by Dr. Mordechai Kedar
The media are rife with speculations during the past few days about the possibility of normalizing relations between Israel and the nations of the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar). This makes it crucial for Israel’s government to know how to approach such negotiations, if they do take place, in a way that prevents a repetition of the mistakes made in the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace, anything at all. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. If the Saudis want to live in peace with us, we will stretch out our hands to offer them peace in return. But that is all they will get. There is no other kind of peace agreement and if they do not want peace on those terms, then shalom ulehitraot (so long, it’s been good to know you, Israeli-style).
The following are ten essential pointers to help Israel deal with the Middle Eastern culture of negotiation in an informed fashion, instead of the ignorance that led to its egregious errors in the accords with Egypt and Jordan.
(Note: From here on, when I write Saudis or Saudi Arabia, I refer to all the nations in the Arabian Peninsula, as listed above, as well as any other Arab or Islamist nation.)
1. It is of the utmost importance to realize that the Saudis do not really want peace with Israel. Had they wanted peace, they would have joined Anwar Sadat in 1979 or King Hussein in 1994. All they want is Israel’s help in facing their formidable arch-enemy, Iran, now and in the future. If there were no Iranian threat, the thought of peace with Israel would not even enter their heads, and once that threat is gone (even if the price were an all-out Iran-Israel war that results in Israel paying a high price in casualties and destruction) there is no certainty that their relations with us would continue to be peaceful.
2. Israel is not going anywhere. We have been a state for 70 years without peace with Saudi Arabia and we can continue being a state for another 7000 years without it. Any desire for a quick peace (as expressed in the disastrous “Peace Now” slogan) will raise the price of that peace. Israel has all the time in the world and has no reason to feel pressured to make peace with anyone. We have to remind ourselves, the Americans (who feel the coming elections breathing down their necks), and the entire world that peace with the Saudis and the Emirate will not solve any other Middle Eastern problems, just as the peace accords with Egypt and Jordan did nothing to advance the solutions of any of the pressing problems facing the Middle East.
3. Peace with Saudi Arabia must be entirely free of other isues, most particularly a Palestinian connection. In 1978, while at Camp David, Begin made a terrible mistake when he agreed to the idea of Palestinian Autonomy, granting it a strong police force. This paved the way for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, which turned into a terror state in Gaza and may yet turn into another terror state in the hills of Judea and Samaria which overlook most of Israel and have most of the country within shooting range. If the Saudis want peace with us, let us have peace,without discussing any other issues because we are not in the least interested in tying peace with Saudi Arabia to any other issue. Why? Because.
4. If the Saudis insist on relating to the Palestinian issue, Israel’s response in any peace agreement should be: “If Saudi Arabia wishes to help the Palestinians, it can build cities and towns for them in Saudi Arabia. Israel will be only too pleased to share its experience in establishing new communities and in developing their economies and infrastructure for the benefit of residents. ” Any reference on the part of the Saudis to a different solution (excepting the Emirate solution) should lead to the Israeli delegation leaving the negotiations.
5. a. Israel will recognize the House of Saud’s regime in Mecca and Medina (even though the family does not originate in the Higaz but is from the Najd Highland) in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its historic and eternal capital city.
5b. Israel will grant recognition to Saudi Arabia’s being defined an Islamic state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel as a Jewish State or a state belonging to the Jewish People.
5c. Israel will recognize the right of the House of Saud rulers to live anywhere in Saudi Arabia in exchange for Saudi recognition of the Jewish People’s inalienable right to live in all of Israel, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
5d. Israel will not allow incitement against Saudi Arabia In its media. In return, the Saudis will not allow anti-Israel incitement in Saudi media (This is crucial with regard to al Jazeera in case Qatar joins the negotiations with Israel).
6. Israel is willing for its embassy in Saudi Arabia to be located wherever the Saudis wish it to be in return for Saudi agreement to locate their embassy in Israel wherever the Israelis want it to be, that is, in Jerusalem. Having the Embassy located in Jerusalem is a matter of principle. The day the Saudis move their embassy somewhere else without Israel’s agreement is the day the peace agreement and everything that it entails becomes null and void.
7. Saudi Arabia will not vote against Israel in international organizations and institutions, and Israel will not vote against the Saudis in these same venues. Both countries will have the right to abstain from voting if they so wish.
8. It is important to keep the Americans and Europeans away from the negotiating table, since they are not party to the agreement and will not have to suffer the results of its not being honored and since their interests are not necessarily those of Israel, especially when it comes to the speed at which the negotiations move forward. The Americans want to cut a deal, even a bad deal, and if they are allowed into the negotiation rooms, they will pressure Israel to give in, mainly on the Palestinian issue. Israel must preserve the option of leaving the negotiations at any point, without anyone telling it what to do.
9. Israel must absolutely refrain from accepting international guarantees, even from its best friends, in exchange for giving in on something the Saudis want. Israel must not forget for an instant the international guarantees Ukraine received (The Budapest Manifesto of 1994), promising a unified Ukraine. The countries that signed it – Russia, the UK and the USA – abandoned Ukraine and forgot their commitments to that country when Russia, one of the signatories, invaded Ukraine, conquered the Crimean Peninsula and annexed it to Russia. That is exactly what will happen to Israel if it relies on international guarantees. No country in the world will support us when we need it even if its signature appears on a thousand guarantees in our favor.
10. Peace with the Saudis must entail more than just a ceasefire with an attached document (“Salaam” in Arabic) . Israel agreed to that in the case of Egypt and Jordan as a result of the ignorance of those running the negotiations on Israel’s side.
Israel must insist on complete normalization (“sulh” in Arabic), which includes cultural, tourist, business, industrial, art, aeronautical, scientific, technological, athletic and academic ties and exchanges, etc. If Israel participates in international events taking place in Saudi Arabia, the Israeli flag will wave along with those of other countries, and if Israel is the victor in any sports competition in Saudi Arabia, the Hatikva anthem will be played, as it is when other countries win medals. Israeli books will be shown at book fairs, and Israeli products officially displayed at international exhibitions taking place in Saudi Arabia.
An economic document, whose details I am not in a position to elaborate, but which must be an addendum to the agreement, is to be based on mutual investments and acquisitions as well as a commitment to non- participation in boycotts.
A security addendum must also be added to the agreement, about whose contents I wish only to state that:
a. It must establish that the Saudis can not help any other country or party act against Israel, will not transfer information to such parties and will not allow parties working against Israel into Saudi borders. Israel will pledge the same to the Saudis.
b. Israel will not commit itself to attacking any country anywhere in the world which does not present a direct threat to Israel.
Israel must be wary of a mutual defense pact with the Saudis, because in January 1991 Saudi Arabia did not respect the mutual defense pact it had signed with Iraq and actually worked against its implementation. Over the past 7 years it has proven that it does not care in the least if Arab and Muslim blood is spilled like water in Syria and Yemen. It is hard to believe that the spilling of Jewish blood could merit a better response. The House of Saud has always been motivated by unadulterated cynical self-interest from the day that country was established, and it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Saudi army goes out to war to protect Israel – unless the war directly affects Saudi interests. There is no benefit whatsoever in relying on a mutual defense pact with that country.
All the other details belong under the general rubric: Peace for peace, recognition for recognition, normal relations for normal relations. Gone are the days when Israel paid in hard currency, in portions of its hard-won land, for a piece of paper with the word Peace written on it.