Washington (Nov. 8)
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Fahd’s eight-point plan for a Middle East peace which lay moribund after it was first proposed in August, now has emerged as an international issue which could harm the Camp David process as well as United States relations with both Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Part of the blame for this development is being placed on the Reagan Administration which, after rejecting the plan last August, publicly said in late October that there were positive elements in the plan although some of the eight points were items that should await negotiations.
By the end of last week, the Administration was refusing all comment on the Fahd plan except to say “we are committed and will continue to be committed to Camp David as the only basis for continued negotiations” toward peace.
But the Administration’s original statements, coming in the wake of Senate approval of the sale to the Saudis of five AWACS surveillance planes and F-15 enhancement equipment, added to Israel’s belief that there was a tilt in Washington against Israel and toward the Arabs.
FAHD PLAN TO UNITED NATIONS
On the other side, Prince Saud, the Saudi Foreign Minister, has announced that the Saudis will seek United Nations General Assembly endorsement for the Fahd plan and then ask the Security Council to sponsor an international conference in which the Soviet Union would be included. With an Arab summit scheduled for Morocco this month, the Saudi move adds to Reagan Administration concern that the Arabs will box themselves into a position where they will be unable to retreat from support of the Fahd plan, a situation similar to what happened a few years ago when they anointed the Palestine Liberation Organization as the only spokesman for the Palestinian people. The Reagan Administration, which had argued that the $8.5 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia was need to bring the moderate Arab state into the peace process, now faces a major confrontation with these states at the UN.
In addition, the participation of four West European countries — Britain, France, Italy and The Netherlands — in the force that will patrol the Sinai after Israel’s final withdrawal next April is in doubt. Lord Carrington, the British Foreign Secretary, while in Riyadh last week, not only praised the Fahd plan and echoed the European Economic Community (EEC) position that the PLO should have an enhanced role in peace negotiations, but also criticized the Camp David peace process.
Carrington may tilt toward the Arabs more than, for example, does French President Francois Mitterrand, but as chairman of the EEC’s Council of Ministers, Carrington was also representating the Common Market while in Riyadh. This led Premier Menachem Begin to declare that Israel would veto the participation of any country in the Sinai force that rejected the Camp David process.
Begin, meanwhile, was reportedly gratified by Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s statement last week declaring that the U.S. considers the Camp David process the only means of negotiating peace in the area. The Israelis are now expected to press for greater U.S. involvement in the autonomy negotiations which resume Wednesday in Cairo.
Meanwhile, observers here are still trying to assess why the Reagan Administration decided to make a public statement on the Fahd plan only a few days after the AWACS sale was approved. Many believe that the Administration, which had argued that the Saudis would be helpful in the peace process as a result of the arms sale, wanted to show that the Fahd plan was proof of its argument.
Others point to the surprise announcement during Mitterrand’s recent visit to the U.S. that the West Europeans are considering joining the Sinai force. Some believe that an expression of approval for the Fahd plan may have been the price the Europeans exacted.
Both the Europeans, who voiced support of the plan much earlier, and the Reagan Administration, in finding positive elements, pointed to implied recognition of Israel. What really set the Israelis off was President Reagan’s remarks. “We couldn’t agree with all the points, nor could the Israelis,” Reagan said. “But it was the first time they had recognized Israel as a nation. It’s a beginning point of negotiations.”
What President Reagan and others were referring to was point seven of the Fahd plan which said “confirming the right of countries of the region to live in peace.” As former Foreign Minister Abba Eban pointed out here last week, the Fahd proposal does not recognize the State of Israel nor do the Saudis call for negotiations. Rather they rule out talks with Israel.
FAHD PLAN CALLED PLAN TO DESTROY ISRAEL
Begin labelled the Fahd proposals a plan for the “liquidation” of Israel, noting that it called for a complete withdrawl to the pre-1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital. The Saudis confirmed that the PLO would rule this state.
It is surprising that since the memory of the late Anwar Sadat has been brought into recent debates on the Mideast, particularly the AWACS sale to the Saudis, it has not been mentioned in all the comments on the Fahd plan.
Fahd made his proposal to an Arab newspaper at the time Sadat was completing his successful visit to Reagan in Washington. When Sadat was asked about the Fahd plan on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” Aug. 9, he said there was “nothing new” in it.
“It will be the most easy thing for me, for instance, to sit in Cairo and say, well, the United States had to do so and so: Mr. Begin ought to do so and so,” Sadat said. He said that instead of issuing mandates, the Saudis could “contribute” to the peace process by joining the effort between Egypt, Israel and the U.S. If the congressional debate by both sides on the AWACS is any indication, this is a position which most Americans support.