In line with 2002 initiative, Saudi Arabia calls for Arab-Israeli settlement
LONDON - Saudi Arabia appears to be laying the groundwork for another attempt to kick-start the Arab-Israeli peace process, with the kingdom’s powerful crown prince stating that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve their own land.
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz told the Atlantic magazine.
“I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land but we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” the crown prince added.
Crown Prince Mohammed was basically restating the main terms of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the brainchild of the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then crown prince.
The plan, first mentioned during an interview with the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, was formally announced at an Arab League Summit in March 2002 and dubbed the Beirut declaration. It was re-endorsed during an Arab League meeting in 2007.
The initiative calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the normalisation of ties between 57 Arab and Islamic countries and Israel. The plan is predicated on Israel withdrawing from Arab lands occupied during the 1967 war, as well as a just settlement to the Palestinian refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
Crown Prince Mohammed told the Atlantic that Saudi Arabia had “religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people” but stressed that the kingdom did not have “any objection against any other people.”
While the crown prince’s statements recognising the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to “their own land” drew international media attention, recognising Israel’s right to exist is not a novel notion in the Middle East. Several Arab leaders have done so, including the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, whose country maintains relations with Israel, as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his father before him, not to mention the late Yasser Arafat, former chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the movement’s spiritual godfather.
During the interview with the Atlantic, Crown Prince Mohammed dispelled misconceptions about anti-Semitism in the kingdom, stressing that his country has no issue with followers of the Jewish faith.
“Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Mohammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend — he married her. Our Prophet, his neighbours were Jewish,” Crown Prince Mohammed said.
“You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christians and Muslims and Jews.”
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, speaking by telephone April 3 with US President Donald Trump, “emphasised the necessity of moving the peace process” forward, a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency said.
The king also stressed the kingdom’s firm position on behalf of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
“The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” King Salman said in a speech to Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Council.
However, with Trump having publicly stated that the issue of Jerusalem is off the table, it remains to be seen whether the kingdom and its allies can change his stance on the city.
In a speech to the United Nations in February, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the United States as a credible Mideast mediator and called for an international conference to address the peace process.