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Monday, April 16, 2007

The 'peacemaker's promise remains unfulfilled

For some time now we have been hearing about the 'Saudi plan' and how the Arab states are willing to make 'peace' with Israel based upon the 'Saudi plan.' There are many reasons for Israel to distrust Arab intentions, not the least of which is how the Saudis abide by their own purported promises to make peace.

Last week, I told you all how Saudi Arabia is the only state that shares a common border with Israel that has never signed either a 'peace treaty' or an armistice agreement with the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia is the first country since Nazi Germany that is officially Judenrein - Jews are not allowed in. And this morning, Michael Freund reports in the Jerusalem Post that the Saudis are not abiding by their promise to drop the Arab boycott, a promise that was a condition to their admittance to the World Trade Organization. This is not the first time I have blogged on this issue, but it's an issue on which there is no 'progress' of which to speak.
In November 2005, Riyadh pledged to abandon the boycott after Washington conditioned Saudi Arabia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) on such a move. A month later, on December 11, Saudi Arabia was granted WTO membership.

The WTO, which aims to promote free trade, prohibits members from engaging in discriminatory practices such as boycotts or embargoes.

Nonetheless, the Post has found, Saudi officials continue to bar entry to products manufactured in Israel or to foreign-made goods containing Israeli components.

"Goods made in Israel are not allowed here in Saudi Arabia," Khaled A-Sharif, assistant manager of the Saudi Customs Department at King Abdul Aziz Airport outside Jidda, told the Post by phone. "Of course it is not permitted," he said.

In the past, A-Sharif added, products made by firms that had "a relation" with Israel were also prohibited, but these were now allowed to be brought into the country.

A Saudi customs official at the airport, who identified himself only as Feisal, told the Post, "If it is made in Israel, then it is not allowed here in Saudi Arabia. If it is made in any other country, then no problem. But not from Israel."

A Saudi customs official at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, who declined to give his name, told the Post Israeli-made goods would be confiscated upon arrival and not permitted entry into the kingdom. "You know, it is not allowed here," he said.
US efforts to get the Saudis to stop adhering to the boycott have brought little or no movement:
In a written response appearing in last month's Congressional Record, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab addressed the question of Saudi compliance after being queried on the matter by Sen. Gordon Smith.

In her reply to Smith, Schwab confirmed that continued Saudi enforcement of the anti-Israel boycott would "not be in keeping" with Riyadh's commitments under the WTO.

Since the Saudis acceded to the WTO, Schwab wrote, "there have been conflicting signals from Saudi officials" regarding the boycott.

"We have taken every available opportunity to raise this issue with Saudi authorities to remind them of their commitment and our expectation that they honor this commitment," she said. "The administration will continue to monitor the situation."
I'm not sure what the "conflicting signals" are since the Saudis have been quite clear that they have no intention of dropping the boycott. But I doubt that the State Department would allow the Bush administration to try to get the Saudis kicked out of the WTO, even if the Bush administration wanted to kick them out.

Don't tell the Saudis this but Intel's inside. (Hat Tip: Nathan in Teaneck, New Jersey)


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