TEL AVIV – A Saudi daily chastised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for rebuffing an invitation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the Israeli Knesset.
During his speech on Thursday to the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu called on the Palestinian leadership to resume negotiations and put an end to Palestinian incitement, as well as inviting Abbas to address Israel’s parliament. In return, the prime minister said he would “gladly” address the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah.
In a Sunday editorial, the Saudi Gazette suggested that the Palestinians “should not be too quick to dismiss the invitation,” adding that it was “reminiscent of the one issued by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel — and the rest is history.”
“Netanyahu’s gesture was quickly rejected by the Palestinians as a ‘new gimmick,'” the Saudi newspaper editorial said.
The paper credited the invite as paving the way to the Camp David Accords and the signing of a peace treaty, demonstrating “that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.”
Prior to that invitation, the paper wrote, Israel and Egypt were “mortal enemies, having fought three wars.”
It also noted former president Bill Clinton’s 1998 trip to Ramallah to address the Palestine National Council, which led to both the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as well as a unanimous vote to remove clauses in the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction.
“Despite these two examples of how official visits can bend the arc of history, the Palestinians automatically rejected Netanyahu’s invite to Abbas,” the editorial noted, adding that “it is possible that the aim of the invitation was an attempt by Netanyahu to isolate UN attempts to restart and impose a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”
On a more negative note, the paper said Netanyahu “rejects a settlement freeze, will not uproot settlements, rejects the 1967 borders as the basis for talks and rejects any division of Jerusalem.”
Saudi Arabia does not formally recognize Israel and maintains no diplomatic ties with the country.
In 2002, the kingdom proposed the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for Israel to return to its 1967 borders in return for full relations with the Arab world.