US-Israeli cooperation plan draws the wrath of Saudi Arabia
Jiddah, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia views the proposed strategic coop-eration plan between the United States and Israel with undisguised wrath. From the Saudi point of view, observers here say, this anger is more than justified. US policy in Lebanon has been a series of reactions to specific stimuli. This has had the cumulative effect of putting Washington in an increasingly anti-Arab stance with each escalation of its involvement in that fractionalized country.
US-Israeli discussion of a new strategic relationship proves what the Saudis have long suspected: Israeli intransigence wins rather than negates US support.
The proposed strengthening of ties has added fuel to Saudi speculation that Israel's invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982 had the tacit approval of the US government. The Saudis now view US efforts to evacuate the Palestine Liberation Organization from Beirut as working toward Israel's objective. The Israelis wanted to rid Beirut of the PLO, but avoid suffering casualties in guerrilla warfare.
The Saudis say that the US - even in its role as a ''peacekeeper'' - is becoming tied to the preservation of Lebanese President Amin Gemayel's government. The Arabs see this as Israeli duplicity, suppression of Muslim rights, and, above all, another form of Western imperialism. This image of the US, Israel, and their Western allies, the Saudis believe, worries the moderate Arab regimes, especially those along the Gulf.
The deepening involvement of the international peacekeeping force has diverted Western attention from the Palestinian question - the key to some semblance of stability in the Middle East - to the protection of its troops in Beirut.
The Israelis, whom the Saudis hold largely responsible for the peacekeeping force's presence in the first place, have moved their troops to a more secure position in south Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia's archenemies, Syria and the Shiite Muslims, have emerged as the major defenders of Arab interests. Saudi Arabia says Syria's power position has resulted, in large part, from Arab reaction to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
After PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his men were evacuated from Beirut, a Syrian-protected Abu Musa seized the opportunity to challenge Mr. Arafat for control of the PLO. The Saudis are now in the uncomfortable position of either having to accept a Syrian-controlled, radicalized PLO or appearing to reject the principle of Palestinian rights.
Of equal concern to Saudi Arabia is the strengthening of Shiite Muslim elements in Lebanon. Whether the Shiites are under Iranian direction is immaterial to the Saudis. The significant point is that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution have cornered the market on anti-Westernism.
By successfully staging the first revolution specifically based on Islam and aimed at the overthrow of a regime ''corrupted'' by Western values, the Shiites are now in a position to attract support across the broad spectrum of Muslims. One of their avowed aims is to overthrow the monarchies they believe violate the teachings of the Koran. The biggest target of all is the House of Saud.
In the context of Syria's military and political power and the increasing involvement of the Shiite Muslims in Lebanon, the last thing Saudi Arabia wants is a closer alliance between the US, regarded by many as the backbone of the Saudis' defense, and Israel.
The Saudis do not share Secretary of State George Shultz's opinion that giving the Israelis a sense of security will coax them into withdrawing from Lebanon or into negotiating on the occupied Arab territories. They see it as nothing short of rewarding Israel for annexing Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, settling the West Bank, and upsetting even further the already intolerable situation in Lebanon.
The current attitude in Saudi Arabia is that the Arabs have nothing to gain by depending on the US to force Israel into some acceptable accommodation with its Arab neighbors.