One of the qualities that best describes highly esteemed figures is their ability to choose the right time to say what needs to be said. Such seasoned leaders have the wisdom to express their views in a succinct stirring manner that will be heard and anticipated by many. Saudi leaders, such as former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, are known for having this quality. Prince Bandar chose the ideal timing to make an appearance that reveals his position on recent matters. As narrated by Ambassador Osama Nuqli, Prince Bandar was enraged as he was recounting the numerous positions of the Saudi state towards Palestine in a series of exclusive interviews with Al Arabiya. His frustration was palpable, and his tone showed that he was entirely fed up.
For four decades, Prince Bandar has been known for working behind the scenes, and for being the go-to man capable of accomplishing great victories whenever needed. Saudi kings have always relied on him to handle complex matters effectively and discreetly. People highly anticipate any statement made by him. For instance, when the Arabic version of William Simpson’s book: “The Prince” was published (July 2010) which recounts parts of Prince Bandar’s journey, I immediately went to buy it from a library in Beirut. On that day, I talked to many of the people who came to buy the book, and even though many of them were against Saudi Arabia, they still showed interest in reading about Prince Bandar. He was known for being the man of steel who never handled a matter without reaching the intended end goal, and everyone can attest to his achievements even our enemies.
During the interview, the Price reminded the viewers of how the Saudis fought valiantly alongside the Palestinians. He mentioned a leading figure who went down in history as a great supporter of the Palestinian cause. This figure is Fahad al-Marek; he was in King Abdulaziz’s inner circle which enabled him to write his famous book ‘the traits of King Abdulaziz’ published in 1978. Fahad al-Marek was a trusted diplomat, writer, and warrior who fought in the 1948 war. Mr. Badr Al-Khorayef wrote a report about him entitled “Tulkarm remembers Fahad Al-Marek ... the Saudi warrior who defended Palestine - joined the Liberation Army as ordered by King Abdulaziz ... and wrote a book about this experience.” The Prince also mentioned that “this great man has gone down in history for his tremendous efforts and devotion to the Palestinian cause, and as a testament to that, many politicians and leaders paid tribute to him when he passed away in 1978. His bravery as a warrior, as well as his talent as a writer and diplomat is praised and remembered by many. This is what prompted King Salman bin Abdulaziz to say “Mr. Fahad Al-Marek is one of King Abdulaziz’s trusted men who proved his loyalty to him and his country. He vehemently served his country. His efforts to resolve issues faced by both the Arab and Islamic nations, were always aligned with the directions and policies of his country's leaders.”
Twenty-seven years ago, King Salman requested that a street be named after Fahad Al-Marek, near the palace of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Moreover, late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat described Fahad Al-Marek as "a great warrior, and one of the greatest men in our Arab nation. He is highly regarded for his loyalty and support of the Palestinian Revolution." This is just one example from thousands of other honorable examples throughout Saudi history.
In my opinion, the Palestinians need to be reminded that the hundreds of billions of dollars their leaders received from Saudi Arabia throughout its history in support of their cause should have been enough to help them build exceptional cities, but instead their leaders chose to take that money for themselves to buy private jets, and luxurious towers in Europe and America, leaving nothing for their people. For its leaders, Palestine is nothing more than an investment project that generates inexhaustible profits. For this reason, these leaders are always quick to express their outrage whenever anyone in the region voices the need for electing alternative leadership.
Prince Bandar’s speech is self-explanatory, direct, and remarkably frank. He revealed how much Saudi Arabia had to endure at the hand of certain unrefined Palestinian leaders. During the interview, he recalled something Simpson mentioned in his book regarding the Clinton- Barak deal that Arafat rejected. “In that context, this rejection was entirely incomprehensible, and it caused me a great deal of pain on both the emotional and ideological levels. Had I been the leader of that nation at the time, I would not have rejected the offer presented by Clinton and Barak. I failed to find a solid reason for this rejection. The only solution I could think of to solve this mystery, is to attempt to adopt Arafat’s way of thinking and not mine”.
He adds, “I believe Arafat’s main flaw is his inability to transition from a revolutionary to statesman, retarding the progress towards a Palestinian state. Whenever he inched forward, he reverted to being a revolutionary. A revolutionary is someone who does everything in his power to keep the revolution alive, while a statesman must reach a point where he puts an end to the revolution and takes it upon himself to act in the best interest of his state.” Furthermore, Prince Bandar criticizes in his book one of the Secretary-Generals of the Arab League during the Madrid conference, for chanting empty slogans. Ambassador Edward Djerejian recounts that Prince Bandar made this remark, “He is only trying to overcomplicate matters. Instead of getting to the point, he started leveling accusations and making patriotic slogans. His only intention was to be recorded making certain statements.”
There is no doubt that the Palestinian cause was and will remain a critical thorny issue. Many will continue to take advantage of this cause and use it as the holy absolver of their political sins. Bogus chants of freeing Jerusalem will be shamelessly used by those who favor bloodshed and massacres. Meanwhile, during elections, candidates will not shy away from using this cause as a stepping-stone to reach their goals by playing on people’s emotions.
Prince Bandar’s interview should be seen as a wake-up call. If we seek real solutions, then we must leave no stone unturned. There is no point in crying over spilled milk and living in the past will never restore what has been lost.
*This article was originally published in, and translated from, Asharq Al-Awsat.