Ynetnews reports that Ehud Olmert met with a high-ranking Saudi official, possibly King Abdullah himself, regarding a new peace initiative promoted by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to be discussed at an upcoming UN meeting on the conflict:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secretly met about 10 days ago with a senior member of the Saudi royal family, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Monday morning.
According to several sources, the person Olmert met with was Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah himself. Other sources implied that the meeting was held with a different senior figure in the kingdom.
…The secret meeting…was welcomed by senior American officials.
This appears to be the first time an Israeli prime minister holds a direct meeting with such a senior member of the Saudi royal family.
Saudi Arabia is responsible for a peace initiative, according to which Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders and in exchange will gain peace agreements and normalization with all Arab state.
It is also part of a new peace initiative being promoted both by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
The plan’s details are expected to be presented during discussions at the United Nations headquarters in New York. As part of the new initiative, the borders of the Palestinian state will be determined first, after which diplomatic talks will be held.
It seems almost foolhardy to speculate on whether or how this might turn out to be a constructive move since so many previous promising initiatives have gone up in smoke over the years. This is but one in a long line. But the fact that Israel’s prime minister possibly met with the Saudi monarch is not only historic as the article points out, but bodes well for prospects for peace. It also bodes well for U.S. engagement in the Mideast peace process since it appears that the U.S. may have not only welcomed the move but perhaps even nudged Olmert to do it.
The outcome of the Lebanon war appears to have possibly lit at least a small fire under both Olmert and Condi Rice and made them more open to peace initiatives. I wonder whether Olmert sees his political career in jeopardy in Lebanon’s aftermath and is reaching out for a radical breakthrough to save his skin. If this is so, it would be a wise move on his part if he can carry Israel’s political mainstream with him. But I am hesitant to believe Olmert is capable of bold thinking and action on this score given my previous deep disappointments in Olmert’s “leadership” or lack thereof.
I’ve also read that the Europeans, including Tony Blair have told Bush that this is a top priority for them and that if the U.S. doesn’t engage, then the EU will pursue its own separate policy to promote Mideast peace which won’t necessarily gibe with U.S. goals or initiatives. This would leave George strumming his Texas guitar all by his lonesome out there on the international range. There also seems to be a dawning realization that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will make it that much easier to resolve the Iraq occupation by removing a major accelerant in that combustible mix. It also would have a potentially beneficial impact on U.S.-Iran relations unless of course we decide to bomb them back to the Stone Age too as Richard Armitage threatened Pervez Musharaf just after 9/11.
Given Bashir Assad’s promising interview in Der Spiegel and this should we dare to be hopeful about prospects for peace? And we should move the minute hand on the Mideast Doomsday clock a few minutes farther away from midnight.