US President George W. Bush was about to give a speech saying he would work toward recognizing a Palestinian state but the September 11 attacks diverted US attention, revealed Saudi Arabia’s former Ambassador to the US Prince Bandar bin Sultan on Wednesday.
Prince Bandar was Saudi Arabia’s representative in Washington from 1983 to 2005, during which he formed close relationships with successive American presidents and represented the Kingdom in the Israel-Palestine peace process.
In an exclusive three-part Al Arabiya interview, Prince Bandar shared his frustrations with the Palestinian leadership during his tenure, accusing Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) head Yasser Arafat of undermining the peace process.
In the final part of the interview, the prince recalled how a peace initiative by Saudi Arabia’s then-Prince Abdullah (who later ruled as king from 2005 to 2013) came close to fruition – only for the process to be derailed by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the US.
Prince Bandar recalled how Arafat refused to agree to a deal at the Camp David 2000 Summit, hosted by then-US President Bill Clinton.
However, Prince Bandar said that a Saudi Arabian-led initiative almost came to fruition following the failure of the summit and the election of George W. Bush, who took office in January 2001.
“After the new president, George W. Bush, came to office, Prince Abdullah made a second attempt and a great effort. He visited the US and visited the president on his ranch, and important points were reached,” recalled Prince Bandar.
“Bush agreed that in late August, early September, when he was going to give a speech in front of the UN, that he would include a paragraph on the Palestinian cause, and that he would recognize both the Palestinian and Israeli states, and that work was being done to achieve this goal, and to add some paragraphs that the Palestinians were demanding,” he added.
According to Prince Bandar, Bush assigned Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA chief George Tenet, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to work on Bush’s speech with him.
Having semi-agreed on a speech, Powell reportedly called Prince Bandar, saying the following: “Tomorrow I have to go to Latin America, there is a meeting of the countries of South America, and I have to give a speech there.”
“I return on the night of September 10, on September 11 let us meet and finish this. Then I’ll send it to the President for final approval, and we’ll go to New York,” Powell reportedly said.
Prince Bandar and Powell then organized a meeting to be held on September 11, 2001, with Tenet and Rice.
“Unfortunately, this was not meant to be,” recalled Prince Bandar.
“The day of September 11 requires no explanation. The Palestinian cause became the least concern for America and for much of the world.”
Prince Bandar continued to serve as Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US until 2005 and was known for having a close relationship with President George W. Bush.
He 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.
His daughter, Princess Reema bin Bandar, is the Kingdom’s current ambassador to the US.
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- Full transcript: Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s interview on Israel-Palestine conflict