Maariv: Lieberman launching diplomatic offensive against Saudis
Ben Caspit, Maariv, May 13 2010 [page 2 with front-page teaser; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
Israel is threatening to launch a global campaign against Saudi Arabia, in keeping with a decision that was made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and which has been kept secret until now. The campaign, if launched, will include the use of various means of leverage and lobbies in the United States, Europe and other places around the world, raising the issue of human rights, the status of women and financing terrorism in the US Congress, the European Parliament and other venues, a public relations campaign and even lodging complaints with international courts.
Lieberman’s decision was made in the wake of a conclusion that was drawn by foreign minister officials that Saudi Arabia was the principal force behind the global campaign to delegitimize Israel. Senior political officials said this week in closed conversations that the Saudis have financed a large part of the lawsuits that were filed to international courts, the public debates, the conferences, the slander and hounding of Israel in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. “They’re playing a double game,” said one political official. “The Saudis act as if they are part of the moderate camp and are trying to exploit the West for their own needs, when at the same time they have been financing an orchestrated campaign against Israel’s legitimacy, against Israel’s economy and more. That needs to be ended.”
Lieberman’s plan calls for Israel to convey a strenuous message in the next number of days to the United States that will include information about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the above-cited activities. Israel will demand that the Americans intervene and use their influence and the leverage that they have over the Saudis to pressure Saudi Arabia. In tandem, all Israeli representatives overseas will be briefed, as will all the Jewish organizations, the Jewish lobby and Israeli allies in the US Congress and elsewhere so as to begin to “pester” Saudi Arabia, to place on the public agenda its involvement in financing terrorism, the state of human rights in the kingdom, the status of women and numerous other issues. The possibility of filing lawsuits to either international or foreign courts will also be looked into, among other options.
Not everyone is pleased with this direction. Quite a number of political officials both in the Foreign Ministry and in other capacities, believe that such a course of action by Israel would be gratuitous and would not yield Israel any benefit. The Saudis have their faults, they aren’t Zionists, say the opponents, but they are clearly situated in the moderate camp, they support political negotiations, they stand behind the Arab peace initiative and they are threatened by Iran and radical Islam just like Israel.
Another troubling arena in that context is the Iranian nuclear program. According to foreign reports, Saudi Arabia has already agreed to let Israel use an aerial corridor through Saudi airspace on its way to a possible attack of Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to those reports, that means that Saudi Arabia has agreed to permit Israel combat jets pass through its airspace without responding so as to provide the IAF with the fastest and shortest route possible to distant Iran. If Lieberman’s program sparks a public crisis with the Saudis, that could have an adverse effect on the above-cited aerial corridor. At the current juncture in time, when Israel’s relations with Turkey are at a low, peace with Jordan and Egypt is frozen, Europe is turning a cold shoulder and the crisis with the United States is worsening, Israel ought not to look for yet another front to fight on. This is neither an existential war nor are the Saudis’ actions something that Israel simply can’t ignore. Israel has far more pressing troubles than the Saudis’ hypocrisy. We need to work at finding the common ground between us and our shared interests, and not the things that divide us, say the political officials opposed to Lieberman’s initiative.
That criticism, however, is unlikely to change Lieberman’s decision.