- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Blaming Israel

The Saudi ambassador mocked the Israeli army and warned the Bush administration against advancing the “ambitions” of the Jewish state in a strongly worded speech in Washington this week.

Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal told the New America Foundation that Israeli occupation of Arab lands is the “casus belli” — a Latin phrase meaning an event that provokes or is used to justify war — “of all that is happening today in Lebanon and Palestine.”

“Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine have captured three soldiers of the vaunted Israeli army, whose incompetence was clearly displayed by these captures,” the ambassador said in his speech Monday night.

“The same vaunted Israeli army has struck back with surgical accuracy in killing innocent civilians and U.N. observers in both Palestine and Lebanon, further demonstrating their ineptness and brutality.”

Israel attacked both groups after hundreds of rockets launched from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and after Hamas and Hezbollah sneaked into Israel and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Israel pledged to destroy Hezbollah, which has controlled southern Lebanon since Israel withdrew in 2000. The United Nations has certified that Israel fully withdrew from Lebanon. Israel completed its withdrawal from Gaza last year.

Prince Turki called on Israel to accept a plan proposed by Saudi King Abdullah, who offered diplomatic recognition in exchange for a “total Israeli withdrawal from Arab-occupied territories, including Jerusalem.”

The ambassador urged the United States to “play the role of pacifier and lead the world to peace and not be led by Israel’s ambitions.”

Prince Turki said Saudi Arabia endorses a “comprehensive peace” for the region that will include “the creation of an international force to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty and authority over all Lebanese territory.”

Saudi Arabia has said that Hezbollah provoked Israel, but that the latter overreacted.

“Saudi Arabia holds firmly responsible those who first engaged in reckless adventure under the guise of resistance,” the ambassador said. “They have brought much damage and danger to the region without concern for others.”

The “unacceptable and irresponsible actions” of Hamas and Hezbollah, however, “do not justify the Israeli destruction of Lebanon or the targeting and punishment of the Lebanese and Palestinian civilian populations,” he said.

Prince Turki added that his government is trying to bring a diplomatic end to the conflict. Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister and the ambassador’s brother, delivered a letter from King Abdullah to President Bush last week, “requesting that he act to help save Lebanon and its people from the terrible ordeal they are suffering.”

Council gets Gerson

President Bush’s chief wordsmith this week joined the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank run by a former State Department official and senior adviser to Mr. Bush and his father.

Michael J. Gerson, who served the younger Mr. Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign, will work on a book about the future of the conservative movement and write on issues such as global health, religious influences on U.S. foreign policy and Bush administration efforts to promote democracy around the world.

“I am thrilled to welcome Mike,” said council President Richard N. Haass, who served the first President Bush as senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs in the National Security Council and was the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2000 to 2003.

“It is not just that he is one of the country’s greatest writers, which he most certainly is. It is also that he is one of this country’s most important thinkers — someone in a position to have a significant impact on the debate about this country’s importance in the world.”

Mr. Gerson served as presidential speech writer from January 2001 through February 2005, when he was promoted to assistant for policy and strategic planning.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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