Saudi Arabia’s newspapers and television channels did not comment on the remarks made recently by US President Donald Trump, in which he praised the Kingdom’s role in protecting Israel’s security. No official Saudi statement was issued to deny or condemn Trump’s words. On the contrary, there looks to have been an official welcome and acceptance of the remarks in Riyadh, as if they were a trophy to be added to the achievements of King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
The royal family in Saudi Arabia seems to have discovered the secret to remaining in power, despite the disasters it has caused, the latest of which was the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The family appears to be following in the footsteps of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and his successor, Hosni Mubarak, along the path that can be summed up as “the road to Washington passes through Tel Aviv”.
Meanwhile, Prince Turki Al-Faisal is on a tour to improve the reputation of the Crown Prince in Washington. He is one of the godfathers of Saudi-Israel relations, and is no longer ashamed of it; he sees it as one of his own achievements. He told Associated Press that de facto ruler Bin Salman was in power to stay and demanded that the CIA be held accountable for the leak in which it confirmed the Prince’s responsibility for Khashoggi’s death.
Trump’s defence of Saudi Arabia, or rather of Bin Salman, reveals what was going on behind closed doors over the past two years and the undeclared normalisation of relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, specifically between Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems that the news which spread last year about a meeting between the two men along with Jordan’s King Abdullah was true. This cannot be overlooked in light of Bin Salman’s efforts to guarantee his place on the throne at any cost. Hence, it was no surprise for him to adopt Israel’s narrative regarding the Palestinians and to blame them for not finding a solution yet.
We cannot ignore the UAE’s role in presenting Bin Salman to Israel and promoting him to the Netanyahu government. Abu Dhabi has extensive experience in this type of thing; there is a strong connection between the UAE and Israel, as well as with pro-Israel groups in the US.
It is important to highlight the fact that a radical right-wing delegation from the US visited Bin Salman two weeks ago to support him in the face of the international pressure after the Khashoggi killing. This same delegation organised visits to Egypt and meetings with General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, promoting his support by the US administration and influential lobbies in Washington. It also visits Abu Dhabi often, and meets with de facto leader Mohammad Bin Zayed there.
Trump removed the fig leaf that was covering Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Israel. He also revealed the notable development in the level of such relations, which Bin Salman has been keeping secret for the past two years. This prompted Netanyahu, ironically, to defend the importance of Saudi Arabia’s stability for the region. He even acted as a mediator and perhaps pressured the White House — as if it needed to be pressured — through Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, to stop any escalation with Riyadh due to the Khashoggi incident. Among other things, this suggests that a lot of planning is taking place for the future of the region and what these rogue individuals have in store for their people.
The Saudi elites — is there still an independent elite there? Was there ever? — do not talk about the defence of their country and their Crown Prince by Trump and Netanyahu. Nobody has uttered a word, either verbally or in writing, regarding the impact that an alliance with Israel has had on the reputation and image of the land of the Two Holy Mosques. Meanwhile, the Third Holy Mosque remains under Israeli occupation.
Would anyone be surprised to hear prayers for Netanyahu blaring from Saudi minarets or a Saudi imam praying for the Almighty to make the Israeli leader successful and prolong his close relationship with Bin Salman? That’s what one of the imams in Makkah’s Grand Mosque did when he prayed for Trump, praised his alliance with King Salman and considered Saudi Arabia and the US as two poles that will lead the world to security.
Of course, the common enemy for Trump, Bin Salman and Netanyahu is Iran and it is easy to mobilise and incite public opinion against it, even at the expense of what were once known as the Arab constants. At the top of the list of these is the Palestinian issue, which was sold for free to Netanyahu to do whatever he wants to do with it, with total disregard for dignity or shame.
Thus, Trump believes that without Saudi Arabia’s support, Israel would have been in a very difficult position. The man said this frankly, without any hesitation, during an interview at his business headquarters in Florida. This is perhaps the most significant and dangerous statement made by Trump with regards to foreign policy since becoming US President. With it he revealed the conspiracies and plots being made for the region, which target its people and stability above all else.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 27 November 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.