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April 23, 2018 No.
7440

Saudi Journalist: 'Deal Of The Century' May Be Yet Another Opportunity Missed By The Palestinians; An Unjust Peace Agreement Is Better Than Nothing

Saudi-Palestinian relations have been extremely strained recently, due, inter alia, to reports of active Saudi involvement in formulating and promoting U.S. President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century," and apparently also due to increasing media reports that Saudi-Israeli relations are headed towards normalization. In addition, Saudi Arabia is furious at Hamas's close relations with its bitter rivals, Iran, Hizbullah, and Qatar, as expressed in articles recently published in the Saudi media which castigated Hamas. [1]

Against this backdrop, Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh, a columnist for the Saudi Al-Jazirah daily, penned two articles harshly criticizing the Palestinians. In the first he came out against the position of Palestinians and their supporters, i.e. that the Palestinian cause must be given top priority; he argued that the security of Saudi Arabia, which is fighting an existential war against Iran's allies, the Houthis, is more important to Saudis than the Palestinian cause. In the second article, he criticized the Palestinians for rejecting Trump's "Deal of the Century" without even examining it seriously and objectively. He stated that under the current circumstances, the Palestinians should be realistic and accept a peace agreement, even one that deprives them of some of their rights, for it is better than nothing, and warned that that if they succumb to impulsiveness and emotionality they might miss yet another opportunity to resolve their problem.  


Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh (image: ajel.sa)

It should be mentioned that an April 5 article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan addressing the Saudi position on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stated, in a similar vein, that "a 'reasonable solution,' rather than a 'just solution,' is the language used today."[2] A similar view was expressed by Gamal 'Abd Al-Gawwad, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo and a political science lecturer in Cairo University, in an article in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram. He called on the Palestinians to recognize the existing balance of power with Israel and sign the best agreement they can obtain, even if it is unjust.[3]

The following are translated excerpts from the two articles by Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh.[4]

Saudi Arabia's Security Takes Precedence Over Palestinian Cause

In his January 28, 2018 article, Aal Al-Sheikh wrote: "I don't believe there is a single patriotic Saudi who does not support the government in our war against the revolutionaries in Yemen [i.e. the Houthis]. This war has been imposed on us, for it is an existential war; it doesn't matter if it continues until its goals are achieved, no matter how many years it takes and what the cost. We are facing [the threat of] the Persian monster's expansion. Underestimating [the importance] of this struggle would constitute flagrant neglect of our national security.

"The Palestinians and some northern Arabs[5] say: 'Why do you [Saudis] place your hostility towards the Persian enemy before [your hostility] to the Zionist enemy? After all, the Palestinian cause is the foremost Arab cause.' I say [to them] directly: If liberating Palestine means neglecting our national security, even a little, we must not give it precedence at the expense of our national security. That is a fact, and we shall not deviate from it, whether or not it angers the Palestinians and some northern Arabs...

"The culture of tyranny espoused by the Palestinians, and by the few remaining Arabs who still [advocate] pan-Arabism, regards the Palestinian cause as the foremost Arab cause, disregarding the clash of interests between us and them. I cannot accept this reasoning, because it is non-objective and illogical... Yes, the Palestinian cause comes first, as long as this cause, down to its smallest details, does not come at the expense of our security and our interests. If it does, then the interest of my country must come first.

"Anyone who reads the history of the conflict with Israel will find clear [evidence] that many tried to justify their political plans by claiming that they will shorten the road to the liberation of Palestine, even when [these plans] had nothing to do with Palestine. 'Abd Al-Nasser claimed this when, eying our countries, he invaded Yemen, [and] Saddam Hussein claimed this when he invaded and occupied Kuwait. And now the Persian Ayatollahs claim this, while not daring to fire a single bullet in Israel's direction. I don't believe that the Palestinian politicians, even those who purport to be devout Muslims [i.e., Hamas], have reached such levels of stupidity and obliviousness that they fail to realize that their just cause has become nothing but an excuse for [starting] wars and promoting other agendas.

"We Saudis regard our own cause, for which we are fighting in Yemen, as a just one, [and believe] that the Houthis and their allies inside and outside [Yemen] are tools used by Iran... in its strategic expansionist enterprise. Sure, some of the Yemenis who have died in this war have nothing to do with Iran, but war is always dirty and takes the lives of victims that have nothing to do with it... Any neglect on our part, no matter what the justification, will be a victory for the vile Persian enemy that does not hesitate to use every means to achieve his expansionist ambitions... Hence, it behooves us, the [Saudi] people and government, to oppose [this enemy] with every [means] we possess.

"The light at the end of the tunnel of this war is that the [Iranian] monster cannot [much longer] remain actively involved in the regional conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Even if it has achieved a few victories here and there, there is a seething uprising within [its borders], whose embers are still burning beneath the ashes. The Ayatollahs will not be able to quell [this uprising] without giving up their impetuous adventures in the region..."[6]

The Palestinians' Rejection Of The "Deal Of The Century" Will Be Another Missed Opportunity

In his February 2, 2018 article, Aal Al-Sheikh wrote: "It seems that the Palestinians, especially those who purport to be devout Muslims [i.e. Hamas], have become addicted to protests, demonstrations, bluster and burning American flags and portraits of American presidents.[7] [But] as usual, all this noise and shouting gained them nothing except for another failure [to find] a solution to their problem.

"U.S. President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital enraged the Palestinians, sparking demonstrations and protests throughout the Palestinian territories, as well as in most Arab countries. Like previous [demonstrations], these too ended without [bringing about] any change in the American position. In fact, they [only] caused the U.S. president to cut aid to UNRWA... In other words, the ones who paid the price for these turbulent and impulsive emotions were the Palestinian refugees, and nobody else.

"Nobody disputes the fact that the Palestinian cause is just, by any standard. The fact that it remains unresolved is clear proof of the unjustness, oppression and inhuman actions that accompany the positions of the West, and especially those of America. But the truth, which cannot be ignored, is... that most of the cards for finding a solution are in the hands of the U.S., whether we like it or not.[8] Israel will never heed the Palestinians or their protests as long as the U.S. supports it. The Arab world, and perhaps also the non-Arab world, may support the Palestinians on the public media level. But it would be foolish of the Palestinians, and of their Arab and pan-Arab friends who purport to be devout Muslims,  to suppose that those who support them on the media would be willing to sacrifice their interests with the U.S. by supporting the Palestinian cause in practice. [Finding] a solution to the Palestinian problem will begin and end in the corridors of the White House, and nowhere else. So all the Palestinians'  shouting and howling in the wake of Trump's famous declaration [recognizing] Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist entity will not change reality on the ground one whit...

"Policy must ultimately be based on realism, on anticipation of the future, and on awareness of the means of pressure that you possess and that your rival possesses. A wise and prudent politician bases his positions on these objective considerations, not on turbulent emotions. If we agree on this principle, we will discover that the means of pressure available to Israel, which cause the U.S. to support it and back it, are far more numerous than those available to the Palestinians. That is why Israel is unwilling to make peace with the Palestinians as long as this does not suit its interests. But any peace – even one that deprives the Palestinians [of some of their rights] – is better than nothing.

"As for the blustery rhetoric of those who bear the banner of the resistance [i.e. Hamas], and carry out resistance] in the form of provocations and armed struggle – the Palestinians have been trying [those tactics] since 1948 and have gained nothing, while the Israelis gained many advantages, some of which they did not even anticipate, perhaps.

"President Trump touted his 'Deal of the Century' for resolving the Palestinian problem, but all the Palestinian factions, without exception, rejected it without even reading it properly, [namely] in a realistic and objective manner. [They did not consider] what [cards] they and the Israelis possess. The question of East Jerusalem did not even figure in the U.S. recognition [of Jerusalem as Israel's capital]. The building of the U.S. Embassy will be in West Jerusalem, and the entire world recognizes that East Jerusalem will be the capital of the promised Palestinian state. So there is leeway, albeit limited, for reaching understandings with the Americans, instead of the boycott that the Palestinians declared... I have no doubt that Trump's deal will join the list of opportunities that the Palestinian have missed, as is their custom."[9]

 

[2] The article was published in the wake of an interview given by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to the American magazine The Atlantic, in which he said: "I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations" (theatlantic.com, April 2, 2018).

[4] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), January 28, 2018.

[5] In the parlance of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, this refers to the area of Greater Syria. In the context of this article, it presumably refers to Syrians and Lebanese, and in particular Hizbullah.

[6] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), January 28, 2018.

[8] "Like it or not" here mocks this phrase's frequent use by Yasser Arafat.

[9] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), February 2, 2018.