Saudi Arabia supports the Palestinian cause but not its leaders and must pay attention to its own interests, said the Kingdom’s former Ambassador to the US and intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
“In my personal opinion, with all the events that have taken place around the world, we are at a stage in which rather than being concerned with how to face the Israeli challenges in order to serve the Palestinian cause, we have to pay attention to our national security and interests,” Prince Bandar told Al Arabiya on Wednesday.
In the third and final part of an exclusive interview, Prince Bandar called out current Palestinian leaders, saying they have chosen to ally with Iran and Turkey over their traditional allies in the Arab world.
“New players came into the picture, claiming that they are serving the Palestinian cause and that the Palestinian cause is their priority, and that Jerusalem is their first goal,” he said.
“These are countries such as Iran and Turkey, and the Palestinian leaders have come to regard Tehran and Ankara higher than they regard Riyadh, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Manama, Oman, Muscat, and Cairo,” the prince explained.
The Iranian government has held an annual event since the 1979 Islamic Revolution called “Quds Day,” which purports to express support for the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to “liberate” Jerusalem from Israel.
Prince Bandar reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support for Palestine, but made clear that he did not consider the Palestinian leadership to represent the Palestinian cause.
“[Palestinian leaders denying Saudi Arabian support for the cause] this will not affect our attachment to the cause of the Palestinian people. But with these people [the leaders] it is difficult to trust them and to do something for the Palestinian cause with them around,” he said.
Yasser Arafat and Saudi Arabia's King Fahd in 2000. (File photo: AFP)
Palestinian leaders’ historic “failures”
His comments came as he outlined what he described as the historic “failures” of the Palestinian leadership, which he said had taken Saudi Arabian support for granted.
In the previous two parts of the interview, Prince Bandar outlined the role of Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat in frustrating Saudi Arabian efforts to secure a peace deal in Washington in the 1970s and 1980s.
In part three, Prince Bandar explained how Arafat had signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, despite having derailed previous deals that contained the same conditions. He also voiced his frustration at Arafat allegedly undermining the Camp David 2000 Accord, which the Palestinian leader refused to sign.
“I wanted to cry, my heart was burning at how the opportunity was lost again and perhaps for the last time, as if I was seeing a movie playing in front of my eyes,” he told Al Arabiya.
“An opportunity comes, and it is lost. After it is lost, we agree on what we rejected, and we put it on the table. Then people say that there is nothing on the table, and so on, over and over. As the saying goes, with repetition you become cleverer,” he said.
While an initiative led by Prince Abdullah and Prince Bandar almost came to fruition under Bush, the September 11, 2001 attacks derailed it at the last minute, he added.
Prince Bandar served as the secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 to 2015 and the Kingdom’s national intelligence chief from 2014 to 2016.
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