Saudi Obstinacy

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that “Saudi Arabia will refuse to ‘directly or indirectly engage Israel’ until it leaves all land captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.”

These remarks were, according to the report, made at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace this week by Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, who is considered a candidate to succeed his ailing brother, Saud al-Faisal, as foreign minister.

Not only were Prince Turki’s remarks disappointing in light of the Obama administration’s announcement last month of a $60 billion arms sale package to Saudi Arabia, including advanced fighter aircraft, helicopters, radar, missiles and guided bombs, but they also put into question any hope that President Obama might have cherished that the Saudis would be willing to agree to a degree of normalization of its relationship with Israel in the context of the latter’s peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

One wonders what precisely Prince Turki means by an Israeli withdrawal from “all land captured during the Six-Day War”. Does he really imagine that any Israeli government would agree to vacate the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall? Are the Jerusalem suburbs of the French Quarter and Gilo also going to be rendered Judenrein as is Saudi Arabia? And does he really contemplate that Israel would once again allow Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University campus to be an isolated Jewish enclave in the heart of a potentially hostile Palestinian state?

Any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will demand compromises from both sides. Some flexibility on the part of the Saudis would have also been a welcome contribution to the peace process.

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