Sunday, October 19, 2008

Israel considering Saudi peace plan

The news coming out of Israel these past few weeks has been really fascinating.

First there was outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's frank statements in an interview that Israel should give up almost all of the land it captured in the 1967 war with several of their Arab neighbors - the West Bank, Golan Heights, and east Jerusalem - in exchange for a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians. Now Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that Israel is considering dusting off a 2002 peace deal put forward by the Saudis.

The Saudi deal says basically that if Israel withdraws from the occupied lands (West Bank, Golan Heights, east Jerusalem, Gaza Strip), the Arab nations will recognize Israel. Currently, most Arab nations do not recognize Israel as a legitimate country and few have formal diplomatic relations with them.

Olmert's interview and taking a fresh look at the Saudi peace deal are pretty dramatic developments, considering the peace deal that George Bush said he wanted by the end of his term in office looked pretty dead a few weeks ago. Arab leaders are said to be worried about the growing influence of radical groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and Iran's nuclear program – who all point to Israel's occupation of Arab territory as reasons for their actions. I also wonder if Israel's leaders aren't getting more and more concerned about the actions of the settlement movement (the Israelis who live in the occupied territories), who have been growing more militant in recent months - carrying out attacks against Palestinians and allegedly sending a pipe bomb to an Israeli peace activist. Olmert himself warned of an "evil wind of extremism" that was threatening Israel's security based on some of the more militant members of the settlement movement.

Israel, meanwhile, announced it would continue peace talks with Palestine and Syria while asking Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to provide more information on how the Saudi plan could move forward.
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