Jerusalem (Aug. 9)
Israel today rejected outright the Saudi Arabian peace plan for the Middle East conflict as “a phased program for the destruction of Israel.” Reacting to Saudi Crown Prince Fahd’s proposals, which he outlined in an interview with the official Saudi News Agency, official circles in Jerusalem said the phases of dismemberment, under the Saudi plan, were:
Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied areas; handing over the areas to the United Nations under a trusteeship plan; establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital; the right of two million Palestinians to “repatriation” or compensation for those who do not wish to return.
The Israeli officials said that the thrust of this plan, if realized, would mean an attack by the Arab states on Israel with the Palestinian state acting as the “spearhead.” The officials emphasized that it was therefore “deliberately misleading” for the Saudi plan to speak of recognizing Israel by implication in calling for guaranteeing the right of all states in the area to “live in peace.” In addition, the officials noted that the plan contravenes the peace process contained in the Camp David agreements.
DIFFERING REACTIONS NOTED
This reaction was issued some 12 hours after the Saudi plan first hit the news wires. The initial Israeli reaction was not so clear-cut. While Foreign Ministry spokesmen were quoted as “rejecting” the Saudi Prince’s proposals as “totally unacceptable,” unnamed “Cabinet Ministers” were quoted by Israel TV as seeing the Saudi move as a significant development, even a “turning point.”
These more favorable reactions dwelt particularly on Prince Fahd’s specific reference to the right of states in the area “to live in peace.” Political observers in Jerusalem saw the Saudi move at this time as designed to impact upon American public and congressional opinion just as the Reagan Administration is preparing to submit the AWACS sale proposal to Congress, and to resume the autonomy talks with Israel and Egypt.
Fahd himself is due in Washington during the fall, following Premier Menachem Begin’s visit in September. Some Israeli observers speculated that Fahd’s pronouncement at this time was coordinated with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, who has been in the U.S. these past few days making the point that the Palestinian issue must now become top priority.
The eight-point plan calls for: Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories; removal of all Israeli settlements from the territories; guaranteed freedom of worship for all religions; recognition of Palestinian right to repatriation or compensation (for those who do not wish to be repatriated); a UN trusteeship over the West Bank and Gaza for a few months; establishment of a Palestinian state there with Arab Jerusalem as its capital; guaranteeing the right of all states in the area to “live in peace”; guaranteeing the agreement by “the UN or some of its members,” presumably the superpowers. The plan, as reported in the media, made no mention of the Palestine Liberation Organization.