Saudi Arabia is seeking to modify the Arab Peace Initiative in order to better align it with the Kingdom's current warming of relations with Israel.
Citing senior sources close to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Al Khaleej Online reported yesterday that the Kingdom is seeking to make "basic changes" to the initiative, noting that these efforts are being led by the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz and his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS).
During a 2002 meeting, the Arab League approved the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative to be the basis for any relationship with Israel. It stipulates the creation of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, adopting a just solution for refugees and Israel's withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights and occupied Lebanese territories, in return for Arab recognition of Israel.
According to the PA sources, Arab countries did not commit to the terms of the deal, pointing to Saudi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt's overt normalisation with Israel and the covert normalisation of many other countries.
Meanwhile, the sources said, Arab countries brag about their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, "but this is completely different than what is being done behind closed doors".
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the sources said, have succeeded in leading other Arab countries to forge overt relations with Israel. "Therefore, Arab countries – on top of which are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – started to modify the Peace Initiative in order to keep up with the dramatic developments in the region," the sources said.
The main modification sought, according to the PA, is to make relations with Israel optional so that those countries that wish to establish ties don't feel embarrassed to do so.
Saudi Arabia informed PA President Mahmoud Abbas about this during his latest visit to the Kingdom, the sources said, and advised him to make progress towards peace talks with Israel.
It is worth noting that US-led efforts have failed several times to modify the initiative due to Palestinian rejection of such changes, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became enthusiastic about the modification to meet his normalisation agenda.