KRONBERG, Germany: A senior Saudi royal has offered Israel a vision of broad co-operation with the Arab world and people-to-people contacts if it signs a peace treaty and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories. In an interview, Prince Turki Al Faisal, a former ambassador to the US and Britain and adviser to King Abdullah, said Israel and the Arabs could co-operate in many areas including water, agriculture, science and education.
Asked what message he wanted to send to the Israeli public, he said:
"The Arab world, by the Arab peace initiative, has crossed the Rubicon from hostility towards Israel to peace with Israel and has extended the hand of peace to Israel, and we await the Israelis picking up our hand and joining us in what inevitably will be beneficial for Israel and for the Arab world."
Prince Turki, who was previously head of Saudi intelligence, said that if Israel accepted the Arab League plan and signed a comprehensive peace, "one can imagine the integration of Israel into the Arab geographical entity".
"One can imagine not just economic, political and diplomatic relations between Arabs and Israelis but also issues of education, scientific research, combating mutual threats to the inhabitants of this vast geographic area," he said.
His comments, on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East and Europe staged by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank, were some of the most far-reaching addressed to Israelis by a senior figure from Saudi Arabia.
"Exchange visits by people of both Israel and the rest of the Arab countries would take place," Prince Turki said.
"We will start thinking of Israelis as Arab Jews rather than simply as Israelis," he said, noting that many Arabs historically saw the Israeli state as a European entity imposed on Arab land after the Second World War.
Prince Turki, brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, holds no official position now but heads the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.
He said Israel could expect some benefits on the way to signing a treaty and making a full withdrawal, noting that after the 1993 Oslo interim accords with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, regional co-operation had begun and the Jewish state had achieved representation in several Arab states.