For suggesting that Israel go back to its pre-1967 borders in return for a tipping of the hat – not necessarily peace – from all the Arab countries, Time Magazine crowned Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, “Man of the Week.”
That’s right! This loose paraphrasing of U.N.-resolution 242 got the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia a hyperbolic reaction from the liberal media. One can only hope that the effetes with the bow ties on the Oslo Nobel Peace Prize committee don’t get too festive, or else Abdullah may be joining Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the pantheon of world peacemakers.
In fairness, President Bush was not all that eager to hail the Prince’s spasm as a tectonic shift in the Middle East conflict. But as the cheerleading mounted, his initial instinct to play down the “initiative” dissolved. Fearful of losing political momentum, the administration joined a frenzy of darting European diplomats, all headed to meet with the crown prince and other top Saudi officials.
Veteran reporters and analysts on Middle Eastern affairs, not least Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, gushed about the crown prince’s blip. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noodled about the joyous occasion, and pondered why, hitherto, Saudi Arabia had “almost always stayed on the sidelines when it came to promoting the peace process.”
Wrong, Blitzer! The Saudis were in the thick of it.
Saudi Arabia was an active obstacle to peace back when it refused to endorse the agreements Israel signed with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. More recently, the Kingdom has been a generous donator of funds to al-Qaida and the Taliban, not to mention hothousing thousands of young Saudis for jihad. Fifteen of the 19 suicide hijackers of 9-11 were citizens of the Kingdom, whose crabbed Wahhabi theology the Taliban and al-Qaida share.
Abdullah is “very concerned about the loss of innocent lives on both sides,” and about “where the violence” might “take the region,” Wolf Blitzer tells his column readers, adroitly omitting some minor details: The Saudis airlifted to safety fleeing al-Qaida survivors of the Afghan war. The prince’s concern didn’t stop the Kingdom from funding the Iranian arms cargo that Israelis recently intercepted on the way to the PA. According to DEBKAfile sources, Saudi largess was behind the freighter. Neither has Prince Abdullah ceased to help underwrite the Palestinian Islamic extremists of Hamas, whose attacks on Israelis are relentless.
The prince has been a busy boy indeed.
Speaking in Syria, nine months ago, Prince Abdullah said this: “The womb of every Arab woman carries retribution and every fallen martyr has left behind a loud roar, vibrating in the chest of every child who is looking toward martyrdom.” A sentiment that “vibrated” in the 1995 declaration the mufti of Saudi Arabia made: “Peace with Israel is permissible only on condition that it is a temporary peace, until the Muslims build up the [military] strength needed to expel the Jews.” Last August, the Saudi High Islamic Council issued a fatwa exhorting women to become suicide bombers. (Predictably, CNN ran a slot depicting these débutant’s of death as though they had made a giant leap for womankind.)
Here’s what’s more likely to be going on:
Having narrowly escaped President Bush’s (or rather speech writer David Frum’s) “axis of evil” appellation, Riyadh is doing some energetic PR, trying to ensure it doesn’t make it onto the axis and lose the bit of good grace it still has from the U.S. The Saudis could also be trying to spare Saddam’s bacon. If Riyadh can both distract and make nice with the U.S., while exposing yet another of Mr. Sharon’s underbellies, in the event that the Israeli PM rejects this “peace” plot – then all the better for the Saudis.
Buoyed by how easy it was to get blind editorial and diplomatic endorsement in Europe and the U.S., the Saudis have already indicated that the burden is not on themselves or the Palestinians, but on – you guessed it – Israel to accept the initiative. The Saudi Much Ado About Nothing has Yasser Arafat reminding Europeans, Russians, and Americans to put pressure on Israel. Not a word from the pesky Arafat about the token (wink-wink) promise to mend his rotten ways.
Ahead looms the 22-nation, Arab League summit due to take place late March, in Beirut. Since peace is allegedly in the air – or, at the very least, some good will – might we hope that the representatives will tone down the perennial “kill the Jew” rhetoric? I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it isn’t business as usual.
Don’t expect Wolf Blitzer and his ilk to give you the goods – for them it’s face to Mecca and keister up in the air, as usual.
March 06, 2002