JERUSALEM (Jan. 5)
“We told you so” was the reaction of Israeli officials today to the news that Saudi Arabia disavowed its Foreign Minister’s reported readiness “to accept Israel” under certain conditions.”What else can we say?” observed Foreign Ministry spokesman Avi Pazner. “This shows that they are not sincere in their periodic hints of readiness for peace and recognition.”
Prince Saudi el-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, said in an interview published last Sunday in The New York Times that his government was prepared to accept Israel on condition that it recognized Palestinian rights and returned all the occupied territories. The Saudi state operated Riyadh Radio broadcast a statement yesterday by a spokesman for the Saudi Foreign Ministry which said:
“There is absolutely no truth in what has been attributed to His Highness Prince Saud about the kingdom’s recognition of Israel. What His Highness Prince Saud said with regard to recognition was in essence a reference to the requirement that Israel recognize the rights of the Palestinian people to return to their land, to self-determination and to the establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.” This was in essence the plan promulgated by Crown Prince Fahd last August and which was promptly rejected by Israel as another play to dismantle the Jewish State.
SIMILAR DISAVOWALS IN THE PAST
Israeli officials today were pleased that Israel’s reaction this time had not been a flat rejection, but rather a challenge to the Saudis that if they want to talk peace. Israel is ready to talk without preconditions at any time and any place.
Officials here also recalled that Riyadh engaged in similar on again-off again exercises in the last few months. In mid-November Saudi Arabia’s acting delegate to the United Nations, Gaafar Allagany, said that Fahd’s plan recognized Israel by affirming, in the seventh point of the plan, “the right of the countries of the region to live in peace.” Two days later this view was officially disavowed by “an official Saudi source.
Last May, Fahd told The Washington Post that if Israel declared its willingness to withdraw from occupied territories, Saudi Arabia would bring other Arabs to negotiations. Four days later he claimed that he had been misquoted and a month later called for a holy war against Israel.