Is Saudi Arabia Preparing for Peace?
A Saudi prince has been scathing in his criticism of the Palestinian response to the peace pacts between Israel, the U.E.A. and Bahrain Author of the article: Avi Abraham Benlolo, National Post Publishing date: Oct 09, 2020 • Last Updated 4 hours ago • 3 minute read Perhaps it’s the audacity of our times. The abnormality of these days bring some pleasant gifts. The Saudis for instance, struck hard at the Palestinian leadership this week. Perhaps they are paving the way toward peace with Israel. Or maybe they are giving U.S. President Donald Trump a much needed lifeline before the election. Either way, like others who are using COVID for cover, they are dumping their standard operating procedure in this era of instability.
Given their harsh rhetoric toward Israel over the years, a peace agreement with Israel seemed unlikely in my lifetime. But in just a few months, we have witnessed the unimaginable signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the U.A.E. and Bahrain. Behind the scenes of this trial balloon were the Saudis, who gave the peace deal an all-clear blessing and permission for Israeli commercial flights over their territory.
None of the exciting developments mattered in comparison with the earthquake that unfolded thereafter. By silently acquiescing to the peace agreement, the Saudis shattered the foundational Palestinian belief that their cause was moral and just. Predictably, and because Palestinian leaders never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, they went on the offensive — or what the Saudis called a “low level of discourse” — denouncing the peace agreement.
The Saudi reaction to this perceived disrespectful tone was swift. Uncharacteristically, they released a glossy pseudo-video interview on Al Arabiya that smashed at the very heart of the Palestinian project itself. They set upon them none other than Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the revered former director general of Saudi intelligence and more importantly, its ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005.
Prince Bandar’s family’s closeness with the monarchy is accentuated by the fact that his daughter, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, is now Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington. And from this perspective it becomes clearer that the prince’s public allegations of Palestinian failure to achieve a settlement were likely condoned by the Kingdom itself. He accused the Palestinians of having a history of failure, of making bad decisions, of not taking the Kingdom’s advice and most profoundly, of always siding with the “losing side.”
“Who are the allies of the Palestinians now?” Prince Bandar asked rhetorically. “Is it Iran, which is using the Palestinian cause as a pretext at the expense of the Palestinian people? … Or is it Turkey, which Hamas leaders have thanked for its stance in support of Hamas and the Palestinian cause?” And he was quick to remind them how in 1988, Yasser Arafat stood side by side with Saddam Hussein while Iraqi scuds were falling on Riyadh.
“There is something that successive Palestinian leadership historically share in common: they always bet on the losing side, and that comes at a price” said the prince. One of those historical Palestinian mistakes was the alignment of Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti, Amin al-Husseini, with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis — instead of joining the British who ultimately won the Second World War and relinquished control to the fledgling Jewish state.
What triggered this acrimony was not only a frustration with the Palestinian leadership, but a strong desire to normalize relations with Israel. The Palestinians have been dictating an anti-normalization agenda for 72 years. What has been achieved other than more corruption and a population left stateless and in ruins?
Riyadh has publicly put the Palestinian leadership on notice. It is readying its population for a transition toward peace by turning the tables on the Palestinians. Perhaps tough brotherly love will bring them back to the negotiating table with Israel. Either way, it appears the Kingdom is ready to change its operating procedure and give peace a chance. Avi Abraham Benlolo is a noted human rights activist.