Prince Turki Al-Faisal, who led the Saudi intelligence apparatus for more than two decades and served as an ambassador to the US and UK, has described Israel as a “Western colonising” power.
He said: “Israel has incarcerated Palestinians in concentration camps under the flimsiest of security accusations – young and old, women and men, who are rotting there without recourse to justice. They are demolishing homes as they wish and they assassinate whomever they want.”
Prince Turki’s comments came days after his denial of an imminent Saudi normalisation deal with Israel. He also denied a meeting had taken place between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the latter a “liar”.
In contrast, MBS has heralded great enthusiasm in quietly engaging with Israel to counter common rival, Iran, and boosting foreign investment in the kingdom.
Prince Turki no longer holds any official position but is thought to be close to King Salman and thus providing a mirror of the monarch’s stances. As those who go against MBS languish behind bars, it would be naïve to assume the prince is singing a different tune to the crown prince. It’s more likely that Prince Turki was dispatched to send a political message to certain parties.
There seemed to be a widespread resentment among Saudi authorities after Israeli media deliberately leaked news about MBS’ meeting with Netanyahu. It’s no secret that the Saudi crown prince seeks partnerships with Israel to counter Iran’s alleged regional threat. However, the royal family knows that such a path must be trodden with caution.
Prince Turki’s remarks are a reminder to Netanyahu not to belittle the kingdom. “Israel is offering friendship to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Yet has not stopped unleashing its political minions and media hounds from all countries to denigrate and demonise Saudi Arabia,” he added, reminding the occupation state its actions had not been forgotten.
MBS has suffered a setback as a result of the imminent departure of US President Donald Trump, the crown prince had invested in Washington as part of his long-term plans. Incoming President-elect Joe Biden is expected to be soft on Iran and avoid Trump’s maximum pressure policies.
Meanwhile in Israel, Netanyahu may lose the election which is expected to be called next year after the failure of the coalition government to agree on a state budget.
Saudi doesn’t want to be isolated, with all its eggs in baskets which have disappeared.
This also explains Saudi’s recent attempts to reconcile with Qatar and Turkey.
King Salman had ordered the dispatch of “urgent aid to brothers affected by the latest earthquake in the city of Izmir in Turkey”. Later, the king phoned the Turkish president and emphasised the importance of eliminating all pending misunderstandings and problems.
Saudi has a tendency of reshuffling strategies and recalibrating foreign policies. In the aftermath of the September 11 attack, Saudi leaders said they were committed to fighting terrorist financing. Unfortunately, this commitment cast dark shadows on the Saudi charities and humanitarian organisations that have backed and supported the Palestinian people for decades.
If Prince Turki’s comments are genuine, a follow-up goodwill gesture would be allowing these humanitarian aid agencies to help and support the needy people who are living under what he called “an occupation” that imposed apartheid practices against them.
It’d be reassuring if the Saudi authorities released the dozens of Palestinians who have been living in the kingdom for decades and were arrested over the past few years based on groundless accusations of supporting the resistance movements in Palestine.
Hopefully, fiery Saudi statements will one day be translated into concrete actions. Yet, what we have learnt from Riyadh is the only constant in its policy is change. It all depends on the incoming US president. If Joe Biden goes soft on Saudi Arabia, its attempts to reconcile with Turkey and Qatar will vanish along with such scathing comments on Israel’s crimes and Palestinian rights.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.