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memri
February 14, 2014 No.
5648

Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal Defends His Participation In International Forums Alongside Israelis: It Does Not Contravene Islamic Shari'a, Is Aimed At Pressuring Israelis To Accept Arab Peace Initiative

Lately, several historic and unusual meetings have taken place between Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington and London, and Israeli officials.[1] In response to criticism evoked by these meetings, which were seen as a kind of normalization with Israel, Al-Faisal published an article in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh in which he sought to explain why he is willing to meet with Israelis.

In the article, Al-Faisal makes two main arguments: First, that his participation in international forums alongside Israelis is intended to promote the Arab Peace Initiative, and to expose the Israeli's rejection of peace and thus cause them to face great international pressure. Second, he argued that the Islamic shari'a does not forbid talking with enemies and even signing agreements with them. As proof of this, he noted the dialogue and negotiations held by Moses and Aaron with Pharaoh, and the temporary Treaty of Hudaybiyya signed by the Prophet Muhammad with the Quraysh tribe.

The following are excerpts from his article:[2]

"Several media outlets have reported about my participation in international forums and conferences, including the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland, and the security conference held every year in Munich, Germany, after the Davos forum. Since these are international conferences open to everyone, I sometimes talk with the Israelis present, whether they are government officials or others, or answer their questions. My participation in these forums has evoked questions as to whether it is beneficial and correct to attend them. In this article I wish to clarify my position regarding this. If it is right, then it is from Allah, and if it is mistaken, then it is from myself and from the Devil.

"Everyone is aware of the suffering and oppression faced by our brothers the Palestinians: the unjust wars, the oppressive occupation, the deportations and the illegal settlements. The Arab [Saudi] kingdom has invested vast efforts in supporting the Palestinian cause from the time of King 'Abd Al-'Aziz until [today], the era of the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, King 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz. This, as part of a clear, just and comprehensive outlook that guarantees the Palestinians' legitimate rights, such as the right to self-determination, the refugees' return,[3] an end to the settlements and the occupation, and the recognition of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. This is what prompted the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, King 'Abdallah, to suggest his initiative in 2002, when he was still crown prince, [an initiative] that has been endorsed by all the Arab states and has come to be known as the "Arab Peace Initiative"...

"I believe that the Arab Initiative is the only way to end the Palestinian tragedy. It ensures the Palestinians' basic rights, [such as] the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees. At the same time, it offers comprehensive peace and normalization with Israel...

"Since the Initiative is the only feasible and comprehensive solution, it has been a great source of embarrassment for the Israelis. They cannot declare their opposition to it, so instead they continue to ignore it, since talking about it would compel them to accept it. Hence, my participation in international forums has always been with the purpose of calling to realize this initiative and exposing [the fact that] the Israelis are avoiding this and are not serious about finding a solution to the Palestinian problem. This is what causes the Israelis embarrassment and places them under great international pressure...

"All [my] debates and conversations with Israeli figures whom I met incidentally at international forums took place in public. I always refuse any meeting or conversation behind closed doors... This, since we are people of truth and peace, and our strength stems from our faith in Allah and in the just nature of our cause.

"Dialogue and debate in the framework of the Arab Initiative do not contravene the shari'a or national principles, [just like] the dialogue held by our prophets Moussa and Haroun [the Biblical Moses and Ahron] with their enemy, Pharaoh, and the negotiation they held with him in order to lift the suffering from their people. Allah's prophets and messengers provide the best example of how to talk with enemies and those hostile towards us...

"The Prophet's biography provides the best example of dialogue and negotiation with other groups aimed at removing oppression and attaining justice, as far as possible -- [for the Prophet] was always inclined to the principle of peace, out of adherence to the words of Allah the Exalted: 'And if they incline to peace, then incline to it also [Koran 8:61].'

"When the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis in attempt to achieve peace were at their height in the hijri year 1414 [1993], some [clerics] issued fatwas banning participation in these negotiations. The late [Saudi mufti] Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Ibn Baz responded to them by [issuing] some fatwas [of his own] in which he advised all the Palestinian factions to agree to the negotiations in order to attain reconciliation. He said: "We advise all the Palestinians to agree on reconciliation and cooperate [with one another] based on honesty and piety, in order to stop the bloodshed and agree on the truth despite the enemies' calls for division and discord.' Ibn Baz also answered those who said it was forbidden to hold negotiations or dialogue with an enemy who steals money and land. He said: 'The Quraysh tribe stole the money and land of the Muhajiroun [the Prophet's Companions who immigrated with him from Mecca to Medina]... Despite this, the Prophet reconciled with the Quraysh tribe the day [he made the Treaty] of Hudaybiyya in the hijri year 6.[4] The stealing of the settlements and money of the Muhajiroun by the Quraysh tribe did not prevent this reconciliation, because [the Prophet acted] out of consideration for the public interest, as he saw it.'

"When I present the initiative of my lord, the Custodian of the Two Holy Places [King 'Abdallah], to the Israelis at international conferences, I do so in order to expose their rejection of peace and [in order to clarify] that there will be no normalization with them until they accept the initiative and restore the rights they have stolen from the Palestinian people and from Lebanon and Syria.

"Let me conclude with the advice of Imam Ibn Baz, as he phrased it in his fatwa. He called upon everyone to examine the issue in light of jurisprudential evidence, rather than emotions and [subjective] preferences."


Endnotes:

[1] For example, it was reported that Al-Faisal spoke with Israeli Justice Minister Tsipi Livni on the margins of a January 31, 2014 panel on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the Munich Security Conference. It was also reported that spoke with former Israeli ambassador to Washington Itamar Rabinovich and Knesset Member Meir Sheetrit on February 15, 2014.

[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), February 13, 2014.

[3] It should be noted that while the Arab Peace Initiative speaks of "a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem based on General Assembly Resolution 194," Al-Faisal speaks of the refugees' return.

[4] The Treaty of Hudaybiyya is a 10-year truce agreement that was signed by the Prophet Muhammad and his Meccan enemies in 628 CE but was violated two years later upon Muhammad's conquest of Mecca. This set the precedent in Islamic tradition for making temporary peace agreements when the Muslims' interests dictate this.