Saudi anti-Palestinian ‘assault’ may signal move towards Israel

Former U.S. ambassador says Saudi prince’s bashing of Palestinian leadership appears to be step towards normalization with Israel.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Former American Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said Thursday that a senior Saudi official’s extensive “assault” on the Palestinian leadership may signal a move by Saudi Arabia towards recognition of Israel.

Indyk commented on the three-part interview aired this week on Saudi television in which Prince Bandar bin Sultan spoke for almost three hours, giving the Saudi version of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bandar branded the Palestinian leadership as “failures” who had committed a “transgression” against their Gulf Arab allies and used “treason,” “betrayal” and “back stabbing” against each other.

He said the “Palestinian leadership always bets on the losing side,” giving as an example the support Palestinians gave Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his war 30 years ago against Gulf countries.

“Prince Bandar’s 3-prt [sic] choreographed assault on the Palestinians looked like part of an MBS effort to pave the way for Saudi normalization with Israel,” tweeted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the pro-active heir apparent to the Saudi throne.

Although Saudi Arabia has not commented directly, President Donald Trump said that after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established diplomatic relations with Israel last month, he talked to the Saudis and hoped they would also sign a peace treaty.

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In the interviews, the prince didn’t come all the way to recognizing Israel’s position, saying the “Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates have proven to be successful,” but his comments suggest an important first step in Israel’s direction as he detailed decades of Palestinian rejectionism.

“Israel was working on increasing its influence, while the Arabs were busy with each other. The Palestinians and their leaders led these disputes among the Arabs,” said Bandar, who was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington.

In reviewing the history of the conflict and the Palestinians’ repeated rejection of Israeli peace offers, Bandar noted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990. Arafat’s embrace of the Iraqi dictator “had a painful impact on all the peoples of the Gulf” as did pictures of “deluded” Palestinians celebrating when Iraq bombed Saudi Arabia.

The roughly 34 million Saudi citizens have been fed anti-Israel propaganda for decades. Near the end of the interview, Bandar said the reason he was speaking out was to let the Saudis and other Gulf countries know “what their leaders and countries have done in service of the Palestinian issue, with complete dedication.”

He then said that Saudi Arabia supports “the cause of the Palestinian people. But with these people [Palestinian leaders] it is difficult to trust them and to do something for the Palestinian cause with them around.”

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“We are at a stage in which rather than being concerned with how to face the Israeli challenges in order to serve the Palestinian cause, we have to pay attention to our national security and interests,” the prince said, giving a strong indication that Saudi Arabia appears to be working to change public opinion and taking the Palestinian issue off its priority list.

Bin Sultan’s statements won support from UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, who tweeted that “Bin Sultan’s testimony of history represents an honest account of the commitment of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states towards the Palestinian cause.” The prince’s “rational approach takes into account our interests first,” he added, while the UAE still supports the Palestinians.

“This doesn’t bode well at all for the Palestinians, especially if Trump wins a second term and Saudi enters the fold of normalization with Israel,” tweeted Camilla Schick, Foreign Affairs producer at CBS News, noting that “Prince Bandar’s daughter is the current Saudi ambassador to the U.S.”