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The suggestion that he should was made by Thomas L. Friedman in his column for the New York Times on 7 September. My first response was to say to myself, “That proves Friedman doesn’t understand the complexities of the conflict and is at least a little bit bonkers.”

But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that King Abdullah should do what Friedman suggested. In a moment I’ll get to what I think the Arabs and the Palestinians especially would have to gain without losing anything, but first here’s the essence of what Friedman wrote.

He noted that eight years have passed since the Arab peace initiative pushed by Abdullah when he was Crown Prince was presented to, and approved by, an Arab League summit in Beirut. (It offered a full and final peace, including the normalizing of relations between the entire Arab region and Israel, in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem).

Friedman then commented that the plan has been “floating out there in the ether of diplomatic possibilities” ever since its approval in 2002. “It is time to bring it out of the air. King Abdullah should invite Mr. Netanyahu to Riyadh and present it to him personally.”

Friedman went on:

“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.”

Netanyahu has apparently said that he will go anywhere for peace, so let’s suppose for the sake of discussion that King Abdullah does invite him to Riyadh and he goes.

Either at his meeting with Abdullah to take personal delivery of the Arab peace plan or afterwards, Netanyahu would say there was one element of it that was completely unacceptable to all Israelis – the proposal that a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem should be on the basis of UN Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948. Its key words are the following:

“… the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Down the years (and consistent with its Nakba denial), Israel has put two fingers up to Resolution 194 and denied the Palestinians a right of return, on the grounds that conceding the right would be an act of national suicide. As it was put, for example, by Likud spokesman Zalman Shoval in March 2007, “If 300,000-400,000, or maybe a million, Palestinians would invade the country, that would be the end of the state of Israel as a Jewish state.”

A truth, which all of Israel’s leaders have known for many years, is that the Palestinian right of return does not have to be an obstacle to peace unless they want it to be. Under the pragmatic Arafat’s leadership, the decision was taken to accept that in the event of a genuine and viable two-state solution, the right of return would have to be limited to the territory of the Palestinian state. Though they could not say so in public, Arafat and his leadership colleagues were completely aware this would mean that probably not more than 100,000 refugees would be able to return and that the rest would have to settle for compensation.

Another truth is that Jerusalem does not have to be an obstacle to peace unless Israel’s leaders want it to be. If they don’t want Jerusalem to be divided again, the Arabs will say, “Okay. Let it be an open, undivided city and the capital of two states.”

My point so far is that if Netanyahu did go to Riyadh, he would discover that the Arab peace plan of 2002, subject only to clarifications of the flexibility of the Arab position on the right of return and Jerusalem, actually offers what a rational Israeli government and people would accept with relief.

What would the Arabs and the Palestinians especially have to gain if King Abdullah did invite Netanyahu to Riyadh and he went?

In one scenario, and assuming that most Israelis are not beyond reason (an assumption I do not make), it might unleash what Friedman described as a “huge peace debate in Israel.” And that just might open the door to peace on terms virtually all Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could just about accept.

In another scenario – continued Israeli rejection of the Arab peace plan of 2002 – it would enable King Abdullah and all of his Arab brothers at leadership level to say to the world, and America especially, something like: “Now you cannot be in any doubt about what the obstacle to peace is – Zionism. If you really want peace, you must now play your part and use the leverage you have to call and hold Zionism to account for its crimes.”

If that didn’t mobilize support in the Western world for an acceptable measure of justice for the Palestinians and peace for all, nothing ever will.

Footnote:

Some readers will say that a genuine and viable two-state solution, even if it was possible, is unacceptable because it would not provide the Palestinians with enough justice. My response is quite simple. One state for all is by far the best solution for all; but because of the reality of the existence of a nuclear-armed Zionist entity, the two-state solution is the best deal the Palestinians are ever likely to get.

Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East.

His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is a three-volume epic in its American edition.  He blogs on www.alanhart.netwww.twitter.com/alanauthor. and tweets on

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12 Comments

  1. Israeli on the 08. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    It’s either the author’s knowledge of land and conflict is very limited or author misinforms willingly.
    You assumptions are based on ideas which have very little connection to reality.
    For instance: “In another scenario – continued Israeli rejection of the Arab peace plan of 2002 – it would enable King Abdullah and all of his Arab brothers at leadership level to say to the world, and America especially, something like: “Now you cannot be in any doubt about what the obstacle to peace is – Zionism.”
    Arab Peace Initiative does not worth even a consideration for one simple reason – it does not contain any solution to Israel’s security concerns and, furthermore, is not practically applicable because Hamas is after destruction of Israel and no Arab nation have any influence on them as well as on Iran which is major player on this field, has more influence and better economics than all arab countries combined and is not interested in peace agreement.

    It’s very easy for an oil magnate – or a king, which in this case is the same person – to put an intelligent expression on his face and produce a document which has been written by people in his office (or palace) and has no connection to reality whatsoever.

  2. Egoigwe on the 09. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Dear Alan,

    America has no leverage on Zionism for the simply reason that it’s damn near a Zionist state itself. To presume that America is still that beckon of Democracy, searching out justice and equality for the downtrodden, is to be gravely mistaken. America is nothing of a democracy today, just as Israel is not. America is on the verge of a dictatorship and could not care any less what atrocities its Siamese twin, Israel, commits in the name of ‘security’.

    Saudi Arabia is no different, if not worse. It remains a highly unpopular and despised dictatorship that has seized the wealth of an entire nation for the obscenely lavish life styles of a few. The mentality of its ruling elite which drives its attitude towards its citizens are no different from that of Israel and America, which is why America turns a blind eye to the brutalities of Wahhabism. All three nations, a long time ago, stopped listening to their citizens and would brook no opposition from them. Innovations for crowd control which are presently being deployed in America attest to the direction in which it is headed. Ditto, obnoxious laws and branches of government, being passed and enthroned, which have no place in a proper democracy.

    It is self-deceit to call on the Saudi Monarch, of all people, to broker a peace deal between Palestine and Israel. Whatever the outcome is, it would be held with great suspicion where not laughable. Most Arab monarchies and administrations do not have leverage in such matters because they lack legitimacy at home and do not speak for their people. They are in the main, propped up by America and Israel in the region and rely on their destructive innovations for the suppression of their people.

    In a nutshell, they are birds of the same feather that must flock and perch together. If Israel is desirous of lasting peace, it should head on down the road to Iran and engage same, not Saudi Arabia. It is the only nation in the region that the Palestinians trust and listen to. So Alan, what would be novel, engaging and unprecedented would be for Friedman to propose such a meet. I am completely taken aback that one could even begin to consider such a naive and dubious option as you have done.

  3. Israeli on the 09. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    “If Israel is desirous of lasting peace, it should head on down the road to Iran and engage same, not Saudi Arabia.”
    The problem is that current IRI regime does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    So I guess first we’ll have to bomb some shit out of mullahs to make them more chatty.

  4. Alan Hart on the 09. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    “Isrseli” above, by what he writes, proves a point I often make – that most Israelis, brainwashed by Zionist propaganda, need to feel persecuted and victimized in order to justify Zionism’s crimes.

    He writes that the Arab Peace Initiatvie is not worth even a consideration for one simple reason – “it does not contain any solution to Israel’s security concerns…”

    I really do not have the time or the inclination to engage with such nonsense except to say that if he/she would read my book, ZIONISM: THE REAL ENEMY OF THE JEWS, he/she would disocver that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force.

  5. Alan Hart on the 09. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Dear Egoigwe,

    If you were familiar with my writings – books, articles and speeches – you would know that I believe that democracy exists nowhere on Planet Earth and least of all in some important respects in America.

    For democracy to be made to work in America (and the whole of the Western world), citizens, the voters, need to be much better informed than they are.

    You would also know that I have nothing but contempt for the regimes and elites of the Arab world. That’s why I am red-flagged by them as well as Zionism.

    Do you have any practical suggestions about how Zionism can be called and held to account for its crimes?

  6. Egoigwe on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    @Israeli:”The problem is that current IRI regime does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    So I guess first we’ll have to bomb some shit out of mullahs to make them more chatty.”

    Well, dear Israeli, if that is the typical Israeli response to what is, in the first instance, a wrong assertion, it is of little surprise that enduring peace continues to elude Israel. You should read Alan’s book “Zionism: the real enemy of the Jews” to educate your mind. You are a living testimony which validates Zionism as the real enemy of the Jews. Your postulations are ignorance personified and clearly the product of a brain washed mind. I shudder to think at what Zionism has done to Israelis, such as you are.

  7. Rehmat on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    I don’t see any reason why not? After all Saudi dynasty was created by the West to divide Muslim Ummah for the benefit of the West and the Zionist Jews.

    Look at their recent actions; they financed Saddam Hussein/USrael 8-year war on Iran to the tune of US$80 billion. Then they helped the US to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2002 they proposed the submission of Palestinians to Israeli demands so that Saudi Arabia could openly recognize the Zionist entity. In 2006, when Lebanese Hizbullah was rubbing Israeli nose in the sand – Saudi issued a ‘fatwa’ that supporting Hizbullah is against Islam. Only a few months ago – Riyadh gave permission to Israel to fly over Saudi Arabia in case Jews want to attack Islamic Republic.

    Washington’s ‘regime change’ for Israel
    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/washingtons-regime-change-for-israel/

  8. Egoigwe on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    @Alan Hart:”Do you have any practical suggestions about how Zionism can be called and held to account for its crimes?”

    Dear Alan,

    First, let me start by saying I have read some of your fantastic books and articles, including your recommended reading to Israeli. You could, quite frankly, consider me a fan of yours. Having admitted that much, may I add that being a student of yours in some sense, I couldn’t hide my consternation at your conclusion “…that King Abdullah should do what Friedman suggested.” I had thought, and still believe, your initial observation: “That proves Friedman doesn’t understand the complexities of the conflict and is at least a little bit bonkers.”, was more with it and accurate.

    Now to your question. Over the years, dear Alan, I have spent a small fortune in donations to the “free Gaza” projects and flotillas. I have also spent a smaller fraction buying and reading up on books, such as yours, to get a better handle on these turn of events in the Middle East.

    One thing comes across clearly in my reading and understanding of that unfortunate crisis; America is not the solution but a causative factor to that problem. I say the same also of Saudi Arabia, Egypt et al. I had hoped this would be manifestly clear to you too.

    I do not tire in my support for most “free Gaza” projects and those that seek to break the siege on Gaza because I think in terms of practical and concrete actions that’s the way to go. In this respect, you could say I worship at the altar of communal service. I am therefore, fanatically committed to my belief that the world needs to unite and fight this demon that rears its head amongst us. Not America, not the UN, not Saudi Arabia but us; citizens of this world. We must boycott Israeli goods, till it starts to hurt where it matters most, their pocket books.

    I do not think the time is ripe for calling Zionists to account for their crimes, it is yet ahead of us, that time will come. What I do consider of paramount importance is for the inhumanity being visited on good Palestinians to stop and I strongly suggest that we don’t lose sight of this. To my mind, anything done that doesn’t insist on giving Palestinians their lives back must, unwittingly or not, be diversionary. Their right of return must first be guaranteed and the suffering stopped with the world uniting to FREE PALESTINE! It is only when this is done that the culprits can be identified and their crimes enumerated by those victims who are presently scattered about abroad, but first we must bring them home to tell their own stories and give evidence.

  9. Rehmat on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    This is in response to Allan’s footnote:

    I hope you do understand what two-state solution meant to Washington-Tel Aviv-Riyadh axis of evil?

    The two-state solution stands for:

    1. Ademographic Jewish nuclear state and a ‘bantustan Palestinian state’ without even with a conventional military.

    2. Gaza Strip and the West Bank (with Jewish settlements intact) will form the “Palestinian state” – not under the elected government of Islamist Hamas, but US-Israel-Saudi Arabia approved a puppet secularist regime.

    3. Jerusalem will remain under Jewish boots – or at most East Jerusalem will be declared an “International City” under UN/Vatican control.

    4. The borders and air space of the “Palestinian state” would be controlled by the zionist entiy with the help of US puppets in Egypt and Jordan.

    5. After being recognized as a “Jewish state” the Zionist regime would not be obliged by the international laws to let the Palestinian refugees return to their ancestral homes from where they were expelled by the foreign Jews in 1948.

    Alan do you believe that Scots, Wales or Irish people would accept such a solution – considering Britain is also a nuclear power and a permanent member of UNSC?

    I bet Gilad Atzmon might tell you what he told me – “Helen Thomas had the best solution”.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/the-new-palestine/

  10. IH8AllZionists on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    why not? both of them are Zionists.

  11. Alan Hart on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Dear Egoigwe,

    We don’t disagree about the need for global expressions of people power. I often say that the real division on Planet Earth is between governments and the vested interests which pull their strings AND us the citizens.

    But I do believe that only the US has the leverage to cause, or try to cause, the Zionist state to be called and held to account for its crimes. The problem, as I have written in my book, is that almost all Americans are too uninformed (yes, I really mean ignorant) to make their democracy work. That in turn is why I believe that almost nothing is more important than informing and educating Americans about the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel.

    Best wishes

    Alan

  12. Egoigwe on the 12. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Dear Alan,

    I couldn’t agree more… and I do thank you for your humility, clarity and patience.

    My kindest regards, always.

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