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Unified Arab Front Calls for More US Pressure on Israel

Kuwaiti, Jordanian and Saudi officials gave US leaders Obama and Clinton the same message: more pressure on Israel, now.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 8/3/2009, 11:50 PM

(archive)

Arab states are putting up a unified front in pushing for continued U.S. pressure on Israel. In meetings with Kuwaiti, Jordanian and Saudi officials this week, American leaders were given the same message in different forms.

In a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah said that Israel must concede to Arab demands, as laid out in a 2002 Saudi diplomatic initiative for establishing relations between Israel and Arab states.

"We will implement this peace initiative when Israel implements and fulfills its obligations," al-Sabah said, referring to the Saudi proposal. He added that it is in Kuwait's interest that peace reign in the region.
Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah said that Israel must concede to Arab demands.

The Saudi Initiative, as it is known, calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from all lands under Jewish sovereignty since 1967, including Jerusalem, the creation of a new Arab sovereignty in those lands, and Israeli shouldering of the responsibility for settling all Arabs who fled the 1948 Israeli War of Independence and their descendants. This is termed a "just solution" in the text of the initiative and is understood to refer to Israel absorbing several million more Arab citizens. In exchange, after Israel fulfills these terms, Arab states ratifying the deal would offer a full normalization of relations with the Jewish State.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan took a similar view Monday during meetings between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

At a joint press conference at the State Department, Clinton said she "expressed our deep appreciation for Jordan's leadership in working with other Arab states to support peace with deeds, as well as words." However, the Jordanian official rejected an American request for the kingdom's adoption of measures that would increase normal relations with Israel.

"In the Middle East, there has been in the past an over-investment, perhaps, by the parties in pursuing confidence-building measures, conflict-management techniques, including transitional arrangements," Judeh said, "and an overemphasis on gestures, perhaps at the expense of reaching the actual end game."

The "end game", in the Jordanian view, required Israel to agree to the terms of the Saudi Initiative. The ongoing process of slow, incremental negotiations has failed, Judeh said, and has "proven repeatedly to be confidence-eroding, rather than confidence-building."

Apparently reading from a nearly identical script, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal also demanded that Israel immediately accept the terms of the 2002 proposal and rejected American efforts at building bridges with Israel before that happens.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday at the U.S. State Department, al-Faisal delcared, "Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach has not and, we believe, will not achieve peace. Temporary security, confidence-building measures will also not bring peace. What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final outcome at the outset and launches into negotiations over final-status issues: borders, Jerusalem, water, refugees and security."

Saudi Arabia rejected U.S. calls to take any steps towards normalization or recognition of Israel until the Israelis capitulate. However, he said, the Saudi Initiative offers Israel "an end to their conflict, recognition and full normal relations as exist between countries at peace." He added that the Obama Administration has stated, in agreement with the Arab position, that the presence of Jewish-owned homes in post-1967 Israeli territories is "illegitimate".

Despite the Saudi position, as echoed by Jordan and Kuwait, Clinton said, "Saudi Arabia's continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace." In response to a journalist's question, Clinton added, "We also know that there are a series of issues that have to be resolved. As His Royal Highness said, and as I have just repeated, you have to take those issues issue by issue, but within the negotiations of the comprehensive peace agreement." That agreement, she said, is the ultimate American objective.