Saudi Arabia Rejects U.S. Peace Initiative To Save Face
After President Donald Trump brokered the deal of the 21st century between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the U.S. tried to convince Saudi Arabia that it would be in their interest to follow suit. When pursued, the answer according to Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the Saudi royal family, was that there must first has to be an independent and a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Al-Faisal stated: “Any Arab state that is considering following the UAE should demand in return a price, and it should be an expensive price. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set a price for concluding peace between Israel and the Arabs — it is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, as provided for by the initiative of the late King Abdullah.”
This tends to be a reversal from two years ago when the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) told The Atlantic magazine during an April 2018 interview that Israel has the “right” to its own land alongside the Palestinians and that “there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.” This declaration has been considered as a major shift in Saudi Arabia’s diplomacy and the evidence of an assumed rapprochement with Israel.
Yet at the same time, the King Salman al-Saud pledged $200 million to assist the Palestinians in their cause — the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center stated that the Kingdom has provided the Palestinians with aid worth $6 billion since 2000.
Saudi Arabia, home to the two ‘holy mosques’ — in Mecca and Medina — has tried to portray itself the leader of the Muslims world, as well as one of the leading supporters of global humanitarian aid and development, especially to the Palestinians. Hence, the reason Prince Turki referred to UN Resolution 242, which was unanimously passed by the Security Council on November 22, 1967, that called for Israel to withdraw from “territories occupied in the recent conflict [Six-Day War]” — the Israelis, however, claim that they were allowed to retain territory it won during the conflict in order “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who helped broker the Israeli-UAE peace agreement, ultimately said: “Saudi Arabia has obviously been a great leader in making (modernization) but you can’t turn a battleship around overnight.”
Are the Saudis Interested in Peace?
We all know the saying, ‘With friends like them, who need enemies.’ This would tend to classify the Saudis since for decades they have displayed anything but sincere friendship, let alone peace, as is has continually taken advantage of America’s helping hand.
This May, referring to the kingdom, President Trump said that the U.S. has been protecting countries “that don’t respect us, and in some cases they don’t even like us.”
During the oil war with Russia early this year, CNBC reporter Clyde Russell stated: “Saudi Arabia has detonated a metaphorical nuclear weapon in the global oil market, blowing up prices and trade relationships with its decision to slash the cost of its own crude while ramping up output.”
While the target of MBS’ ire was Russian oil companies, his move served only to accelerate America’s economic collapse during the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The volatility and price crash in oil hurt U.S. shale producers, leading to layoffs in the industry, particularly in Republican-run states. President Trump went so far as to threaten to impose tariffs on oil imports from Saudi Arabia before their differences had been patched up.
The Saudis even drew criticism from its staunch supporters, like Senator Ted Cruz, who said at the end of March:
“The Saudi kingdom is supposed to be our friend. We are a military ally. We are a diplomatic ally. You are not behaving like a friend when you are trying to destroy thousands and thousands of small businesses all across Texas and the country.”
Part of the ruling Saud family’s policies have been:
- imprisoning and shaking down their own relatives-princes;
- kidnapping foreign prime ministers;
- forced marriages of prepubescent and teenage girls to adult men;
- involvement in slavery and human trafficking;
- its five-year genocidal war in Yemen;
- and, in the judgment of the CIA, murdering and dismembering the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Mississippi in October 2018, the Trump said: “I love the king, King Salman, but I said: ‘King, we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military, you have to pay.’”
The Saudis eventually did pay the money American tax-payers have been coughing up for decades. Yet as explained by Senator Lindsey Graham, this did not keep the Saudis from continuing to exploit America’s friendship.
Even though the Palestinians have an embassy in Riyadh, they view Saudi Arabia unfavorably, owning by the fact the Saudis were accused to be working with Israel against its people. Consequently, they distrust Saudi officials and their political approaches deemed to be anti-Palestinian.
One would think, knowing that the kingdom would not survive without America’s overly-generous assistance, it would strive to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel if it could bring peace and security to the region — one cannot even give them the benefit of trying. For the time being, the Saudis will continue in their self-righteous path in order to save face with the Arab world. Yet, unless they change policies, the they may just one day wake up in a hornet’s nest and the U.S. will not be around to save them.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.