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The Saudi Dilemma By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 09, 2007

On May 15, 1948, the day Israel declared its independence from the British empire, the Arab league, comprised of the Arab states in the Middle East, declared a war intended to exterminate the nascent Jewish state.

Of the five Arab League nations that border Israel, four of these countries eventually made arrangements of one sort or another to put them on a slow path of reconciliation with Israel. Egypt and Jordan made peace treaties with Israel. Lebanon and Syria signed armistice agreements with Israel.

However, the fifth Arab nation contiguous to Israel, Saudi Arabia, now the dominant nation in the Arab League, remains in a formal state of war with Israel, having never agreed to any armistice or any semblance of a peace accord.

Instead, Saudi Arabia has consistently funded all terror groups at war with Israel, from Hamas to the 10 PLO terror factions based in Damascus.

Saudi Arabia has earned the distinction as the first nation since the Third Reich that is officially Judenrein - Jew free. By law, no Jew may visit or live in Saudi Arabia. However, with the sudden encouragement of the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia has been thrust into the position of the key mediator in the Middle East conflict.

Zalman Shuval, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., wrote in a leading Israeli newspaper in early March that the special relationship of the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and the Bush family was one of the key reasons for the new Saudi relationship with the U.S. government.

According to Shuval, Bandar's "close relationship with the Bush family was expressed not only in strategic understandings, but also in large arms deals ... Bandar was involved in 'nearly every step that the U.S. took in the Middle East and that ... when the current President Bush started his election campaign, Ambassador Bandar came to him to brief him on Middle East matters."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia remains the third-largest supplier of oil to the United States (14 percent). Saudi Arabia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which is subordinate to it, has $1 billion in foreign currency reserves, most of which are invested in U.S. bonds.

The Saudi Arabian government has announced that it intends to invest $650 billion in the next few years in developing infrastructure in Saudi Arabia: oil and gas drill sites, power stations, ports, airports, communication networks, underwater pipes, desalination installations, refineries, schools and universities. Each one of those enormous projects can either be open to American companies or closed to them.

And, finally: Saudi Arabia casts itself as the United States' main ally in the Middle East. It buys inordinate quantities of American weapons and is flooded with American advisers.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia received Iranian President Ahmadinejad in early March and welcomed him in an unprecedented state visit to dissuade any American illusion that the Saudis would form an Arab coalition against Iran.

The "Mecca Agreement" 

Essentially, Israel's battle to prevent world recognition of Hamas, an Islamic terror organization sworn to destroy the Jewish state, ended in defeat with the ratification of the Mecca Agreement.

Saudi Arabia was the patron of the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which, for the first time in modern history, aligned all Palestinian terrorist factions against the state of Israel.

The Saudis reportedly sent over $1 billion in gratuities to Fatah and Hamas to secure this new terror accord.

An Israeli intelligence official briefed the Israeli cabinet after the Mecca Agreement and declared that Hamas was the "tactical victor" of the Mecca Agreement, having achieved its goals without having to concede even one of its principles or tenets.

The Mecca Agreement does not mention nor recognize Israel, and will not keep any obligation or agreement that was signed by Arafat and guaranteed by the United States government. Territories were handed over to Arafat and his protégé, Abbas, in exchange for an agreement of Palestinian recognition of Israel and a cessation of Palestinian terror, neither of which has taken place.

Now, with the support of what is known as the "Mecca agreement" and with the official sponsorship of the Saudi government, Hamas can celebrate their victory in Mecca, which has paved the way to having their terrorist organization recognized internationally as the elected democratic representative of the Palestinian people.

That achievement was delivered to Hamas by the Saudi leadership.

The new "Palestinian unity government" will serve as a type of camouflage netting for Hamas, with formal Saudi backing.

The Israeli government miscalculated when it based its approach toward Hamas on its blind faith in the economic and political boycott.

Early last February, this reporter heard Israel's 83-year-old Deputy Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, the architect of the 1993 Oslo Accord, declare that "only with economics can we make peace." Peres went on to say that if members of terrorist groups perceive economic incentives, they will cease to be terrorists.

Peres, not a religious man, has never understood the tenacity of a terrorist movement which is grounded in religion - not only in economic prosperity.

Fatah Spokesman: In Mecca, We Chose

Since the Hamas victory in the elections over the Fatah, led by Arafat's protégé Mahmoud Abbas, the question that has been bandied about over the past 13 months is whether Fatah would choose reconciliation with Israel over an alliance with the warlike Hamas.

After the Mecca Agreement,  Fatah has made its choice - to align itself with Hamas against Israel.

After the Mecca Agreement, the Palestinian Authority's Ma'an News Agency interviewed the spokesmen of Fatah, Jamal Nazzal, who spoke candidly about the Fatah-Hamas coordinated war alliance against Israel:

Ma'an: You have said that President Abbas defended Hamas in Europe as a qualified partner in the coalition, yet Hamas criticized your comments. Why?

Nazzal: The spokesmen of Fatah are advocates of Hamas in the foreign media, and the president's ambassadors always explain to the world's public that Hamas has developed a new stance, which is supportive of peace. Foreign journalists say that Hamas is committed to destroying Israel, so how can the Palestine Liberation Organization pretend that they can achieve peace with Israel in the name of the Palestinian people? In this context, we remind them of Hamas' positive declarations regarding acceptance of a peaceful solution including coexistence with Israel.

Ma'an: Do you see any shift in Hamas's stance following the Mecca agreement?

Nazzal: We are satisfied with the declarations of [Hamas politburo chief] Khaled Mashaal. He is really helpful for President Abbas in convincing the world of the agreement. However, there are some spokesmen in the Palestinian territories who try to boast that Hamas respects rather than commits to the already-signed treaties. This might send some mistaken impression to the Quartet in regards to the 'worthiness' of Hamas to get the siege lifted, while, in the point of view of the Westerners, Hamas is leading a war against the existence of Israel. In fact, Hamas is holding a truce with Israel, and this is something that is well-known.

Ma'an: What about the difference between the respect and the commitment to the deals signed between the PLO and the rest of the world?

Nazzal: Hamas did not sign these agreements and is not asked to recognize these agreements. But when Hamas is in the government of the Palestinian Authority, it should adapt to the situation. Anyway, the Mecca agreement has decided these issues.

Ma'an: What about the Fatah spokesmen and their statements?

Nazzal: After Mecca, things cooled off, and the noise reduced. Hamas now avoids accusing others of not being nationalists and has abandoned the language of daggers. Fatah dealt positively with this trend.

Ma'an: What about Fatah?

Nazzal: Fatah's language has changed since May 2006. We are committed to the resistance because if the resistance ends, Fatah ends. We are a wide movement, and contain all sectors of society. You can find Marxists as well as religious people in the Fatah movement. We have to deal with all these people in the movement, and we have extensive relations with all the liberation movements in the world. Our language in Fatah is the Palestinian hope and the Palestinian ambitions.

Ma'an: Don't you think that the Fatah spokesmen are responsible for the tense atmosphere also?

Nazzal: When [Major General] Muhammad Gharib and his children and friends and others are killed by the Executive Force, and when [Fatah member] Shalayil is besieged by Hamas, the spokesmen of Fatah are asked to not publish such news to avoid escalation. This is strange; it is the same as when Israel accuses Palestine TV of incitement when it publishes pictures of Palestinian children who were killed by the Israeli forces.

Ma'an: Do the Fatah spokesmen have any advantages for the movement?

Nazzal: What matters here is the number of Fatah members being assassinated by the Israelis, and the number of prisoners from Fatah; they number 7,150 out of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Ma'an: How do you see the future?

Nazzal: In Mecca, we were forced to choose between satisfying Israel or Hamas. We chose Hamas and made concessions for the sake of the higher Palestinian interests. We joined Hamas under blockade without guarantees that the blockade will be lifted. Hamas too made concessions for the benefit of the Palestinian higher interests. The PLO will speak on behalf of all the Palestinian people. We will be committed to the Arab and international legitimacy and respect the signed agreements. We have ended the differences between each other in spite of the pluralism and criticism we have in the Palestinian arena.

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David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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