A senior saudi royal has launched a blistering attack on the palestinian leadership for accusing gulf states that normalised relations with israel of betrayal.
Prince bandar bin sultan bin abdulaziz, a former ambassador to the us and intelligence chief, said the palestinian criticism was a transgression that was reprehensible and entirely unacceptable.
This low level of discourse is not what we expect from officials who seek to gain global support for their cause, he said.
It is highly unlikely prince bandar would have made the comments on saudi-owned al arabiya television without being sanctioned by the royal court, and they signal a hardening of riyadhs position towards palestinian leaders. they also add to speculation about whether saudi arabia could at some point consider recognising israel.
This is a policy by the saudi government to lay the ground for further normalisation with israel because they are blaming the palestinian leadership directly and creating the diplomatic space for them to begin their own process, said michael stephens, an associate fellow at rusi, the think-tank. hes clearly been told what to say and the thing about prince bandar is hes someone who has engagedfor years on the palestinian issue and speaks with gravitas. but if theres blowback, it can be blamed on him and not the current leadership.
A saudi official said the message was clear, adding the the kingdom has always been the palestinian peoples greatest supporter and hopes it can stay that way.
However, it is important that the palestinian leadership finally display some responsibility for where they have taken their people, the official said. what window remains for a future for the palestinians is closing and closing fast.
In recent weeks, the united arab emirates and bahrain, saudi arabias two closest gulf allies, signed deals to normalise relations with israel, becoming the third and fourth arab nations respectively to agree to have full diplomatic relations with the jewish state. the agreements infuriated palestinian leaders who have long hoped that arab states would hold off formally recognising israel until it withdrew from territory occupied in the 1967 war and agreed to the establishment of a viable palestinian state.
Officials in us president donald trumps administration have publicly stated that they hope saudi arabia, home to the middle easts biggest economy and islams two holiest sites, would also agree to establish diplomatic ties with israel. israeli officials also consider the kingdom as the main prize as they seek to forge formal ties with arab countries and analysts suspect that riyadh would have given its tacit approval for the uae and bahrain to seal their deals with the jewish state.
In public, saudi officials cautiously welcomed the uaes and bahrains agreements with israel, but most analysts believe the kingdoms leadership in the islamic world makes it less likely that it would swiftly follow in the footsteps of the smaller gulf states. crown prince mohammed bin salman is believed to be more amenable to normalising ties with israel, but his father, king salman, still considers the palestinian cause a core issue.
However, like the uae, saudi arabia has increased its covert co-operation with israel in recent years, particularly in intelligence and security. and prince bandars unusually strong criticism suggests riyadh is losing patience with the palestinian leadership.
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, said prince bandar, whose son and daughter are the saudi ambassadors in london and washington respectively. there is also something that successive palestinian leaderships historically share in common; they always bet on the losing side, and that comes at a price.
In the first of three interviews, prince bandar delved into the history of the arab-israeli conflict, the role of palestinians in the failure of previous peace efforts and the toxic rivalry between the main palestinian factions, fatah and hamas.
It is not surprising to see how quick these leaders are to use terms like treason betrayal, and back stabbing, because these are their ways in dealing with each other, he said. efforts in the past years would have been better focused on the palestinian cause, peace initiatives and protecting the rights of the palestinian people to reach a point where this just, albeit robbed, cause can finally see the light.
And when i say robbed, i mean both by israel and palestinian leaders equally.