Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, invited Sunday the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Binabdelazziz, for a dialogue on peace thoughts by both sides.

Olmert’s remarks came during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is visiting the region for the first time as the current rotating president of the European Union.

Olmert was quoted as saying “I am inviting the Saudi King for a dialogue where they (‘Arabs’) present their thoughts and so do I”. Olmert told reporters that he will surprise the Saudi King with good ideas, expressing willingness to hold meetings with what he called ‘moderate Arab leaders’.

The Israeli invitation for peaceful dialogue comes after Israel has already rejected the Arab peace initiative, which clearly calls for normalization with Israel in return for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories. Commentators believe that such a peace proposal, drafted by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and re-endorsed recently by 23 Arab states in the Riyadah summit meeting, is a good opportunity for peace in the region. They also considered Olmert’s call for talks as part of Israel's public relations campaign, bringing about no concrete progress. Israel has refused withdrawal beyond the 1967 borders as well as the Palestinian people’s right to return to their historical homeland of Palestine, as stated by UN resolution 194.

Many international players including the European Union welcomed the initiative that would put and end to the 40 year-long Israeli-Arab conflict. Chief of the Arab states league, Amr Moussa, dismissed yesterday the possibility for normalizing with Israel unless a comprehensive peace is achieved.

In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan Heights, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and parts of Lebanon and Jordan. On the Egyptian and Jordanian tracks, peace treaties have been signed between these countries and Israel, while autonomy has been established in the Palestinian territories since 1993.

Despite United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973, which command Israel to immediately withdraw form lands it occupied in 1967 and accept the land-for-peace principle, Israel still maintains tight military control over the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights.