The TV interview with former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan was not an easy one, and analysts will not stop reading between the lines. Questions abound as to who is behind him, and what gave him the strength to herald such a shift in the Kingdom’s dealings with its neighbors, especially Palestine.
Prince Bandar took aim at many Palestinian leaders, and at several other countries that have played off the painful situation for their own benefit. Those countries now stand disgraced before their own citizens; the world knows their deeds, the last fig leaf covering them having finally fallen to reveal their failings.
What was striking, however, in Al-Arabiya’s interview, was that the prince did not use the term “normalization.” He was keen to avoid employing any words of this kind, despite calling the Palestinian leadership liars, cheats, disloyal and ungrateful.
In his comments on some of the events related to the efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue, Prince Bandar stressed that his goal was to clarify matters to the citizens of Saudi Arabia and other countries so that young people were not deceived by the lies of the Palestinian leaders.
Young people in the Gulf may not be as well read as their forebears on the history of the Palestinian issue; Prince Bandar sought to provide viewers with irrefutable facts in a clear manner, giving a historical account of a diplomatic path full of initiatives and, at the same time, failures.
He was not only addressing the youth of Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf, but all Arab youth, especially when he referred to certain entities and countries and explicitly named them, exposing their “colonial” plans and “opportunistic” intentions — especially Turkey and Iran — and how they try to exploit the Palestinian cause to achieve political goals.
He also expressed pain at the allegations of betrayal and false accusation that created strife among Arab youth. This prompted Prince Bandar to address this frankly and, sometimes, harshly. He invoked details that were secret and spoke about them for the first time.
Prince Bandar urged young viewers to trust their leaders and learn from the historical efforts made by their countries, especially the rulers of Saudi Arabia, over the course of a century to serve the issues of Islam and Muslims everywhere, on top of the issue of the occupation of Palestine, to restore security to the region, and to promote peace and coexistence.
Prince Bandar reassured all Saudis and other Arabs that the Kingdom has not betrayed the issue.
He also provided hints that revealed the future of the Kingdom and the region as a whole. He said that the biggest obstacle facing the Palestinian issue was the Palestinian leadership itself, unaware of the gravity of their words and actions. Instead of being interested in facing Israeli challenges in order to serve the cause, those leaders, he said, had come to regard Ankara and Tehran as more important allies than Riyadh, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Manama, Amman, Muscat, and Cairo.
Here, Prince Bandar reassured all Saudis and other Arabs that the Kingdom has not betrayed the issue, and would spare no effort in resolving it in a way that served the stability and growth of the Arab world.
“It is the duty of our leaderships to preserve our national security and the security, economic, and social interests of our peoples and their well-being,” he said.
These are signs that reveal the future of Saudi relations with the rest of the region, including Israel.
Prince Bandar highlighted that Saudi Arabia’s national security was its top priority. He recalled how, years ago, Riyadh was attacked by Saddam Hussein’s missiles, and how the youth of Nablus danced with joy as it happened. He also underscored how the Palestinian leaders denied all Saudi efforts and all moral and humanitarian covenants. The message was clear: This would not be tolerated again.
These lessons are not only for the Palestinian leaders, as these have grown used to wasting opportunities. Rather, these lessons are first and foremost for the Kingdom and the Gulf region, so that they are not betrayed again. Instead, it will be those states who have profited from people’s pain who have the rug pulled from under them.
Fares Al-Ghannami is a Saudi writer and intellectual interested in political affairs. Twitter: @farescom200