Israel has not accepted the Saudi peace initiative because the Arab League has turned it into a take-it-or-leave-it deal, Israel’s former military intelligence chief said.
Amos Yadlin, who headed the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate from 2006- 2010, made the statement during a public talk in Brussels with Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, director of the General Intelligence of Saudi Arabia from 1979 to and the youngest son of the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Yadlin invited Faisal Al Saud to Jerusalem to discuss the details of the proposal but the Saudi declined and called the invitation an unhelpful appeal to emotion and distraction from the main issue.
“The real problem is that the Saudi initiative became the Arab League dictate in a summit in Beirut in 2002,” Yadlin said. “The Saudis modified it into a take it or leave it offer with parameters we can’t accept: Mostly in the issue of returning the Golan to Syrians,” Yadlin said, adding that the settling of the Palestinian refugee problem was also a stumbling block.
Faisal Al Saud disputed Yadlin’s assertion and retorted that Israel should accept the proposal in principle, “and then negotiate on the details.”
The meeting was organized by the German Marshall Fund as follow-up to a public exchange in Munich four months ago between Faisal Al Saud and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians.
The Saudi asked Livni why Israel did not follow up on the initiative, which Saudi Arabia tabled in 2001 and which proposes normalization of ties between Israel and Arab League members in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from all areas Israel captured in 1967 and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee issue that would be “agreed upon” by the parties. Yadlin, who attended the talk in Munich, agreed to provide a reply in Brussels, the talk’s moderator, The Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius, said.
“There is nothing under the table, no hidden agreement or underhanded move or secret clauses to it, the Arabs will recognize Israel diplomatically, normalize relation and hostilities in return for Israel withdrawing from all lands occupied in ’67,” he said.
The speakers, who started off amicably, interjected each other’s sentences after Yadlin invited Faisal Al Saud to come to Israel, “pray at the [Al Aqsa] Mosque … and come to Knesset and speak to the Israeli people.”
Faisal Al Saud said he would “absolutely not consider it” and criticized Yadlin, saying: Let us not use emotions as means to influence or attempt to divert attention here from the important issue that the Arabs put forward what the rest world agrees is a viable and genuine, sincere proposition for a comprehensive solution.”
But Yadlin said the Arab peace initiative needs to be updated and should serve as a basis for further negotiations.
He added: [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to come to Jeddah and Mecca tomorrow, tomorrow.”