On the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, reportedly sat on the arm of the chair on which US President George W Bush was sitting and said, "I will only shave my beard after you strike Iraq." The invasion went ahead, and he duly shaved his beard to celebrate.
Bin Sultan has been out of the limelight since his dismissal and allegations of bribery and corruption, notably in connection with the infamous Al-Yamamah arms deal. Now, out of the blue, he has appeared on Al-Arabiya TV channel, which is a mouthpiece for Saudi Arabia, to bless the UAE and Bahrain normalisation with Israel. He also launched a virulent attack on the Palestinians, Turkey and Qatar. I do not know if he will be required by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to shave his beard in victory again, but if he is, it will be wasted.
There is no doubt that the TV appearance by the prince and his fierce attack on the Palestinians were not spontaneous. They had to have been on Bin Salman's orders with the sole purpose of paving the way for Saudi citizens to accept Riyadh's normalisation with the Zionist enemy. The Saudi government's social media campaigns have failed to achieve that goal. The people in the Kingdom reject normalisation and Palestine still remains in their hearts, while Israel is still seen as their enemy and the enemy of all the Arab peoples. Even in those countries that established diplomatic relations with Israel decades ago, their people still reject normalisation; all the desperate attempts of the Zionists have not succeeded in winning hearts and minds, as they were able to do with their despicable regimes.
This has also been seen with the new normalisers, the UAE and Bahrain. In the latter, the people raised the Palestinian flag in demonstrations and condemned normalisation. The online petition issued by several Emiratis rejecting normalisation as "treason" was signed by more than two million Arabs within 24 hours.
These Arab Zionist regimes have spent billions of dollars to falsify history and deceive public opinion with pro-Israel TV programmes and demonisation of the Palestinians, all in an effort to improve the occupation state's image. Apart from their "electronic brigades" working on social media to praise the Zionists and attack Palestinians, they have used well-known writers and public figures; one-time advocates for Palestinian rights, they have sold out in exchange for Saudi and UAE money. Such malicious efforts have not succeeded and their money has gone with the wind. The Palestinian cause remains in the hearts of the people.
The extent of the close relationship between the Saudi Crown Prince and Zionist leaders is becoming ever more obvious. We now know that Bin Salman visited Israel in 2017, where he was photographed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, and that he has coordinated moves with Israel and with Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and son-in-law of Donal Trump, regarding the "deal of the century". This was even before Trump announced it. The prince also threatened Mahmoud Abbas and told him to forget about Jerusalem completely, and that Abu Dis would be the capital of an "independent" Palestinian state.
Mohammad Bin Salman's love for the Zionists cannot be hidden behind the naive arguments and false allegations made by his cousin Bin Sultan and other Arab Zionists. If the Saudi rulers are so confident that normalisation is the right thing to do, why do they have to resort to such cheap tactics and attacks on the Palestinians to justify their betrayal of the Ummah? Why this exaggerated effort to present Israel as a caring democracy when the whole world can see the occupation state's blatant racism, criminality and brutality towards the Palestinian people?
Bandar Bin Sultan claims that the Palestinian leadership has wasted many opportunities to solve the conflict with the Israeli occupation. Either his memory is failing or he has normalised himself too much, but I would like to remind him that the Palestinian Authority agreed to several solutions that the Palestinian people did not accept but they were rejected by Israel, including the Arab Peace Initiative backed by his late uncle, King Abdullah, at the Beirut summit in 2002. The Arab League adopted it at the time, and it is in place to this day. Israel's then Prime Minister, the late, unlamented Ariel Sharon, rejected the initiative and said that it was not worth the ink with which it was written.
Are there are no friends left for the Palestinians except Turkey and Iran, as Bin Sultan claims? Even if this is true — and it isn't — there is no shame in the Palestinians lauding the two largest Islamically-minded states in the region. They were once the centres of the two most important empires in the world and now spearhead the Islamic renaissance in the Muslim world. Moreover, they support the Palestinian people with humanitarian and other aid, and back them openly in international forums against the colonial Zionist project, while their Arab brethren abandon them, besiege them and deprive them of aid.
The former Saudi ambassador has overlooked the fact that most Arab countries support the Palestinian people and their cause. Six Arab countries have so far refused to step in and take the revolving presidency of the Arab League — very clearly controlled by Saudi Arabia and the UAE — since its last meeting in which it dropped the Palestinian project, agreed to normalisation and refused to condemn Abu Dhabi.
Finally, let those who want to normalise go ahead and do it, but they should not try to demonise the heroic Palestinian people in order to justify their betrayal. Believe me, they will gain nothing from such criminal and sinful relations with the Zionist enemy, other than regret and loss. On the contrary, it may cost them their homelands and topple their thrones. Neither Prince Bandar Bin Sultan nor the rest of his clan should bank on shaving their beards in victory.
As Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish put it so ingeniously:
The Arabs obeyed their Romans,
The Arabs have sold their souls,
The Arabs are lost.
The mask has fallen off the mask;
Off the mask fell the mask.
You have no brothers, brother, and no friends.
Take careful note, Bandar Bin Sultan. Take careful note.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.