Saudi position on Trump’s Deal: Dead on arrival?

February 11, 2020
Saudi position on Trump’s Deal: Dead on arrival?
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

No matter how much you say or do to clarify your position on contested issues, some would find a way to question it. That seems to be the case with Saudi stand on the Palestinian issue and the Trump Deal.

We did make clear that while we appreciate US efforts to revive the search for solution and to reactivate the peace process, we would always accept what the Palestinians choose, since it is their land, problem and future. Following are the main questions floating around media circles and my take on them.

What is the truth of the Saudi position on the so-called the “Deal of the Century”?

The Saudi position on the whole issue is summarized in King Salman’s call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hours after the announcement of the deal: “Since the era of King Abdulaziz, our stand is that Saudi Arabia would only accept what the Palestinians do.”

This is because the concerned party is the landlord. Therefore, the Kingdom will support what they agree on.

Do you think that the Arab-Israeli conflict ended and how?

The Arab-Israeli conflict did not and will not end as long as there were merchants of war, international and local. Israel is betting on the clear and present threat to its existence to obtain external support and maintain internal unity. Many Palestinian and Arab leaders legitimized their dictatorial authority, and justified their oppressive regimes on the war with Israel. Among major powers, there are those who bet on the continuity of conflict to establish influence, sell weapons and justify presence.

The Arabs are divided, today, between those who disagree with the deal and those who support it, and see it as an opportunity. What do you think?

We have to differentiate between the positions of governments and those of peoples. The Arabs as a nation agree to reject the existence of the Zionist entity altogether. As for governments, they have their own interests and political and economic calculations that force them to take positions that may appear contradictory between rejection and acceptance, boycott and normalization, secret and public.

This is also the case for the Palestinians, which contributed to the weak and uneven official Arab positions. Some people point to the recognition of Israel by the Palestinian Authority and the normalization of relations, including security, as a justification for any similar Arab-Israeli cooperation. Sudan, for example, found that the road to the heart of Washington translated in removal from the list of terror supporting nations and normalization of relations and access to US support, passes through Tel Aviv.

Israel allowed Israelis to visit Saudi Arabia, does this matter have a positive effect on you? Is normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel is conceivable?

Normalization is not possible until peace is achieved and Arab rights are restored, according to the terms of the Saudi-Arab Peace Initiative, announced at the Beirut Summit, 2002, and based on UN resolutions. The Saudi government has responded to Israel allowance for its citizens to visit Saudi and made it clear that the situation remains firm and prevention of visits remains until peace and normalization are achieved.

What will prevent Iran from expanding further into Arab countries on the pretext that the Arab regime has abandoned the conflict, and that Tehran and its allies are the only ones able to protect Palestine?

Iran has stood militarily for years on the borders of Israel and has not fired a single bullet towards it. Rather, it directed its cannons toward Syrians' cities and people. So if it could protect the Palestinians, as it has been claiming for 40 years, and to erase the Zionist entity from the map with its ballistic missiles, why the wait? At least, it could respond to the hundreds of Israeli raids against its forces and allies in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Talk is cheap, action is not!

What is required now from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas?

They must agree first among themselves, then present a unified negotiating team with one message to the world. The Arab, Muslim and sympathizing countries would then support the stand in the United Nations, the Security Council, and concerned international courts.

It is rumored that the Saudi embassy will soon return to Damascus. How true is this?

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly made it clear that its condition for normalizing relations with the Syrian regime is the implementation of what was agreed upon at the Geneva Conference 1 for a peaceful, inclusive and democratic transition to new Syria. The ball is in the regime’s court.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi

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