Just when it seemed relations were warming between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a Saudi prince and former ambassador to the United States said peace would not be possible as long as Israel was colonizing stolen Palestinian land.
“The Abraham Accords are not divine writ,” Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud said on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia would not join the agreement unless the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative calling for a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines is implemented.
Meanwhile, he called Israel’s border fence the “apartheid wall” and said it “prevents the inhabitants of the land they colonized from returning to their stolen properties.”
“Israeli governments have arrested thousands of the inhabitants of the lands they are colonizing and incarcerated them in concentration camps under the flimsiest of security accusations — young and old, women and men who are rotting there without recourse or justice,” Al Faisal continued.
Al Faisal was speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Manama Dialogue in Bahrain which took place this past weekend. His stinging comments come at a time when hopes were high for more Muslim nations to declare peace with Israel, including Saudi Arabia itself.
Two other Gulf states, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, recently normalized relations with Israel, signing the Abraham Accords in September — apparently with the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago in a secret meeting that was later leaked to the media. Many had speculated whether Saudi Arabia was going to consider joining the Abraham Accords, but Saudi officials denied the meeting even happened.
The Saudis have always maintained their commitment to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a prerequisite for normalization with Israel.
But at the IISS conference in Manama, Al Saud pushed that reality even further from reach.
“You cannot treat an open wound with palliatives and painkillers; the Abraham Accords can only succeed if the Arab Peace Initiative is revived,” Al Faisal said.
“They are demolishing homes as they wish, and they assassinate whomever they want,” he said, possibly in reference to the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist widely attributed to Israel. “And yet, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that defines the citizenship of Israel as exclusively Jewish, denying the non-Jewish inhabitants of Israel equal rights under the law. What kind of democracy is that?”
He was immediately followed by Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi who took umbrage with his remarks.
“I would like to express my regret on the comments of the Saudi representative,” Ashkenazi said. “I don’t believe that they reflect the spirit and the changes taking place in the Middle East.”
Later he reiterated his stance on Twitter: “The false accusations of the Saudi representative at the Manama Conference do not reflect the facts or the spirit and changes the region is undergoing. I rejected his remarks and emphasized that the ‘blame game’ era is over. We are at the dawn of a new era. An era of peace.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his virtual opening address at the 16th edition of the IISS Manama Dialogue 2020, hailed Bahrain’s role in advancing peace and for signing peace agreements with Israel. He also said the U.S. would continue its maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime and would not allow Iran to support terrorist activities across the region.
Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, in his remarks, said that security of the Gulf and the Middle East “is more effectively protected when countries work together with regional allies and international partners, affirming that this dynamic will be strengthened in the coming years,” according to the Bahrain News Agency.
He said that the most important development that occurred in the Middle East in 2020 was “the signing of the Abraham Accords, and the opportunity it provided to establish real new partnerships for regional security.”