Saudi King Abdullah addresses Arab leaders in Riyadh
Photo: AP

Ball is still in Arabs' court

Burden of proof is on Arabs despite Israeli rejection of Saudi peace plan

This may sound puzzling, particularly to Arab ears: Even after Arab rulers ratified their plan for comprehensive peace, the ball is back in the Arab court. They, and only they, must prove the seriousness of their intentions now. They are the ones who must approach the West, persuade it, and enlist the international community's support for their plan.


Israel was quick to announce that it rejects the plan in its current format, even if it features a tempting reward in the form of "normal relations with all Arab states." It was enough to see the smile on Syrian President Bashar Assad's face when he announced he is pleased with the Riyadh understandings to realize that there are no sensational surprises here.


A reminder: Assad was the one who insisted five years ago, at the Beirut summit, to add to the "full peace in exchange for full withdrawal" formula the right of return clause and explicit ban on continuing to "host" Palestinian refugees in Arab states. Because of his insistence, Israel ignored the peace plan.


This week in Riyadh, Arab leaders made history: This was one of the summits that did not give rise to yelling and cursing. But it was difficult to ignore the sense of helplessness in the face of economic crises, the desperation over the inferior Arab status in the international community, the confrontation between the West and Islam -and particularly radical Islam - and the fear of Iran's nuclear moves.


All of the above gave rise to the moderate Arab camp and led to artificial resuscitation of the peace plan that has been rejected by the Israeli side.


Arab Quarter gets green light

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who boasts 30 years of experience in negotiations with Israel, attempted to convey a calming message that the Israeli "No" does not yet mark the end of the road, but Jerusalem made sure to signal that it prefers the current state of affairs over the temptations of normalization, which may end up exacting a heavy price should Israel's position on the issue of the right of return for refugees be compromised.


The Arab Quartet - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates - received the green light to head to Washington and to the United Nation's headquarters in New York in order to enlist support for the Arab peace plan.


The Quartet also received a mandate to set up committees that would open negotiations without referring to Israel explicitly. If they insist on complying with the conditions set forth by the Syrian president, and if they refuse to meet Israelis face to face, we can bury the Arab peace plan, until next time.


פרסום ראשון: 03.31.07, 16:48
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