Saudi monarch at loggerheads over Israel issue
Published: 04:05 PM, 21 September 2020 Updated: 04:26 PM, 21 September 2020
Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Photo: Collected
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, the two Middle East countries, have recently signed a US-brokered deal to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. Rumors have been circulating since then that Saudi Arabia is going to walk the path of UAE-Bahrain. They will also go to the formalities of normalizing relations with Israel.
However, Saudi King Salman and his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman are at loggerheads over the issue. In the meantime, the issue of the dispute between the two of them has come to highlight, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
In the report, the analysts say the Prince is keen to formalize relations with Israel. However, Saudi King Salman has a strong disagreement in this regard.
The 84-year-old King Salman was stunned with President Trump’s announcement on August 13 about the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreement between Israel and UAE.
The Emirates and Bahrain signed a formal agreement with Israel on Tuesday in the presence of Donald Trump at the White House.
Trump hailed the “historic agreement” as the “dawn of a new Middle East”. Outraged Palestinians are calling the deal a “betrayal” by Arabs.
The Trump administration is keen to bring more Arab countries under the US-Israel pact ahead of the US presidential election in November. Meanwhile, the US president said he believed Saudi Arabia was on the “verge of establishing” formal diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. The country will do that “at the right time,” he added.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has always supported Palestine. Over the decades, he has provided billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, as well as personal relationships with most of their leaders.
The Prince is willing to establish relations with Israel despite the King’s disagreement. Mohammed bin Salman wants to build a strong alliance against Iran as well as overcome the conflict with Israel for trade and investment.
Prince Turki bin Faisal, a key member of the Saudi royal family, said in a statement published in a Saudi-owned newspaper that “in order to normalize Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia, we must declare Palestine a sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
“Saudi Arabia has set a price for establishing a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world,” he said, adding, “And that is – to follow the initiative of the late King Abdullah and declare Jerusalem as the capital to form a sovereign Palestinian state”
But the deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia has come a long way, said Yoel Guzansky, a former director of the ‘Iran and Gulf Desk’ at Israel’s National Security Council.
“The deal is a long way off, however, Israel will have to wait. Saudi Arabia is in talks with the White House, not Israel, over when and at what price,” he said.
After President Trump came to power in 2017, King Salman sent him a message saying that he believed in the right of Israel to exist as well as the right of the Palestinians to have their own state.
King Salman reiterated his desire to resolve the Palestinian issue over the phone with President Trump in September. However, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shown an unusual interest in Israel in terms of security and trade since he took the office of the Saudi government in 2016.
Saudi officials say Prince has personally pressured Palestinian leaders to adopt Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East. Palestinian leaders, however, objected.
The Crown Prince announced plans to build a large technology research city, Neom, in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, adjacent to Israel in October 2017. He is hopeful that Israel will “invest heavily”. At a meeting on September 1, Prince Salman said the King would never agree to a compromise between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
However, many analysts believe that Saudi Arabia will be the last Arab country to reach a formal agreement with Israel. Prince Mohammad bin Salman will play a role in this matter.
Two of Prince’s close advisers said he wanted to reach an agreement with Israel. But the Prince also knows that as long as the King is alive, his dreams will remain elusive as “it is almost impossible”.