected by Israel, which reacted by storming Jenin in the West Bank.

Today, rumors circulating ahead of the summit indicate the Saudi king is likely to go a step further than the Arabs did in 2002. Abdullah appears ready to offer Israel not only recognition by all 22 member states of the Arab League, but using his clout as protector of Islam's two holiest sites -- Mecca and Medina -- the king of Saudi Arabia will throw in recognition by all Muslim states as well, in return for peace.

Peace in this instance means that Israel would cede all territory it occupied during the June 1967 war to a Palestinian state, and recognize that state.

So why are the chances of this proposal being accepted this time after it was rejected a few years back?

When the deal was last offered to the Jewish state in 2002, the prime minister of the time, Ariel Sharon, was in a position of strength, riding high in the polls. Today's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is at the lowest rating any Israeli prime minister has ever had, holding the reins of power only with his teeth. His popularity has slipped to a dismal 3 percent.

After last summer's fiasco in Lebanon, when Olmert and his Defense Minister Amir Peretz took the country into a senseless war against Hezbollah, the prime minister badly needs to come up with something that will improve his image. And what better than to be able to offer the country a firm peace deal with the entire Muslim world? If he pulls it off, it can only play in his favor and bring his popularity skyrocketing back up. From a 3rd-percentile position there's not much room to slip further down, whereas he has much to gain in trying to re-climb up the slippery slope of Levantine politics.

Solving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute will not put an end to all the ills facing the Arab/Islamic world. Nor will peace in Palestine/Israel eradicate terrorism overnight. But it will certainly take a big chunk out of it. And if Washington intervenes at the opportune moment, at least to make it appear as though it were pressuring Israel to accept the deal, it would work wonders for America's image in the Arab/Muslim world.

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