The ex-Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki Al-Faisal has dismissed claims that Arab countries are abandoning the Palestinian cause by putting their interests with Israel ahead of rights of the Palestinian people.
In an interview with Israeli television, Al-Faisal rejected claims made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Arab states are strengthening ties with Tel Aviv. He denounced Netanyahu as a politician with a history of self-congratulation and poured water over claims that Arab states would establish ties with Israel without "significant concessions" to Palestinians.
"Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue," Al-Faisal told Barak Ravid, the senior diplomatic correspondent of Israel's newly-launched Channel 13. "Mr Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it's the other way around," he added.
The comments by the former head of intelligence and Saudi ambassador to London and Washington came as Netanyahu battles to save his political career on two fronts: an upcoming election on 9 April and a corruption case involving sections of Israel's media establishment.
Al-Faisal told the Israeli channel not to be fooled by Netanyahu's rhetoric and PR campaign, which has seen the right-wing Likud leader trying to take credit for what he claims to be improved relations with Arab countries, without having to concede anything on the issue of Palestine.
Al-Faisal asserted the Saudi position by pointing to previous Riyadh-led peace initiatives known as the Arab Peace initiative. "In 2002, the late [Saudi] Crown Prince Abdullah presented his peace plan – Israel will withdraw from the occupied territories in return for recognition of Israel and normalization," he said.
In remarks that may come as a surprise in light of the current regional alliance taking shape between the Gulf countries and Israel on one side and Iran on the other, Al-Faisal continued by saying: "Israel has not been very co-operative as far as achieving peace in our part of the world". He added:
From day one, Israel did not respond to our peace initiative. Israel chooses to ignore all the efforts of Saudi Arabia to make peace and expects Saudi Arabia to put its hand in [Israel's] hand and go forward on technology, on water desalination, on issues like that. It's not going to happen.
It is feared that the comments may have major repercussions for the so-called "deal of the century", which is currently being drafted by US President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. It is expected that the deal will seek to force major concessions on the Palestinians, which may see them having to abandon their rights to accommodate Israel's maximalist demands to protect its illegal settlement enterprise.