- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2002

In Monday's speech on the Middle East, President Bush emphasized that "every leader actually committed to peace" must "stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel. Although he did not mention Saudi Arabia by name, Mr. Bush's comments on this score were directed most certainly at that regime. The Saudis have played a key role in financing the infrastructure of terror responsible for the past 20 months of suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel.

Perhaps the most perverse aspect has been the regime's fund-raising campaign to aid the families of Palestinian terrorists who blow themselves up aboard Israeli buses and in pizzerias, cafes, discotheques and shopping malls. In April, the Saudis raised $109 million to assist the families of these Palestinian "martyrs." But that may only be the tip of the iceberg. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Stephen Schwartz, quoting the Saudi Embassy's web site, reported several months ago that the kingdom had pledged $400 million for this purpose. At "$5,300 per martyr, that works out to about 75,000 martyrs, suggesting that the Saudi princes anticipate a lot more suicide bombings," Mr. Schwartz wrote.

Israeli military intelligence officials recently released documents captured during raids on terrorist hideouts and Palestinian Authority (PA) offices in the West Bank detailing Saudi Arabia's role in financing Palestinian terror. The documents "come in many flavors. They include Saudi government and accounting schedules showing the amount of money paid to individual Palestinians and their families, with the names of suicide bombers and others who carried out armed attacks against Israelis highlighted," Kenneth Timmerman reported in Insight magazine. "They include correspondence between Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority and the Saudi government that discusses the payments. They also include a damning letter from the Saudis complaining that the Palestinians had exposed the secret financial ties by allowing the publication of a Feb. 19 report in the PA publication al-Hayat al-Jedida thanking Saudi Arabia for assisting the families of terrorists killed in attacks on Israelis." Nor have the Saudis been helpful on other fronts. This month, for example, the Saudis stepped up their efforts to ensure that no Israeli-made products are brought into the royal kingdom.

Despite this sorry record, optimists like Israeli Defense Minister and Labor Party chief Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (showing the same quality of political judgment that got his predecessor, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, trounced by 25 points at the polls last year) wrote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday that the Saudi peace plan, announced in March at the Arab Summit in Beirut, could be a suitable basis for starting peace negotiations. Unfortunately, the plan leaves unanswered one of the most serious questions of all: The longstanding pan-Arab demand for the return of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel, something Israelis regard as a formula for the destruction of the Jewish state. Until the Arabs jettison this demand in unmistakably clear terms, the Saudi peace plan will do essentially nothing to advance the cause of peace.

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