TEL AVIV – Saudi Arabia will open an embassy in Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepts the Arab Peace Initiative, an influential retired Saudi major general said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Anwar Eshki was asked how long it would be before Saudi Arabia would open an embassy in Israel.
“You can ask Mr. Netanyahu,” Eshki replied. “If he announces that he accepts the initiative and gives all rights to Palestinians, Saudi Arabia will start to make an embassy in Tel Aviv.”
Eshki went on to declare that “we do not like Israel becoming isolated in the area.”
The Prime Minister’s Office had no response, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Countering the Al Jazeera anchor’s accusation that Saudi Arabia overlooks Palestinian suffering, Eshki said: “I told the Iranians about that: ‘You support the Palestinians by weapons, but we support them with money. When we support the Palestinians with money, we want them to live well, and you give them weapons to destroy themselves.’ ”
Later, Eshki was asked: “How do you think Palestinians feel when they hear you refer to Benjamin Netanyahu as a strong leader and a logical leader?”
He answered: “I talked about a strong leader and logical leader because it does not mean strong against Arabs. I said he is strong in his country.”
The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative called for a two-state solution based on an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines with eastern Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The initiative also demanded a “just solution” to the so-called Palestinian refugee issue.
In return, Israel would receive “normal relations” with the Arab world.
The Post reports that in a 2014 interview, Netanyahu said the initiative was delineated in a very different time in the Middle East, before the Islamic State took over chunks of Iraq and Syria and before Iran’s nuclear program, and therefore is no longer relevant.
Eshki, 73, is the chairman of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies and a former consultant for the Saudi prince and ambassador to the US, Bandar bin Sultan.
Eshki met with Dore Gold half a dozen times, including a public meeting in June prior to the latter’s appointment as director-general of the Foreign Ministry.
In August, Eshki told the Wall Street Journal that “the main project between me and Dore Gold is to bring peace between Arab countries and Israel. This is personal, but my government knows about the project. My government isn’t against it because we need peace.”
While Israel and Saudi Arabia have no diplomatic ties, there have been reports of cooperation based on mutual concerns – especially regarding Iran.
The two countries are also said to have third-party economic ties, including covert imports to Saudi Arabia of Israeli agricultural and technological goods.