Is the Saudi crown prince wavering on Israel?
MBS must know that no good, and much harm, would come from normalisation.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman dropped a bombshell when he announced during his recent interview with Fox News that his country is getting closer every day to normalisation with the Israeli occupation state, and that his discussions with the Biden administration about the subject are ongoing and making progress.
I do not know what prompted him to take this step at this particular time. Along with his major internal reforms and economic achievements, he had begun in recent years to move Saudi Arabia away from its historic subservience to the US and draw it closer to the ascendant Sino-Russian alliance. Earlier this year it joined the BRICS group that seeks to challenge and rival the Western-controlled bodies such as the IMF, G-7, and NATO that have dominated global affairs since the Second World War.
Bin-Salman gained a lot in popularity, both domestically and in the Arab and Islamic worlds, when he defied the US by partnering with Russia to achieve high oil revenues via the OPEC+ agreement, resisting heavy pressure to hike production to slash prices for the benefit of Western economies rather than the producers, most of them Third World countries. This bolstered his credentials among many young Saudis as a future leader charting a new course.
Saudi Arabia has been blessed with custodianship of the two holy sanctuaries and host to millions of pilgrims every year. It does not need normalisation with a brutal racist settler-state that occupies the third sanctuary and the whole of Palestine, subjugating its people and killing them with impunity. Such a move could adversely affect the kingdom’s security and stability as well as undermining its standing in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
The US’ trade-off for this normalisation is, reportedly, the signing of a joint defence pact and help in building a peaceful nuclear programme. But Saudi Arabia does not need a treaty with a declining power that has entangled its allies in an unwinnable war in Ukraine and could do the same later in Taiwan, threatening to trigger a nuclear holocaust. And it can easily obtain nuclear reactors from China, whose president it feted in its capital, or Russia or other suppliers.
Bin-Salman did affirm in the interview the importance of the Palestinian cause and the need to find a solution. But he confined that to improving the Palestinian people’s living conditions. He did not even mention the Saudi-authored Arab Peace Initiative which links normalisation to a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and upholding the right of refugees to return. This may have been an unintentional omission. Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin-Farhan did uphold the Initiative in his speech to the gathering of foreign ministers and representatives of 53 states and entities convened on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly.
The crown prince rightly boasted that his country now ranks as having the world’s 17 the strongest economy and the highest growth rate in the G-20 group. That is an impressive achievement. But all these accomplishments were realised without any normalisation with or help from Israel, or even its patron the US, either directly or indirectly. On the contrary, they followed the downgrading of relations with the latter.
The Palestinian people certainly aspire to better living conditions, but not under occupation, but in a fully liberated independent state supported by their fellow Arabs and Muslims.
Muhammad Bin-Salman stressed in the interview that regional stability is the key to economic development and prosperity. The kingdom took some important steps in this direction by de-escalating and freezing the conflict in Yemen and opening talks with the Sanaa government, and by thwarting US/Israeli schemes to trigger sectarian wars in the region via its historic agreement with Iran. But the greatest threat to security and stability and igniter of wars in the region for the past 75 years is Israel, a heavy burden the US now seeks to off-load onto Saudi Arabia through normalisation.
The US, which destroyed Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Yemen wants no good for the Arabs or Muslims. At Israel’s behest it uses normalisation, and the punitive starvation of those who oppose or resist it, as tools in this regard. The Saudi crown prince is doubtless aware of the dire condition of the states that fell into the normalisation trap, and the extent to which normalisation-related projects are geared to benefiting Israel rather than them.
He must also know that Israel’s arsenal of 200+ nuclear warheads is a far graver threat to us all than Iran’s non-existent or hypothetical bomb, which the US egged on by Israel is threatening to do anything to forestall.