A Saudi Prince Declares Independence From Old Obligations
(Bloomberg Opinion) - This week, in a three-part series on government-controlled Al Arabiya television, Saudi Arabia presented the Palestinian leadership with a divorce notice and a stinging list of details explaining the separation. Delivered by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the country's leading senior statesman, it brutally laid out the failure of Palestinian leaders that went back more than 70 years. It also suggests the futility of current Palestinian politics and the bleak future it will bring to the people it is intended to represent.
No Arab government has ever issued such a harsh public denunciation of the Palestinian movement. Bandar, a longtime former Saudi Ambassador to Washington and former Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council, is now a private citizen, but Israeli intelligence officials and other experts I asked with had no doubt that he spoke for the Palace, and in particular, Crown Prince Muhammad ben Salman. Indeed, the director of the Crown Prince's office, Badr Al-Asaker, publicly praised the series as "full of facts".
Bandar spoke Arabic to ensure these facts reach every country in the region, with English subtitles for an international audience. He first affirmed Saudi support "for all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people" and recorded how his government has stood firm in decades of futility and regression. "The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its proponents are failures," he said. "The Israeli cause is unfair, but its advocates have proven successful."
He begins with the first Palestinian lawyer, the Mufti of Jerusalem. "In the 1930s, Amin El Husseini backed the Nazi in Germany," recalls Bandar. "He was recognized by Germany, Hitler and the Nazis for standing with them against the allies." But Bandar notes that apart from radio recordings in Berlin, his loyalty has done him no good and he has done no good for the Palestinian cause.
Bandar goes on to mention a list of similar bad decisions and choices: The Arab rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1948, which would have given the Palestinians a state. The rejection of UN Resolution 242 by the Arab League after the 1967 war, which called for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories; and the Palestine Liberation Organization's rejection of the Clinton Plan in 2000, which would have given the Palestinians a state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The most interesting rejection came in 1979 at Camp David. Israel offered the Palestinians autonomy in the occupied territories. Yasir Arafat flatly refused. Sixteen years later, Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. Bandar asked him at the time to compare this deal to the terms he had turned down 16 years ago. Arafat said the autonomy offer was "ten times better" than in Oslo.
Bandar asked Arafat why he turned down so much at Camp David. According to Bandar, Arafat replied that he wanted to sign but did not do so because Hafez al Assad (then Syrian dictator and father of the current Syrian dictator) threatened to kill him if he did. "I remember thinking back then," Bandar told his audience, "that he might have been a martyr and saved millions of Palestinians."
The story is a blow not only to Arafat, but also to the current leaders in Ramallah who practice a similar type of negative diplomacy. "An opportunity comes and it is lost," says Bandar. Until the Palestinians get the idea, it's no longer on the table. Significantly, this also applies to the Palestinian rejection of the current American peace plan, which is based on the 1979 offer of autonomy, which Arafat regrettably rejected, although hundreds of thousands of Israelis now live in these areas. and Gaza and West Bank are separated for the time being, the proposed size of the autonomy would be smaller.
Prince Bandar is open about the reasons for his monologue. First, it wants to record how hard the Saudis have worked for the Palestinians over the decades. Second, he wants to reassure the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which the Palestinians defame for recognizing Israel - and any other Arab country contemplating a similar move - that the Saudis have their backs.
Third, he calls on the PLO and Hamas to forge alliances with non-Arab countries such as Turkey and Iran, which the Saudis consider dangerous. It signals that the Saudis will only be dealing with a new generation of pragmatic, moderate and reliable Palestinian partners. He is frank about the current leaders: "It is difficult to trust them and do anything with them for the Palestinian cause."
The prince, who has published all his words on social media, closes with a declaration of independence from old obligations. "In my personal opinion," he says, "we are at a stage where we need not worry about how to meet the Israeli challenges in order to serve the Palestinian cause, but rather about our national security and our national ones Interests. " . “Of course, this is not simply Bandar's personal opinion. It is the policy of the Saudi government that put it on the air for three days this week.
Israeli strategists have long shared this view. They hope that the new Saudi position can move the Palestinians to a more realistic view of their prospects.
This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Zev Chafets is a journalist and author of 14 books. He was Senior Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Founding Editor of Jerusalem Report Magazine.
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