Is Saudi Crown Prince’s ‘Recognition’ of Israel anything New or Positive?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Former Israeli prison guard at the notorious Ktzi’ot Prison camp for Palestinians and now editor-in-chief of the Atlantic, Cpl. Jeffrey Goldberg, breathlessly reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told him that both the Jews and the Palestinians have a right to their own state.

Goldberg parsed the phrase “have a right” with regard to Jews as unprecedented in an “Arab” leader. He completely ignored the Palestinian right.

Goldberg sniffed that Arab leaders have “tired” of the Palestinians and so don’t give a fig about Israel shooting down unarmed protesters at the Gaza border. This is blaming the victims on a Himalayan scale. Israeli intransigence, land-grabbing and vindictiveness have made everyone tired of the Palestinian plight, which is the intended effect— just as Nazi tratment of the Jews in the 1930s was intended to turn Jews into inconvenient flotsam that no one would care about, so that in the end a ‘solution’ could be implemented (the comparison is only to this tactic of making people stateless and unwanted).

But although Bin Salman may be stating it more baldly than usual, there is nothing unprecedented about what he said except in Goldberg’s feverish Jewish-nationalist imagination. The Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel accord Israel a right to exist (you can’t have a long-term treaty with a non-entity), and the same implication is there in the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The PLO recognized Israel in the 1990s.

In 2002, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia put forward a plan adopted by the Arab League that would recognize Israel inside pre-1967 borders in return for an Israeli recognition of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza. Then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, an expansionist who tried to grab Sinai and had his eye on Jordan’s Ghor Valley, pissed all over the proposal. His successors have put little Gaza under permanent blockade and have grabbed up more and more of the Palestinian West Bank, flooding 800,000 Israeli squatters onto it in direct violation of the international law of military Occupation. The Arab League plan has been reaffirmed twice, most recently in 2017.

The Israeli myth of Arab intransigence is a smokescreen for determined Israeli expansionism. Goldberg and his ilk still hate Lebanon’s Hizbullah because it forced an Israeli withdrawal from its 18-year occupation of South Lebanon and could not be crushed by a 2006 massive Israeli aerial bombardment of Lebanon, which wiped out all of the country’s economic progress since 1989.

The difference between Bin Salman and his late uncle King Abdullah is that the uncle was a cannier negotiator. He wanted something for admitting Israel’s right to exist, to wit, a decent life for the stateless, occupied Palestinians in their Apartheid limbo.

Bin Salman shows no such spine and is worldly enough to know that the Israelis are not going to let the Palestinians have a state and are going to keep them in a stateless condition of near chattel for as long as the world will put up with it (apparently for a very long time). Goldberg says he is for a 2-state solution, but people who glibly take that position are just holding a fig leaf before the nakedness of their cynicism. There is no longer a possibility of a two state solution.

So what is really being reported is that Bin Salman is happy enough to work with the Likud government in Israel and to ignore its slow ongoing crushing of the Palestinians, as long as Saudi Arabia gets Israeli and international Jewish cooperation on its finances, diplomacy toward the US, and attempts to isolate Iran and its allies.

This self-serving position is just harsh Realism and is light years away from King Abdullah’s peace plan, which genuinely had a shot of resulting in peace. What MbS is promising is more war, more belligerence. He is planning to do to the rest of the Middle East what he has done to Yemen, and is inviting the Israelis to join with him in the carnage. Goldberg, who was positively gleeful about the destruction of Iraq, is watering in the mouth.


Bonus Video

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10 Responses

  1. “the uncle was a cannier negotiator. He wanted something for admitting Israel’s right to exist”

    Maybe Bin Salman is getting something: an alliance of the two dominant Mideast tribes against modern pluralist secular tendencies.

  2. Some time ago, MBS had boasted that he had Kushner in his pocket. According to the following long article, it might be the other way round, and MBS may be in Kushner’s pocket. Having been alarmed by Iran’s alleged expansion into Iraq, Syria and Libya, Kushner seems to have decided to strengthen the Persian Gulf states and mobilize them against Iran. According to Steve Bannon who said that he saw eye-to-eye with Kushner on the Middle East, he told MBS and MBZ (the UAE crown prince) that America would support them, but expected something in return: “We said to them—Trump said to them, ‘We’ll support you, but we want action, action,’ ” Bannon said. No one seemed more eager to hear that message than the deputy crown prince. “The judgment was that we needed to find a change agent,” the former defense official told me. “That’s where M.B.S. came in. We were going to embrace him as the change agent.” It seems that the Palestinians have been the sacrificial lamb in this grand bargain between Kushner and MBS and MBZ.
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  3. All of the mideast despots -from Saudi-Arabia to Egypt to the Gulf States to Israel – are opportunists with no real moral compass. They don’t even have the best interests of their own people in mind. It is always a matter of preservation of the leader and his perks. (Although I do not believe that this was so in the early days of Israel, certainly sometime before 1967). We have consistently chosen the wrong side in the middle east and turned a blind eye to the illegal and immoral conduct of our “allies”. The whole situation would probably be vastly improved if the US simply stopped supporting, financing, protecting, and arming the despots.

  4. It is not new and its not positive. Saudi Arabia is not a nice country. They are chief amongst the human rights violators on this earth. One could say perhaps they’d like to be better friends with Israel because they may have the same enemies and they both have the U.S.A. as a friend. They all make money off of the arms deals they have going. In the mean time poor Jordan has to take in more and more people.

    Iran may not have a great record on human rights either, but in some areas they are miles ahead of S.A.

    Israel is starting to look more and more like a theocracy, much like the U.S.A. and S. A., just all slightly different versions, but they seem to have a dislike for women’s rights and people who are “different”.

  5. I may be in error but in the Diary column of monthly issue of the LRB, the author pegged this Jeffery Goldberg as author who began the fraud that led to Iraq invasion. He’d interviewed a smuggler, over land supplier, with trucking a refrigerator full of WMD to Kandahar. Message: a Saddam man connecting Baathist to al-Qaida. Diary author interviewed the smuggler in Kurdish jail. Being familiar with Kandahar, the author knew the Iraq had never been there. Does anyone remember this? Got to read outside the US. Thanks to Juan Cole and the Internet in our land of Pravda

  6. It would be a miracle if Pakistan somehow doesn’t get dragged into Saudi Arabia’s sectarian proxy war…unfortunately I feel it will…and this is on top of the recent Vox piece about nuclear subs arm race making things even more dangerous in the sub-continent. Lovely.

      • I guess I look at it as a glass half empty, while you look at it as a glass half full, Professor. That parliament vote was huge and symbolic and kinda gauged where the people’s representatives were at, very true. But real policy still rests with the Pak military, active or retired. To their credit though, the Pak military have come to pragmatically realize Iran borders them and is a neighbour and probably would be helpful on Kashmir and the Afghan Taliban. Still, there will be no abandoning the Saudi kingdom and if push comes to shove in this escalating regional sectarian clash that the Saudis want to instigate…we’ll see.

        And the Shia minority are sizeable, not powerful. I think it’s an overstatement that’s best to avoid giving prejudiced anti-Shia Sunni majority Pakistanis their talking points, not unlike the anti-semitic trope ‘Jews control everything’ in the West. I’m sure some right-wing Shia Pakistanis probably do play it up though to project power to threaten the state, though know very well they’ll be crushed. I don’t base it on that though. There wouldn’t have been so many unchecked attacks against the community in different regions of the country in the past years, if it indeed was that powerful. This includes the Pak security establishment initially viewing the Hazaras as a fifth column for Iran caught in sectarian attacks rather than victims of an ethnic cleansing or genocide by Sunni Islamist extremists. Also includes the Pak military sabotaging the besieged Shia Turi tribe in Parachinar when they were under attack by Haqqani led Afghan Sunni militants. Asif Zardari, who was Prime Minister then, a known Shia, was helpless. Only time I’ve seen the military chief respond immediately to an attack on a Shia community, were the poor Ismaili workers that were targeted in a bus by one of the many Sunni extremist groups. Certainly helps to have the Aga Khan as your patron.

        • Pakistani high politics is a game of the elite, roughly the top 5%. Within that elite Shia are disproportionately powerful. You can’t avoid social science conclusions just because people are bigots. That ordinary Shiites in Karachi are slaughtered with impunity is actually not incompatible with the first statement. It is the rural landowning Punjabi Shia such as the pir of Jhang family that are politically powerful, not the Urdu-speaking workers and shopkeepers down south.

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