Princeton University Library Catalog

The Balancing Act: Saudi Arabia and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process, 1981-2013

Schatz, Samson [Browse]
Senior thesis
Kurtzer, Daniel [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
145 pages
Restrictions note:
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note:
Over the past three decades, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has played a supporting role in the Arab-Israeli peace process. Riyadh’s contributions have been significant, even if sometimes erratic or apparently inconsistent. This thesis analyzes the patterns of Saudi involvement in the peace process, their effects and the implications for US policy in the Middle East. In 1981, Saudi Crown Prince Fahd introduced the country’s first comprehensive peace plan. After several edits, the Arab world adopted the initiative as the Fez Arab Peace Plan in 1982; America largely ignored it. Then again in 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah put forth a plan that would later be accepted by the Arab League as the Arab Peace Initiative (API). The United States endorsed the plan as a step in the right direction but fumbled its initial responses to the Saudi effort. Even when they were not spearheading new initiatives, the Saudis continued to be involved in the peace process, albeit less conspicuously. This thesis will analyze the motivations that drove Saudi Arabia’s uneven involvement in the peace process. At each turn, Saudi Arabia sought to balance its interests with those of the United States and with pressures from its own home region. This balancing act fits neatly with the Saudi focus on security, stability and prosperity. Peacemaking policies have enabled Saudi Arabia to strengthen its ties with the United States, which for decades has been the Kingdom’s primary guarantor of security. In addition, Riyadh has been able to champion the Palestinian cause and maintain its role as a regional leader and religious authority. Given that involvement in the peace process serves such tactical and strategic purposes for Riyadh, it is logical to wonder whether the Saudis are more committed to the process of peacemaking than to the peace itself. However, regardless of Saudi Arabia’s prioritization of peace versus process, the United States can leverage the Kingdom’s balancing act. The United States should be more receptive to Saudi Arabia’s peacemaking efforts because a partnership would benefit the foreign policy goals of both countries.