Saudi Ambassador Calls On Palestinians

Saudi Ambassador Calls on Palestinians to Use Gandhian Tactics
Saudi Elected Parliament within the Decade?

I heard the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, give this speech Tuesday evening at the US-Arab Economic Forum, and am excerpting a few key passages. He also made remarks in the afternoon. At one point he said that he expected that within the next decade, Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council or legislature would be popularly elected. I.e., it would become a democratic parliament. He said that the provincial legislatures would also be elected by then. I, at least, had not before heard such a direct and specific timetable laid out for this development. Of course, he is an ambassador and not the Saudi executive, but his remarks were unequivocal.

On Tuesday evening, he openly called on the Palestinians to give up all violence to and wage their struggle for self-determination using Gandhian principles of nonviolent peaceful resistance.

I have in the past been critical of Reagan-Fahd policies in the 1980s, both in Central America and in Afghanistan, and the willingness to fund irregulars (who in the next generation became the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan) to fight the Soviets. But from what I heard this eveing, Prince Turki, who as Saudi minister of intelligence circa 1980-2001 must have been a key part of those 1980s events, has had a significant change of heart. If so, he has learned more from the earlier mistakes than has e.g. Donald Rumsfeld (imagine Rumsfeld or any old Reaganaut invoking Gandhian ahimsa!) I have to say, I was startled. As for the question of sincerity, well, Reagan used to quote what he said was a Russian saying, “Trust, and verify.” This could be an important development, and we should keep our eyes on the new Saudi Ambassador in Washington.

“A Force for Peace & Stability”

Speech by Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal

at the U.S. Arab Economic Forum Gala Dinner

Houston, Texas on June 27, 2006

. . . Political reforms are also being implemented to increase citizen participation, such as last year’s elections for municipal councils. More elections are planned for the future in order to give our people a more direct say in the decisions that affect them.

Saudi Arabia’s goal is also to promote peace and stability in our region. The Roman poet Horace once wrote: “It is your concern when your neighbor’s wall is on fire.” Right now, our neighbors’ walls are ablaze. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine all require immediate attention. In addition, the situation with Iran calls for international engagement and diplomacy. In each of these circumstances, the Kingdom is doing what it can to bring parties together, open up dialogues, and offer solutions for peace and progress.

Many of the world’s problems also require humanitarian assistance, such as for natural disasters, disease and poverty. In those areas Saudi Arabia is a leader. Many people don’t know that the Kingdom contributes more per capita in foreign aid than any other country in the world. We have also provided hundreds of millions of dollars to victims of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the earthquakes in Pakistan and, most recently, in Indonesia. . .

. . . So tonight, I lay down the following challenges for all of us.

First, to Saudi Arabia, I challenge ourselves to meet the needs of our youth and ensure that they have the education, the tools and the means to help change the world, and become a force for good and tolerance.

I challenge the Palestinian people to give up the armed struggle and follow the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King by engaging in civil disobedience instead of violence, even in the face of Israeli guns. Violence is the weapon of the weak; non-violence is the weapon of the strong.

I challenge the Israeli people to give up their illegal, immoral and colonial occupation of Palestine.

I challenge the United States to use the power and abilities with which God has blessed this great nation to bring about an end to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through the implementation of the President’s Roadmap.

And I challenge the Arab-Americans in this audience tonight to take a more active part in resolving the conflicts that exist in the world today. We must compel the governments of the world to take the required actions to end the injustices that fuel tensions, distrust, hatred and violence. And so as you leave this conference, I implore each of you to continue in your own right-as ambassadors from the Arab world. Whether you are from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, or any other part of the Arab world, you should be proud of your Arab heritage and legacy-which truly does extend here to the United States. You should be proud of the contributions Arabs have made to the advancement of humanity over the centuries, and to the greatness of American culture and life. And you should be proud of yourselves, for you are the only ones who can bridge the gap between the two great societies. It is not always easy, but it will always be rewarding. And it can’t be done without you. . .”

This material is distributed by DNX Partners, LLC on behalf of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

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