Strategic Significance of the Saudi Initiative

Prime Minister Olmert stated his support for re-launching the Saudi initiative at the upcoming Arab League Summit. Israel should formulate and clarify its policies in a number of arenas in which the Saudi initiative has strategic implications for Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently stated his support for a re-launching of the Saudi initiative of 2/02 (Arab Peace Initiative) at the upcoming Arab League Summit in Riyadh.

The Reut Institute identifies a number of arenas in which the Saudi initiative has strategic implications for Israel. In light of the prospect of re-launching the Saudi initiative, Israel should formulate and clarify its policies in each of the following arenas:

  1. Political process with the Palestinians - By leading to a Palestinian national unity government with the potential for Delivery Capability, the Mecca Agreement was a necessary, but not sufficient, step in restoring a political process with the Palestinians. The Saudi role, which was crucial for achieving the Mecca Agreement, could bring the Palestinian government - and therefore de facto Hamas as well - into re-launching the Saudi initiative and the political process.

  2. Lebanon - Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (allied with Hizbullah) and Majority Leader Saad Hariri of the March 14 Alliance have been meeting to solve the Lebanese internal crisis before the Arab League Summit, partly as a result of diplomatic contacts between Saudia Arabia and Iran. Saudi pressure to agree prior to the Riyadh summit may soon result in a new Lebanese government.

  3. Syria - The Saudi initiative refers to full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders in return for "full normalization of relations" with Arab states, meaning Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights. The Saudi initiative therefore holds implications for outstanding issues with Syria, such as support for terror.

  4. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States - The growing importance of Saudi Arabia as a regional mediator as well as efforts by the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and UAE) to support a political process present an opportunity for Israel to collaborate with a coalition of pro-Western Arab states. (See Moderate Axis.)

  5. Iran - The Saudi initiative presents an opportunity for Israel to cooperate with the Arab world in order to face a common threat of potential Iranian Hegemony. However, a regional political process which excludes Iran is likely to be perceived by Iran as a threat to its interests and Iran may therefore seek to undermine it through The Resistance Network.

  6. USA - The US has supported the establishment of a coalition of "moderate states" in the Middle East and the re-launching of the Saudi initiative. America's entanglement in regional conflicts and desire for a political success means that the US is in a process of reassessing its priorities in the region, with implications for the American-Israeli relationship. (See The Coming Moment of Truth between Israel and the US.)