Crown Prince FahdIsrael reacted circumspectly today to the latest elucidation of Saudi Arabia’s eight-point plan which it had flatly rejected when it was first enunciated by Crown Prince Fahd last August.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the clarifications of the Fahd plan by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud el-Feisal in an interview published today in the New York Times, was simply a “reincarnation” of the original and was still unacceptable because it posed preconditions for negotiations with Israel. He added, however, “We don’t want to close doors. If the Saudis really want peace we invite them to negotiate without preconditions, at any time and any place.”

According to the Times, whose reporter, Leslie Gelb spoke with el-Feisal in Riyadh last Wednesday, the Saudi minister said his government was prepared “to accept” Israel. “He said that this was the meaning of Crown Prince Fahd’s recent proposal ‘confirming the right of the countries of the region to live in peace.’ Until this interview, the Saudis declined to say whether the word countries specifically included Israel,” Gelb reported.

But Saudi acceptance of Israel was still conditioned on Israeli recognition of Palestinian rights and return of oil of the occupied lands, the Times reported.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman stressed that “Israel’s position is well known” on the eight-point plan. Other officials here said they regard the latest Saudi statements as “part of a propaganda campaign … a tactical play.” But it was evident that Israeli circles have decided not to dismiss them outright and to couch Israel’s response in more “positive” terms.

The Times report said Prince Saud continued to insist that American policy fostered Israeli intransigence. But at the same time, he made it clear “that his government was not simply going to wait for Washington to change and that equal effort was being devoted to end the conflict among Arabs and frame a united Arab stand against Israel,” the Times reported.

It referred to the Arab summit meeting in Fez, Morocco last November which broke up over the Fahd plan. “But Prince Saud said the plan was still very much alive, that he hoped Arab leaders would reconvene ‘in three or four months’ and that he ‘hoped and expected’ that the next meeting would result in ‘a common Arab position’ based on the Fahd plan,” the Times reported.

It noted that the interview with Saud was conducted “in a period of unusual diplomatic activity by Arab leaders that was sparked in part by Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.”

Meanwhile, Israel reacted to Prince Fahd’s recent assertion that Egypt should hand over the southern Sinai islands of Snapir and Tiran to Saudi Arabia by warning that this would be a breach at Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

The Foreign Ministry explained that the islands were part of Zone C, the demilitarized zone under the peace treaty and therefore Egypt was not free to dispose of them without reference to Israel as the other party to the peace treaty.