The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has created widespread speculation about the potentially controversial nature of his future Kingdom as and when he succeeds his father. Mohammad Bin Salman has attracted attention through a series of actions and comments that are seen by many as a coup against Saudi, Arab and Islamic traditions.
Some analysts believe him to be ignorant of the principles underpinning his country, as well as those of Arab and Islamic diplomacy. The ambitious prince started his political life by forming a coalition to interfere in the conflict in Yemen; he has helped to turn the country into a pile of rubble, bringing starvation and a deadly cholera epidemic into his southern neighbour in the process. He is also cracking down violently on genuine reformers and opposition figures within Saudi Arabia itself.
Bin Salman has made at least one visit to Israel and has met officials there and overseas, even though there are no diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Last week he recognised the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and has declared the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, to be a terrorist organisation.
In a lengthy interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, published last week, the Saudi Crown Prince said, “The Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.” Like any other nation, the Palestinians most certainly have the right to live on their own land. This is not something to thank him for, because this right was recognised by international law and the international community immediately after they were forced out of their homes and land in 1948, and has been reaffirmed on many occasions ever since.
However, do the Israelis have such a right, when “their land” actually belongs to another people who were driven out at gunpoint by “Jewish terrorism” 70 years ago? The nascent state of Israel bombed and massacred its way through the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population in what it calls its “War of Independence”. Those Palestinians who managed to stay in their homes have had an alien identity — “Israeli-Arabs” — imposed upon them in their own land.
Mohammad Bin Salman has claimed that there are shared interests between his Kingdom and Israel. This betrays what real Saudi diplomacy is all about; its own interests, regardless of who it has to deal with. Instead of operating behind closed doors, though, this man is out in the open as he befriends the US and the US-sponsored Zionist project. In that sense, therefore, he is not a hypocrite.
US President Donald Trump described Saudi Arabia as a “milch cow” which would be slaughtered when it was no longer producing what the US needs. Nevertheless, Bin Salman has thrown his billions and his hand in with the Zionists in Washington and Tel Aviv, although he is probably not crazy enough to have shown all of his cards just yet.
A glance at the history of Saudi relations with the US and Israel shows that, in reality, the Crown Prince has not deviated far from the legacy of the House of Saud. After the 1967 Six-Day War, during which Israel occupied large swathes of Arab land, Saudi Arabia called for a meeting of the Arab League. Although the Saudi-led summit did not resolve to recognise Israel, Gawdat Bahgat of the Middle East Policy Council points out, it did not rule out diplomatic and political efforts. Nor did they cite military force as the only way to liberate the occupied Arab territories.
This was actually the prelude for a relationship with Israel characterised by peace in practice, if not in the rhetoric intended to placate the Arab masses. This was not altered, even when the Arab states announced their anger with Egypt when it signed a peace agreement with Israel. Indeed, they later recognised the Palestinian Authority, which came into being after the PLO recognised Israel and conceded more than 78 per cent of the historic Arab land of Palestine. When Jordan also signed a peace deal with Israel, most of the Arab nations commended it.
The Saudi Crown Prince’s acknowledgement of the Israelis’ “right to live in their land” — his euphemism for occupied Palestine — was not, therefore, something out of synch with official Palestinian, Arabic and Islamic diplomacy. The core of the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi Arabian proposal, is a readiness to recognise Israel and its “right” to Palestinian land.
We have now witnessed a major Arab leader backing Israel’s existence in Palestine 100 years after the notorious Balfour Declaration, a document which has long been criticised by the Arabs. If Mohammad Bin Salman is prepared to do that as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, what, I wonder will he do when his affection for the Zionist state opens up the Israeli path to the throne of the Kingdom?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.