*Notwithstanding Saudi philo-Palestinian talk, Riyadh considers the Palestinian issue a low priority. It ranks significantly lower than the clear and present lethal threat posed by Iran’s Ayatollahs; the potential tectonic eruption in Iraq; the lethal threat from volcanic Yemen; and the domestic powder keg in the oil-rich and Shia-dominated Qatif and al-Hasa areas. It is much lower than the imminent threats of ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood; the potential threat of Turkey’s Erdogan; the regional implications of the domestic upheaval in Syria and Lebanon; the vulnerability of all pro-US Arab regimes (e.g., Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt), etc.
*The House of Saud does not forget, nor forgive, the Palestinian track record of intra-Arab terrorism and treachery, most notably the 1990 Palestinian collaboration with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which was the most generous Arab host of Palestinians.
*Riyadh is convinced that the Palestinian track record would yield a Palestinian state, which would constitute another rogue anti-Saudi regime. They consider the Palestinians (the Palestinian Authority and Hamas) a role model of subversion and treachery, and active and potential allies of Turkey’s Erdogan, Iran’s Ayatollahs, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as rogue elements in Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Libya and Yemen, which aim to topple the House of Saud.
*At the same time, Saudi ties with Israel (as has been the case with all pro-US Arab countries) have expanded substantially – militarily, commercially, technologically, medically and agriculturally – despite the lack of progress on the Palestinian issue, and in the face of mutual threats and challenges.
*Irrespective of the warm pro-Palestinian Saudi talk, which welcomes every Western dignitary to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi walk has always been cold.
*Saudi Arabia has never flexed its military muscle on behalf of the Palestinians (nor has any other Arab country), while flexing very limited diplomatic muscle.
*In contrast to showering Palestinians with generous Saudi talk, the Saudi financial walk has been meager and largely unfulfilled. While appropriating Egypt ($15BN), Jordan ($3BN with Kuwait and the UAE) and Yemen ($8BN) mega-billion of dollars in foreign aid, the peak of Saudi foreign aid to the PLO and Palestinian Authority was $100MN-$150MN. To put it in perspective, the leading Saudi princes acquired a Da Vinci painting for $450MN, a flashy French palace for $300MN and a royal yacht for $500MN.
*Recently, Saudi Arabia changed its talk on the Palestinian issue:
On May 10, 2020, Saudi writer Abdulhamed al—Ghobain, a political activist who shares the state of mind of Crown Prince Muhammed bin-Salman, told the pro-Palestinian London-based BBC Arabic radio: “There is a deluge of opinions against the Palestinian cause. Our public has turned against the Palestinians, in general… If you came to Saudi Arabia and conducted a survey – even among middle and high school students – they will tell you that they are indifferent to the Palestinian cause… These opinions have been voiced very loudly in Saudi Arabia for the past two years. At first it was said quietly, but now this voice is very loud. People say out in the open that they do not care about the Palestinian cause… and that we must steer our relations in keeping with our interests. It is in our strategic interest, and in keeping with our future economic interests, to maintain real relations with Israel. Israel is an advanced country and we can benefit from it. Turkey established relations with Israel and experienced great progress… We should deal with reality. The relations with Israel have become warm. It is no longer just about normalization.”
In addition, two Saudi TV drama series on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan – Umm Haroun and Exit 7 broadcast by the Dubai-based Saudi MBC – promote normalization with the Jewish people and Israel, while criticizing the Palestinians. According to Morocco World News, the Saudi TV series cozy up to Israel, and are considered by Palestinians to be a blow to the support of the Palestinian cause. The NY-based Moroccan eNewspaper claims that the TV series reflect the policy of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to Exit 7, the Palestinians are the enemy of Saudi Arabia.
*The Saudis are not philo-Israel; they are philo-Saudi Arabia, acting in the best interests of their country, notwithstanding their adherence to the fundamentals of Islam.
While the House of Saud associates Palestinians with regional threats, it considers Israel’s posture of deterrence as an essential, reliable and effective ally in the face of these threats. While the US is, by far, a more significant ally of Saudi Arabia, its reliability was deeply eroded in Riyadh during the 2009-2016 US-Iran honeymoon.
Israel’s posture of deterrence is based – to a large extent – on topographic high grounds (the Golan Heights and the Judea and Samaria mountain ridges), which have transformed Israel into a key regional force-multiplier, bolstering the national security of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab regimes. A retreat from these high grounds would demolish Israel’s posture of deterrence, denying Saudi Arabia and all other pro-US Arab regimes a critical line of defense.
This column was originally published at The Ettinger Report.
The views expressed in guest columns are not necessarily the views or positions of the CCNS or its members.