If Israel accepts the peace plan and undertakes to implement it, 22Arab states and another 20 Muslim states will undertake to have normal relations with you, You need to accept that we want coexistence between the Arab countries and Israel

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 10) by Smadar Peri 

Thirteen years after the Saudipeace initiative was first introduced, there are evidently still many important figures in the Arab world who wish to revive it, “Now thatPrime Minister Netanyahu has formed his new government, I am calling on him: Say yes to the Saudi peace initiative. It is valid and exists and has not disappeared with the change of the regime in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Anwar Eshki, a prominent Saudi figure. “King Salman and his senior advisers support it. The time has come for Israel to accept it as well. There is no other peace plan.”

Eshki, aged 72, who served as a general in the Saudi army and hasfilled a series of other key positions in the Saudi government in Riyadh , is currently the chairman of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah. He is considered to have very close relations with the royal house. Eshki had no qualms about being interviewed by anIsraeli newspaper, and said: “The issue is important, and a message needs to be conveyed to Netanyahu, to the cabinet ministers and to theIsraeli public that there is a peace plan that is waiting for their approval.”

“If Israel accepts the peace plan and undertakes to implement it, 22Arab states and another 20 Muslim states will undertake to have normal relations with you,” said Eshki in an exclusive interview that he gave toYedioth Ahronoth at the Doha Forum that was convened this week inQatar. “You need to accept that we want coexistence between the Arab countries and Israel.” He also had a message for the skeptics, who do not believe in his vision: “Saudi always keeps the commitments it makes, and you will see, when the time for normalization arrives, we will establish diplomatic relations with Israel along with 22 Arab states as well as commercial cooperation and cultural ties.”

The Saudi peace initiative, which was articulated by King Abdullah in 2002 (while he was still the crown prince), stipulates that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end and relations between Israel and all the Arab states will be normalized in exchange for an Israeli commitment towithdraw to the 1967 lines. Even though the initiative was unanimously endorsed by all the countries attending the Arab summit meeting and came to be referred to as the “Arab peace initiative,” Israel offered no formal response to it. The reason for that reluctance was the plan’s call for Jerusalem to be divided and for the right of return to be given toPalestinian refugees—two aspects to which government officials inJerusalem are strongly oppos ed.

Now, however, after King Salman rose to power in January and after the establishment of the new government in Israel, there are some who say that the time has arrived to renew the initiative. “People say thatNetanyahu formed a government of extremists. That doesn’t bother me. On the contrary. It could be that that is better for achieving peace because, if Netanyahu and his ministers accept the plan, there will be nobody there to get in their way,” said Eshki. If Netanyahu decides to adopt the Saudi peace initiative, said Eshki, he is going to have toendorse it publicly, such as in an address to the United Nations or inJerusalem.

Eshki is aware of Israel’s reservations, and said: “The peace plan stipulates the evacuation of settlements and their resettlement byPalestinians, but land swaps in keeping with security requirements and with mutual consent are also feasible. And the Palestinians who choose not to return will receive financial compensation.” Eshki said he believed that if Israel were to express its consent in principle to the initiative, negotiations over the “problematic issues” could then be held underSaudi, American, Egyptian and Jordanian auspices. “The parties, including Israel, will determine where the negotiations are to be held,” he said. Eshki added that the Saudi peace initiative was the “most suitable”political resolution  of the conflict, since it was based on UN resolutions.

Eshki served in the past as the special adviser to the Saudi ambassadorin Washing ton, and he also served as a security adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office in Riyadh. He established his strategic studies think tank ten years ago. While the think tank is independent, Eshki said that “our papers reach the highest level of government in Saudi Arabia.”