The United States is seeking to include Saudi Arabia in the “Abraham Agreement”, similar to the UAE and Bahrain. The administration of President Donald Trump is working hard to make this path successful and to embody its vision to achieve peace in the Middle East. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel, in a press conference with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
For months, the Trump government has pressed for this to happen, but the kingdom has made clear that it will not normalize with the Hebrew state without a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Saudi Arabia’s recognition of Israel would represent a real turning point in the region.
But Saudi Arabia adheres to its initiative to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It rejects the normalization of its relations with Israel prior to the implementation of the initiative launched at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002.
The lengthy interview conducted by the former Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, with the Al-Arabiya channel at the beginning of this month carried many signs that his country would take the step of normalization with Israel.
The Arab Digest consulting firm mentioned how it dealt with that interview in a report it published on the seventh of this month, and two days later, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) published a lengthy article about that interview entitled “Indicators of the Saudis’ approach to a historic peace agreement. ”
The analysis conducted by the Foundation’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, relied heavily on Prince Bandar’s interview to say that “the Saudi-Israeli peace deal, although not necessarily imminent, is now a real possibility.”
Gardner also argued that the changes initiated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman augur well for such a deal through several reforms that establish a great openness for the Gulf country, where “women can now drive, entertainment has been authorized, and the country is slowly opening up to tourism.” And the ultra-conservative society with these measures was ready to take a potentially dramatic step, which is recognition of the State of Israel.
If the Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan was the only last voice of a prominent member of the ruling family regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, then it can be said that such a move was real.
However, like Prince Bandar bin Sultan, another former Saudi ambassador and intelligence chief gave interviews to both Arabian Business and CNBC, but his comments met with little analysis.
While Prince Bandar bin Sultan had criticized the Palestinian leadership for failing to seize many opportunities, their “always bet on the losing side” was one of his most stinging condemnations, Prince Turki bin Faisal did not follow the same path.
And he chose to reiterate the Saudi government’s support for the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which called for recognition by all Arab states of the State of Israel in exchange for the withdrawal of the occupation forces and settler communities from the West Bank and recognition of the 1967 borders, which are the Green Line and East Jerusalem as the capital of the independent state of Palestine.
Speaking to “Arabian Business” last September, Prince Turki bin Faisal was clear, as he, like other government officials, expressed the view that “Saudi Arabia is committed to the Arab Peace Initiative and will not change this position until there is a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Prince Turki said, “We have not wavered from this position despite what Netanyahu is throwing, whether through a hint or the smirking smile of the Western media.” This is the Kingdom’s position on this issue.
Prince Turki bin Faisal did not mention Jared Kushner’s “peace to prosperity” deal that would see annexation of much of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley that was annexed by Israel and without East Jerusalem as the capital, and in light of the existence of a quasi-state and a city for the Israelis to keep them alive.
In other words, Arab Digest commented about this by saying that “the influence of Swiss cheese, which Benjamin Netanyahu presented for a long time in particular as the ultimate solution to the Palestinian issue, has been achieved with the Kushner plan.”
However, Prince Turki bin Faisal commented positively on the presidency of Joe Biden, “He is not ignorant of the value of the relationship, he knows the kingdom and understands the importance of this relationship.”
And by supporting Biden, Prince Turki took a smart, albeit unspoken, move as he was less diplomatic in his interview with Hadley Gamble on CNBC last September, against Donald Trump’s ignorance and his position that the Saudis They are a profitable and useful card for arms sales and much more unless it is for the normalization of relations with Israel.
Gamble had asked him whether his late father, King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, would be disappointed by the UAE and Bahrain’s recognition of Israel without first reaching a two-state solution for the Palestinians. Prince Turki replied, “Certainly, this is my personal view, and I know his commitment to making a trade-off between Israel and the Arab countries.”
He referred to the oil sanctions imposed by the late King, Faisal bin Abdulaziz, in 1973 during the “Ramadan War, which was the reason for forcing the United States to be an honest broker between Israel and the Arab world.” Trump is not an honest broker, so yes, the late king would have been disappointed. ”
Prince Turki bin Faisal cautiously avoided a question about the divisions in the ruling family of Palestine, noting that the Arab Peace Initiative “King Salman bin Abdulaziz reaffirmed it several times recently in cabinet meetings last week and the week preceding it.”
“Such words, a Saudi official close to the ruling family said,” Gardner wrote in his article about Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s attack on the Palestinian leadership, “It would not have been possible to broadcast on Saudi television without the prior approval of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” And he is completely right about that.
The same applies to Prince Turki bin Faisal. He, too, could only have spoken frankly after his comments had been pre-approved. So, what is happening here with these very conflicting positions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of two of the royal family, who have so far escaped anti-corruption operations led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on the ruling family?
Among the clear indications that Prince Turki bin Faisal was standing on safe ground were the statements of the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, as part of a lengthy interview he conducted with the Washington Institute last Friday.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan affirmed that Saudi Arabia was committed to the process of finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that part of this process was “final normalization with Israel, as envisioned in the Arab peace plan.”
The foreign minister added that “peace is a strategic necessity for the region, and normalization with Israel in the end is part of that,” but he linked normalization to “obtaining a Palestinian state and a peace plan between the Palestinians and Israel.”
Regarding Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s attack on the leadership, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said, “This is the opinion of Prince Bandar bin Sultan. I think that the Palestinian leaders really want what is best for their people. ”
It seems that what is happening indicates an implicit message that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to convey to the Palestinians first and to the world second, in a language that has a lot of craftsmanship and intelligence. “We may support it, but other times, we may not.”