Some people say that you can judge a book by its cover, and that’s certainly true for me with regards to online news outlets. Whenever I read the headlines on some websites with open political affiliations, I am overcome by how bizarre it is that they contradict their own proclaimed positions.
In sum, I feel that some of the loudest voices opposing the normalization of ties between Arabs and Israel, actually wish that Saudi Arabia specifically adopts this route. I try to reject this conclusion, because it defies common logic. But there are many indicators that some parties are overtly attempting to provoke Riyadh to take a position that serves their interests.
Take, for example, how headlines are twisted in a way that leads us to wonder if there are people out there who simply can’t wait to wake up one day to a complete normalization between Tel Aviv and Riyadh.
It will be a long time before that happens, unless Tel Aviv decides to shorten the wait and announce that they are going ahead with the implementation of the principles of the 1993 Oslo Agreement, despite its flaws, with the formation of an independent, viable Palestinian state whose capital is East Jerusalem - and then back up their words with actions. Only then would the normalization discussion move forward.
In this context, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said last Sunday during the Manama Dialogue that establishing an independent Palestinian state is a prerequisite for normalization. This statement is not the first of its kind, but it should serve as a fresh reminder for those who claim to be anti-normalization while actually trying to provoke Riyadh to engage in an unconditional normalization.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan reminded everyone that the Saudi position is crystal clear: “We’ve been quite clear that in order for us to proceed with normalization we will need to see a settlement of the Palestinian dispute and the formation of a viable state of Palestine along the lines envisioned in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”
He added: “Without a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis we are not going to see true peace and stability in the region.”
During the summit, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a prominent and experienced politician, told the Israelis what they have been refusing to hear since the beginning of the Arab-Israeli peace initiative when the 1982 Arab Fez summit adopted the initiative of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz.
In essence, Prince Turki Al-Faisal underscored Israel’s double standard as “feeling existentially threatened and claiming to want peace on the one hand, and occupying Palestinian lands, bombing Arab countries, and possessing nuclear weapons on the other hand.”
He added, “they are demolishing homes as they wish, and they assassinate whomever they want.”
Why do anti-normalization advocates in the media target the Saudi position in particular? In short, because firstly, this is what they hope for, and secondly, they know very well that neither Turkey nor Iran are closer than Saudi Arabia to truly honestly with the Palestinian cause.
Therefore, they are spreading leading emanating from Israel itself to blackmail Riyadh, whose position is firm, well-documented in history, and clearly expressed by all Saudi Kings. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, is crystal clear about Saudi Arabia’s position, i.e. that it will accept what the Palestinians accept, and reject what they reject.
What more is needed? From the Saudis, nothing, as the facts have been clearly stated. From the Palestinian leaders, they should put an end to their regrettable internal discord. In the meantime, Palestinian citizens should avoid those who want to drive a wedge of suspicion between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians to serve the Israeli position, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.