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Obama Bows to Saudi King, Supports Saudi Initiative

US President Obama was caught on camera Wednesday bowing to the Saudi King in London. He also backs the Saudi plan for a settlement with Israel.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 4/3/2009, 9:23 AM / Last Update: 4/3/2009, 10:23 AM

United -States President Barack Obama was caught on camera by journalists on Wednesday bowing in deference to Saudi King Abdullah as he greeted him at the opening of the G20 meeting in London, prior to being photographed with British royalty. 



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Obama later expressed support for the 2002 Saudi Plan in his meeting Thursday with the Saudi monarch. The two also discussed global economic issues and terrorism, White House staff said.

The meeting between Obama and Abdullah was the first face-to-face talk between the two. The meeting created a storm of debate, primarily among American conservatives, when pictures and a video were released that appeared to show Obama bowing to the Saudi monarch at the G20 photo-op.

Obama approaches Saudi monarch at G20 photo-op.
Photo: screenshot
Obama executes a bow.
Photo: screenshot
After the bow.
Photo: screenshot

Obama reportedly expressed support for the 2002 Saudi Initiative upon winning the presidential election in November of 2008. In his first meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Obama had been quoted as saying of the plan, “The Israelis would be crazy not to support this initiative.”

In January of 2009, Saudi officials warned that the U.S. would need to “drastically revise” its Middle East policy, particularly towards Israel, if it wanted to maintain influence in the region.

"If the U.S. wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact – especially its 'special relationship' with Saudi Arabia – it will have to drastically revise its policies vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine,” former Saudi ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal said at the time.

Turki referred to the Middle East policy of former U.S. President George Bush as “sickening,” and accused America of “contributing to the slaughter of innocents” by supporting Israel.

Bush expressed strong support for the creation of a PA state, but supported the 2003 Road Map initiative over the Saudi Plan. The Road Map plan calls for the Israel-PA negotiations process to take place in stages, with Israel dismantling Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria only after the PA begins to fight terrorism.

The Saudi Plan calls on Israel to cede Gaza and all land east of the 1949 armistice line, including much of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, to the Palestinian Authority. Israel would also be required to cede the strategic Golan Heights region to Syria.

In addition, the plan requires Israel to release all terrorists currently in its prisons, and to offer citizenship to millions of foreign Arabs who say they are descended from Arabs who fled pre-state Israel during the War of Independence.

In exchange, Arab states would normalize their ties with the Jewish State.

In Israel, the plan has met with little support. Enacting the plan would force roughly 600,000 Israelis from their homes. In addition, senior defense officials have warned that the plan would compromise Israel's security.

President Shimon Peres expressed limited support for the plan in 2008, but clarified that he believed the plan could be useful as a starting point for negotiations, not that it could be implemented in its current form.

Hana Levi Julian and Gil Ronen contributed to this report.