The Saudi Arabian government is emerging as a key player in talks to broker a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. According to senior Israeli sources, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, will soon meet high-ranking Saudi officials to explore the formation of a group of moderate Arab countries to negotiate with Tel Aviv over the future of the Middle East. A preliminary meeting between Olmert and a leading Saudi representative took place in Amman, the Jordanian capital, at the end of September. According to Israeli sources, the Saudi was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to Washington and one of the closest advisers to King Abdullah, the Saudi ruler. Olmert is believed to be considering a Saudi initiative, endorsed by the Arab League four years ago, as the basis for a peace settlement.
Good for the Saudis, good for Ehud Olmert.
Any optimism would be wildly premature, but even discussions about discussions are progress of a sort. And no, there’s nothing wrong about sitting down and talking with your opponents. Diplomacy is (or ought to be) about defending the national interest, not displaying machismo.
And, yes, that’s why the US should also be prepared to talk to the region’s bad guys.