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Israel's man in Mecca is at it again. Five years ago, for the first time, the Palestinians were beginning to feel diplomatic pressure. In January 2002, the IDF's interception of the Gaza-bound Karine-A Iranian weapons ship in the Red Sea exposed the close relationship that Fatah terror chief and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat had developed with the mullahs in Teheran. In February 2002, a little-known al-Qaida terrorist by the name of Abu Musab Zarqawi, who had set up shop in Iran after fleeing US forces in Afghanistan dispatched three Palestinian terrorists to Israel to conduct terror operations. The men were arrested en route in Turkey.
By February and March 2002, Israel had accumulated and disseminated a critical mass of evidence demonstrating that the Palestinian jihad against Israel was being massively funded by the same states that were funding al-Qaida. Israel had also shown that far from being interested in peace or in combating terror, Arafat, his official PA militias, and his Fatah terror group were directing the jihad.
With the foreign-funded Palestinian terror machine on the verge of being delegitimized, something had to be done to change the subject.
Enter Saudi Arabia.
As one of the PA's chief terror financiers; one of the epicenters of jihadist propaganda and recruitment; and the Arab state with the most influence over the Bush administration, the Saudis had an interest in preventing the US from acting on the knowledge that there is no difference between al-Qaida and Hamas or between the PA and the Taliban-led regime in Afghanistan.
And so, then crown-prince, (and current King) Abdullah invited The New York Time's in-house peace-processor Tom Friedman to Riyadh for dinner. After serving his guest the customary royal meal of freshly slaughtered lamb and sticky rice, Abdullah informed Friedman that if Israel weren't so insistent on defending its citizens from murder, he would introduce a peace plan he happened to have sitting in his desk already.
That plan was first fully enunciated at the Arab League Summit in Beirut on March 27, 2002. The day was a watershed day. In Netanya, 30 Jews were murdered at the Park Hotel by a jihadist suicide bomber while celebrating the Pessah Seder. The massacre caused the Sharon government to finally launch its limited counter-terror offensive - Operation Defensive Shield - in Judea and Samaria after more than a year of stalling.
On March 27, 2002, two conferences convened in Beirut. In the first conference, terror masters from Hizbullah, al-Qaida, Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad convened to discuss collaboration and strategy. At the second conference, the leaders of the Arab League agreed to accept the Saudi initiative.
AS PUBLISHED the next day, the Saudi plan includes two stages. In the first stage, Israel divests itself of defensible borders by surrendering the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. It also allows itself to become inundated with millions of hostile foreign-born Arabs who call themselves Palestinian refugees.
After Israel completes these tasks, the Arab world will agree to sign peace agreements with Israel and have "normal," (but not diplomatic), relations with the indefensible Jewish state. Given that it was acceded to by such terror states as Syria, Libya, Sudan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it should surprise no one that the Saudi plan included no mention of the need to end terrorism, incitement or jihadist indoctrination and violence in its pledge to have normal ties with Israel.
While the international media and the leftist Israeli media greeted the Saudi plan enthusiastically, then prime minister Ariel Sharon did everything he could to discredit the initiative. Sharon understood that it was a tactical ploy to delegitimize Israel's military campaign against the Palestinian jihad and to rebuild the legitimacy of the PA.
From a strategic vantage point, both Sharon and then foreign minister Shimon Peres made it clear that Israel did not accept the Arab view that Israel must surrender all the lands it gained control of in the Six Day War as a precondition for peace. That is, both Sharon and Peres were quick to point out that the plan itself, if implemented by Israel would be a strategic catastrophe for the Jewish state and was therefore unacceptable as a basis for negotiations.
Then too, the Sharon government rejected the sequencing of events, with Israel giving up the store in exchange for vague, unverifiable commitments to an unclear peace sometime down the road. Indeed, President Moshe Katsav invited then crowned-prince Abdullah to visit Israel as a means of calling the Saudi bluff. As Katsav put it, "assuming that the Crown Prince is interested in promoting [his peace plan], the most natural way to do this is by meeting the Israeli government."
With Israel's rejection of the plan, and with the documents the IDF secured during Operation Defensive Shield proving definitively that Arafat was a terrorist, the Saudi plan was laid to the side. But now, five years later, Saudi Arabia is again placing it on the international agenda.
SAUDI ARABIA'S motivations today are as clear as they were five years ago. Then, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Saudis wanted to block the US from recognizing that the jihad against Israel is part and parcel of the global jihad against the US and the rest of the free world. Today, against the backdrop of the Iranian nuclear threat - which also makes clear that the war against Israel is simply a front in the larger jihad - the Saudis again wish to convince the Americans not to view Israel as a strategic ally.
The Saudis reportedly raised President George W. Bush's hackles by mediating last month's Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah which transformed the Iranian and Saudi-financed Fatah terror group into a junior partner in the Iranian and Saudi-financed Hamas terror group's government. The Saudis, like the Palestinians wish for the West to renew its underwriting of the PA in spite of the fact that it no longer makes any bones about being a terror regime.
The easiest way to do that is to pretend that there is a possibility of renewing the "peace process" by putting a deal on the table that Israel will have to reject. With Israel rejecting "peace plans," the Saudis and their counterparts in the Arab League will say that there is no distinction between peace rejecting Israel and peace rejecting Hamas and therefore the West - and the US in particular - should recognize Hamas and give it lots of money.
So in resubmitting their "peace plan," the Saudis are simply acting as they have always acted - as Israel's enemy and as a country dedicated to preventing the US from basing its Middle East policy on a recognition of the basic fact that Arab and Islamic hostility towards the US stems from the same source as Arab and Islamic hostility towards Israel.
WHAT IS new in the current iteration of the Saudi game is Israel's response. Rather than reject the plan as their predecessors did, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are embracing it as a basis for negotiations while applauding the Saudis for their "positive" role in the region.
In press interviews last week, Livni said that Israel's only real quibble is that the Saudi plan stipulates that Israel has to allow millions of hostile foreign Arabs to move here. If they would just fix that one little thing, which she refers to as "an absolute red line," (apparently as opposed to a flexible red line), then we could start getting down to business.
Aside from that, Livni said that the plan "is positive in my view." As she put it, "The initiative does discuss the 1967 lines, but it would be great if we were in a position where the conflict was a border dispute."
For his part, not only does Olmert consider the Saudi plan to be a positive development, according to Haaretz, Olmert so values Saudi Arabia that he decided not to reject the Mecca deal for fear that doing so would upset his friends in Riyadh.
Olmert's aversion to annoying Riyadh reportedly stems from his desire to keep the Saudis on board in opposing Iran's nuclear weapons program. If this is true, then Olmert is as much of a fool as Livni, who claims to truly believe that the Saudi plan can be the basis for negotiations.
In Olmert's case, he apparently has failed to understand that an Iranian nuclear bomb will imperil Saudi Arabia regardless of its impact on Israel. The Saudis would have to oppose Iran's nuclear program even if Israel were to destroy the PA and send its leaders - from Hamas and Fatah alike - packing to Mecca. Israel doesn't have to pay anything for Saudi support of actions to destroy Iran's nuclear installations.
So it is possible that Olmert and Livni are supporting the Saudis because they are obtuse. It is equally possible that they are using the Saudi plan as a diversion to shift public attention away from the fact that they led the country to defeat in the war against Iran's Lebanese proxy last summer and that due to their continued incompetence, Israel currently faces the prospect of a new war starting at any moment.
Whatever the cause of their support for the Saudis, that support is but another sign that they are incompetent to lead the country.