Peres: Obama Told Me He’s “Very Impressed” With Saudi Arab Peace Plan
November 20, 2008


This negates Dennis Ross’ denial



According to Israeli President and former Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama told him that he was “very impressed” with the Arab League’s 2002 so-called Arab Peace Initiative when the two of them discussed it in July during Senator Obama’s brief visit to Israel. Peres, who had just arrived in London for an official visit, made his comments in interviews to be published in the British media (Anshel Pfeffer, ‘Peres: Obama told me he was ‘very impressed’ with Arab peace plan,’ Haaretz, November 19, 2008).


Earlier this week, prior to Peres’ comments, the Sunday Times [London] reported that, “Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to 1967 borders, according to sources close to America‘s president-elect. Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League … the president-elect said privately it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse a deal that could ‘give them peace with the Muslim world’, according to a senior Obama adviser … A bipartisan group of senior foreign policy advisers urged Obama to give the Arab plan top priority immediately after his election victory. They included Lee Hamilton, the former co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Democrat former national security adviser … Brent Scowcroft, a Republican former national security adviser, joined in the appeal … The advisers have told Obama he should lose no time in pursuing the policy in the first six to 12 months in office while he enjoys maximum goodwill … [Middle East adviser Dennis] Ross and Daniel Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, accompanied Obama on a visit to Israel last July. They also travelled to Ramallah, where Obama questioned Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, about the prospects for the Arab plan … Kurtzer submitted a paper to Obama on the question before this month’s presidential elections … He argued that trying to reach bilateral peace agreements between Israel and individual countries in the Middle East, was a recipe for failure as the record of Bill Clinton and George W Bush showed. In contrast, the broader Arab plan “had a lot of appeal” (Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, ‘Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal,’ The Times [London], November 16, 2008).


Subsequently, Dennis Ross denied that President-elect Obama supports the Saudi Arab Initiative. However, given the fact that Middle East advisers – Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Daniel Kurtzer – have strongly urged Obama to adopt this policy, followed by  Shimon Peres’ own testimony today that Obama is very impressed with it – the evidence seems overwhelming that the original Times report that Obama supports the Initiative is accurate.


The 2002 Arab Initiative, originally proposed by Saudi King Abdullah and later adopted by the Arab League, states that Israel would have to surrender all territory beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines, which include, not only eastern Jerusalem with its holiest Jewish sites, but also all of Judea and Samaria, including major communities like Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Efrat and as well as the strategically vital Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights, as well as religiously holy cities Hebron and Beit El. There are presently over 450,000 Jews living beyond the 1967 armistice lines. Moreover, the Saudi Initiative insists on the legally-baseless so-called ‘right of return’ in accordance with the non-binding 1948 UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which has no legal weight and was in any case rejected by Arab powers at the time. This return is to be exercised at Arab discretion, not Israel‘s, and those who do not return are to be compensated by Israel, meaning that millions of Arabs would be permitted to move into Israel proper, which would render impossible Israel‘s continued existence as a Jewish state.


The Initiative also rejects any substitute for the ‘right of return,’ asserting “the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation [sic] which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries,” meaning the rejection of proposals for settling the refugees and their millions of descendants in neighboring Arab countries and the granting of citizenship to them. All previous Israeli governments have rejected the ‘right of return’ as unequivocally unacceptable. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saudi Saud al-Faisal and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa ruled out any changes to the Initiative.


The Arab Initiative also contradicts the written assurance provided in 2004 by President George W. Bush to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in which President Bush assured Israel that in any future settlement, Israel should be able to retain major Jewish population centers in Judea and Samaria and that Palestinian refugees would be resettled in Palestinian-controlled territories, not in Israel. This Initiative also makes no demand on Palestinians Arabs and Arabs in general. For example, arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups, end incitement to hatred and murder. It also makes no mention of what is to become of the over 450,000 Jews presently living there.


Caroline Glick, Managing Editor, Jerusalem Post, and Middle East Fellow, Center for Security Policy, Washington, D.C., and recipient of the ZOA’s Ben Hecht Award for Outstanding Journalism on the Middle East, has described the problems for Israel contained in the Arab Initiative thus: “This Israeli surrender would enable the formal establishment of a Palestinian terror state. It would also strengthen Iran’s principal ally – the Syrian Ba’athist regime … Without Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights, Israel would be so vulnerable to missile and artillery attack that it could be overwhelmed even before conventional invading Arab armies set foot on its remaining territory … As a reading of the Saudi plan makes clear, it would only be after Israel surrendered all this land and allowed itself to be overrun by millions of hostile Arab immigrants that the Saudis and their Arab brethren would ‘establish normal relations with Israel.’ That is, the Saudis will be ready to talk to Israelis only after Israel is destroyed” (Caroline Glick, ‘Our World: Olmert’s Saudi friends,’ Jerusalem Post, December 4, 2006).


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We view with deep misgivings this latest revelation from Shimon Peres that seems to cast doubt on assurances from Dennis Ross that President-elect Obama was not supporting the Arab Initiative or basing his intended policy planning upon it. It is not possible the President-elect Obama can be both ‘very impressed’ with the Arab Initiative, as Shimon Peres says, while not supporting it, as Dennis Ross says. The evidence suggesting that President-elect Obama supports the Arab Initiative is in complete contradiction and violation of President Bush’s written assurance to the-Prime Minister Sharon. We sincerely hope that Mr. Peres’ account does not indicate that an Obama Administration will adopt the Arab Initiative, which fails to truly accept Israel or offer even the possibility of peace until after Israel has made enormous and irreversible concessions, including uprooting more than 450,000 Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria simply because they are Jews. The American public is entitled to know the true state of affairs and be spared such conflicting testimony. ZOA urges President-elect Obama to immediately, personally and publicly clarify his position on this Saudi Arab Initiative.”

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