Ron Cantor — October 8, 2020
Former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan called Palestinian leaders “failures” and accused them of aligning with Iran and Turkey instead of their financial backers such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. “The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures. The Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates are successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years,” bin Sultan said. “There is also something that successive Palestinian leadership historically share in common; they always bet on the losing side, and that comes at a price.”
While I wouldn’t agree at all that Israel’s case is unjust—God gave this land to the Jewish people and we have given the Palestinians every opportunity for self-governance—it is the first time that Arab nations are highlighting the failed leadership of the Palestinian people, both from Hamas and the PLO.
Bin Sultan’s interview in Arabic aired on al-Arabiya TV on Monday. He discussed the history of Saudi-Palestinian relations and criticized Palestinians for missing several opportunities to make peace with Israel. Bin Sultan said the images of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat hugging Saddam Hussein after the Iraqi leader occupied Kuwait and of Palestinian youth rejoicing when a scud landed in Riyadh cannot be forgotten. “Even Israel did not launch missiles at the Kingdom,” he noted. The Palestinians always seem to aligned with the most ruthless leaders and it back fires.
“I believe that we in Saudi Arabia, acting on our goodwill, have always been there for them,” he said referring to the Palestinians. “Whenever they asked for advice and help, we would provide them with both without expecting anything in return, but they would take the help and ignore the advice. Then they would fail and turn back to us again, and we would support them again, regardless of their mistakes.” “We even went further as a state and justified to the whole world the actions of the Palestinians, while we knew that they, indeed, were not justified, but we did not wish to stand with anyone against them,” bin Sultan said.
Saudi Arabia has covert ties with Israel, but publicly supports the Palestinians. After its allies United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed normalization deals with Israel on Sept. 15, Saudi Arabia — speculated as close to its own agreement — instead simply commented that any future deal must include provisions for a Palestinian state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the deal “a stab in the back” and Palestinians burned photos of Emirati Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, calling him a traitor.
“What I heard from Palestinian leadership in recent days was truly painful to hear,” bin Sultan said. “This low level of discourse is not what we expect from officials who seek to gain global support for their cause. Their transgression against the Gulf states’ leadership with this reprehensible discourse is entirely unacceptable.” “However, if we want to look at it from a different perspective, it is not surprising to see how quick these leaders are to use terms like ‘treason,’ ‘betrayal’ and ‘back stabbing,’ because these are their ways in dealing with each other.” Bin Sultan referred to the rival Palestinian parties, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, saying that shortly after he helped broker an agreement between them, “We received news they had already gone back on their word and started conspiring and plotting against each other once again.”
Bin Sultan also said it seems Palestinians are taking support from the Arab world for granted. This is one of the most scathing rebukes from an Arab leader against Palestinian leadership ever voiced in public and symbolizes the changing attitudes toward Israel. “I think [our support] created a sense of indifference on their side, and they have become convinced that there is no price to pay for any mistakes they commit toward the Saudi leadership or the Saudi state, or the Gulf leaderships and states,” bin Sultan said.
“Who are the allies of the Palestinians now? Is it Iran, which is using the Palestinian cause as a pretext at the expense of the Palestinian people?… Or is it Turkey, which Hamas leaders have thanked for its stance in support of Hamas and the Palestinian cause?” bin Sultan asked rhetorically.