In case anyone doubted which way the wind blows in the Middle East, the Saudi ruling class has erected a weathervane even the Palestinians can’t miss. After Palestinian leadership blasted Arab nations for normalizing relations with Israel, a leading figure in the Riyadh regime blasted them right back in an interview with Saudi state television outlet al-Arabiya. The Palestinian criticisms were “reprehensible discourse,” said Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, part of a 75-year-long track record of Palestinian “failures”:
In an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television aired on Monday, the prince labeled the Palestinian authorities’ criticism a “transgression” and “reprehensible discourse.”
“The Palestinian cause is a just cause but its advocates are failures, and the Israeli cause is unjust but its advocates have proven to be successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years,” he said in the first of a three-part airing of the interview.
“There is something that successive Palestinian leadership historically share in common: they always bet on the losing side, and that comes at a price.”
Up to now, the Saudis have played their cards close to the vest. The moves toward normalization from UAE and Bahrain wouldn’t have happened without Saudi support, or at least acquiescence, and everyone knows it. The Saudis want to remain quiet about this new effort to engage Israel both for domestic reasons (so as not to stoke a even-more-radical-Islamist backlash against the Wahhabi regime) and to give Palestinians a last bit of leverage to cut a deal.
Unfortunately, the current Palestinian leadership responded by insults and appealing for succor from Iran and Turkey, which is what Bandar meant by the “losing side.” That’s not all he meant, though; in the video below, Bandar slams Palestinians for partnering with Hitler and Saddam Hussein, whose missile attacks on Riyadh are clearly not forgotten, nor are the Palestinian celebrations of those attacks. With that track record, the Palestinians should rethink their entire worldview and their approach, Bandar advised, adding, “This low level of discourse is not what we expect from officials who seek to gain global support for their cause.” Translation: Grow up and smell the coffee, Palestinians.
That might also be a warning to Turkey as well. Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Jerusalem to be “our city,” a hint of Ottomanesque ambitions that certainly seems to have gotten the attention of Riyadh:
“In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,” he told Turkish lawmakers during a major policy speech in Ankara. “Our first qibla [direction of prayer in Islam] al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are the symbolic mosques of our faith. In addition, this city is home to the holy places of Christianity and Judaism.” …
“Another crisis that our country and our nation carefully follow is the oppression of Israel against the Palestinians and the indifferent practices that disregard the privacy of Jerusalem,” he said toward the end of his address.
“The issue of Jerusalem is not an ordinary geopolitical problem for us. First of all, the current physical appearance of the Old City, which is the heart of Jerusalem, was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, with its walls, bazaar, and many buildings. Our ancestors showed their respect for centuries by keeping this city in high esteem.”
The Palestinian people have been living in Jerusalem “for thousands of years,” but they were occupied and had their rights violated, the Turkish leader went on.
Worth pointing out: That same argument makes the Turks occupiers as well, especially regarding the temple mount and other structures, which existed for millennia before the Ottomans showed up. At any rate, Erdogan’s paean to Ottoman claims might have pushed the Saudis to start accelerating their timeline on normalization — and put more pressure on Mahmoud Abbas to start negotiating.
Nominally, the Saudis still back the Arab Peace Plan, which is much more favorable to the Palestinians than the Trump administration’s new peace plan. In reality, the Saudis and other Arab nations couldn’t care less about the contours of a two-state plan. They just want it resolved so that they can focus on the real threats to their power in Tehran, Damascus, and now Ankara. If the Palestinians ever want to get their own state and end this conflict, they’d better settle for a universally recognized Israel being part of their long-term reality. The sooner they figure that out, the better off they’ll be. The clock is ticking, clearly.
Here’s the first part of the al-Arabiya interview, in which Bandar vents at length about the failures and bad choices by Palestinians. This is not exactly subtle, as warning shots across bows go.
Update:I added the second part of the interview, as Bandar’s history discourse should not be missed. In it, he describes how Yasser Arafat repeatedly betrayed the Saudis, as well as the Jordanians and Lebanese, and sabotaged peace again and again. This is a remarkable narrative, especially from the Saudis. “You have never heard a Saudi official discuss it,” Bandar says. The fact they’re discussing it now means they have clearly had it with the Palestinians, or at least their leadership.
Update: One more thought about this lengthy interview on Saudi state television — who’s the audience? It’s not the Israelis, and it’s not even really the Palestinians. The royal family is informing the Saudi populace about the long history of Palestinian deception and betrayals to prepare their subjects for something. Will the Saudis normalize relations with Israel in the next couple of weeks? If I were in Palestinian leadership, I’d be afraid … very afraid at what’s coming next.