Thomas Friedman, Saudi Arabia and Me

The Arab Peace Initiative, not forced peace talks, is the key to regional harmony

The problems with the current round of peace negotiations is that Obama et al. have lowered the bar too far.  Ironically, Israel’s best ally – who gives billions to the Jewish country in military and economic aid – is not looking out for Israel’s security.  Indeed, these talks between Abbas and Netanyahu are destined to fail and the reason is simply that the talks are refusing to discuss the main, fundamental security threats to Israel – Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.  I wrote as much earlier this morning, arguing that a peace between Israel and Palestine will not suffice, as continuing security concerns will force Israel to impose an unjust and unviable agreement on the Palestinians.  The key to peace is to expand talks to include all the regional actors – as difficult as that would be – using the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 as guidance.

Apparently, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times was reading.  Friedman writes:

[tweetmeme] [Saudi King] Abdullah need not go to Jerusalem, as Anwar Sadat did, or recognize Israel. He can, though, still have a huge impact on the process by simply handing his plan to the leader for whose country it was intended. I can’t think of anything that would get these peace talks off to a better start. It feels to me as though Netanyahu is taking this moment seriously, but he is still very wary. By handing him the Abdullah plan, the Saudi monarch would unleash a huge peace debate in Israel. It would make it more difficult for Netanyahu to continue settlement building — and spur an Israeli public that is also still wary to urge Netanyahu to take risks for peace and support him for doing so. Netanyahu is the only Israeli leader today who can deliver a deal.

The Saudis can’t just keep faxing their peace initiative to Israelis. That has no emotional punch. It actually says to Israelis: if the Saudis are afraid to hand us their plan, why should we believe they’ll have the courage to implement it if we do everything they suggest? Israelis are isolated. Seeing their prime minister received by the most important Muslim leader in the world in Riyadh would have a real impact.

Both Israelis and Palestinians are going to have to do something really hard to produce a two-state solution. Saudi officials have developed a reputation in Washington for being experts at advising everyone else about the hard things they must do, while being reluctant to step out themselves. This is their moment — to do something hard and to do something important.

Photo from ReObama

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