Saudi Arabia's Opportunity; Realistic Steps Instead of Floated Mirages

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Saudi Arabia's image has been burnished in recent days by the floating of Prince Abdullah's "vision" of a land-for-peace deal in the Middle East.

No doubt that was the point, and congratulations are due Saudi Arabia's highly compensated U.S. public relations consultants. And so, from the Saudi point of view, it may be of no great consequence that debate over the proposal was cut short by the Passover Massacre - a terrorist atrocity launched from territory Israel had given over to Yasser Arafat's authority under an earlier land-for-peace deal.

But, if Saudi Arabia's ruling aristocracy wants to achieve not just the appearance but also the reality of being a peace-loving, tolerant and moderate leadership, there are any number of steps that might be considered. Here are just a few:

Clarify the significance of the Saudi rapprochement with Saddam Hussein at the Arab summit in Beirut last week. American troops are currently stationed in Saudi Arabia to defend that nation from Iraq. Is that no longer necessary? Are the Saudis prepared to tell Saddam that he must renounce his plans of revenge against America and fulfill his obligations to allow inspectors to search every corner of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction? Surely, it would be ingratitude bordering on treachery for the Saudis to say, as they now appear to have done: "Saddam isn't threatening us anymore, only the Americans who saved us from him - and that isn't our concern."

Pledge one month's oil revenues to help alleviate poverty in the West Bank and Gaza.

Put a halt to the neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli and anti-American lies and slander that routinely appear in Saudi Arabia's government-controlled press and are taught in the government-controlled schools.

As devout and respected Muslims, the guardians of Islam's holy sites, and the financial backers of countless mosques and Islamic schools around the world, the Saudi princes have enormous influence with senior religious authorities. They should prevail on those authorities to issue a religious edict - a fatwa - stating without equivocation that henceforth "jihad" should no longer be interpreted to mean a holy war against "infidels" - Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others. Instead, the religious authorities should instruct Muslims to understand jihad as a peaceful struggle for truth and spiritual enlightenment.

Issue a second fatwa declaring that because Islam is a religion of peace, terrorism - to be clearly defined as the intentional murder of non-combatants for political purpose - is prohibited. This prohibition should specifically include suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

Discontinue the Saudi policy of giving free trips to Mecca to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

A third religious edict should explicitly and unequivocally condemn Osama bin Laden and the murderers of Daniel Pearl as terrorists and apostates who have brought shame to Islam and to Muslims around the world. Muslims everywhere should be called upon to stop naming babies "Osama."

The Saudi princes should convene an international peace conference in Mecca and invite the leaders of all of the world's great religions to attend. The pope should be invited to stand side by side with the Dalai Lama, the Rev. …