Remarks of FM Peres to the Knesset on the Saudi Initiative

Jerusalem, 6 March 2002

FM Peres: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Knesset,

First, we should agree on the subject of our discussion. There is a Saudi initiative, but we still do not know whether there is a Saudi plan. These are two different things. We have to distinguish between the two: Is it an initiative or a plan? I would certainly welcome an initiative, and I am pleased that the Crown Prince of an important Arab State has stood up and declared to the Arab world that the time has come to make peace and normalize relations in the entire region. I think that this is an important statement.

In regard to the proposal, I hope that no one expects that when Saudi Arabia suggests a plan, then it is our job to say ‘Yes’. This would be inconceivable. Let there be no doubt – we are ready to sit with the Saudis, as we are willing to do with every Arab country and every official Arab representative.

As for the initiative itself, there have been a number of indications. The first indication was Prince Abdullah’s interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Then we received further information following Henry Siegman’s account of his conversations with the Saudis two years ago. This was followed by the remarks of the Saudi Ambassador on MBC Television, then the statement made by the Saudi Ambassador at the UN and finally the statement broadcast on Radio Monte Carlo from an unofficial source.

For all practical purposes, we don’t know too much about it. We have no substantive Saudi document. I know that we criticized the remarks of the Saudi Ambassador at the UN, with some justification. Nevertheless, if the Hebrew translation before me is correct, then he did say that it is possible to reach a resolution of the conflict through a precise implementation of UN Resolutions, with particular reference to Resolutions 242 and 338. This is acceptable to me, and it is also the position of the Israeli government. The disagreement relates to the interpretation of these resolutions.

(Interruption from the floor): The interpretation is based upon the results achieved so far with Egypt and Jordan.

FM Peres: That is correct. The Madrid Conference, attended by the Syrian President, affirmed Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis. The negotiations with Egypt and Jordan were also conducted on the basis of Resolutions 242 and 338.

Negotiations must be conducted on the interpretation [of the Resolutions], since UN Resolution 242 states in English "withdraw from territories." At the beginning, they wanted to insert "from all the territories". The French alone say "des territoires". Only in the French [version] is it unclear whether it refers to ‘all the territories’ or ‘the territories’. Since then, unfortunately, many Arabs have started speaking French, while many Israelis have started to speak English, and I say this in a positive sense. Therefore, if this is what is being proposed, then let’s sit down. There is no reason to get angry, as [the proposal] is not life threatening. Peace does not constitute danger. In Israel, soon they will say that war constitutes hope while peace represents danger. Are we out of our minds?

I have explained the official position of the Israeli Government – a fundamental principle of the coalition. I hope that no one expects Israel to adopt an approach whereby we have to accept everything the Crown Prince says.

The problem is that all of a sudden, we have pilgrimages to Mecca – not pilgrimages of a religious character, but, rather, of a political nature: The Secretary General of the Arab League wants to dictate to the Saudis [the content of] their own proposal. And how does the Arab League Secretary General view the Saudi proposal? [He views it] as a proposal of the Arab League, and he wants to insert clauses that were not there previously. The Syrian President has also arrived. We do not know what transpired. However, I must emphasize the core of the matter — the very fact that an Arab country comes and says "Let’s make peace" — this is acceptable to us. We welcome the fact that the first clause [of the proposal] states that peace should be accomplished throughout the Middle East.

There are people who take interest and pleasure in an old Middle East of war and endless hatred. I am not one of those people. If its on the basis of Resolution 242, then it is acceptable to me – we can negotiate the rest. There are also things that we cannot accept, and we are entitled to stand by our positions.

 Remarks of FM Peres to the Knesset on the Saudi Initiative-6-Mar-2002
 Remarks of FM Peres to the Knesset on the Saudi Initiative-6-Mar-2002
Saudi Arabia offers ‘complete peace’ to Israel – J.Post, Mar 10, 2002