The Washington Post featured former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, on its June 12 Op-Ed page. Al-Faisals column, headlined "Why Palestinians need the U.N." shows that Arabic must have a direct counterpart to chutzpah, the Yiddish word for unmitigated gall.
The princes commentary consists largely of threadbare anti-Israel charges and baseless Saudi self-promotion. Its anti-Washington threats lend interest but not honesty.
* Al-Faisal claims that Saudi Arabia, a repressive, intolerant Islamic monarchy, takes seriously President Obamas call that Arab governments "embrace democracy and provide freedom to their populations." Saudi Arabian women cant drive cars without written permission from male "protectors." The princes country does not tolerate worship by religious minorities. Free, representative elections are unknown in a land run by and named for a self-enriching royal clan.
Three months ago Saudi Arabias second-class Shiite Muslim citizens, estimated at 10 percent of the population, rallied in support of Bahrains Shiites next door. The latter were protesting suppression by their minority Sunni rulers. Al-Faisals family responded by banning demonstrations at home and sending troops to prop up the dynasty next door.
* Prince Turki blames the Jews and their supposed influence in Washington for the regional whirlwind he silently fears may shake Saudi Arabia. He charges that "any peace plans co-authored by the United States and Israel would be untenable and ... the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain intractable as long as U.S. policy is unduly beholden to Israel."
This "the Jews-control-Washington" mentality, or at least cynical belief he can deflect attention from Saudi shortcomings by blaming Israel and its American supporters, may help explain why al-Faisal lasted only from 2004 to 2006 as ambassador to Washington. The princes strawman allegations dont change reality: The conflict remains intractable because Palestinian leadership rejected Israeli-U.S. proposals for a "two-state solution" in 2000 and 2001 and an Israeli two-state offer in 2008. They did so the first two times with the terror war of the "al-Aqsa intifada." Anything rather than make peace with the Jewish state. For the past two years, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has avoided direct talks with Israel and the mutual compromises they would require; hence the U.N. "statehood" gambit al-Faisal supports.
* According to Turki al-Faisal, "U.S. domestic politics and Israeli intransigence" deny "Palestinians rights to a future with a decent quality of life and opportunities similar to those living in unoccupied countries." Who then occupies Saudi Arabia? Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank, governed in daily affairs by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, enjoy greater political freedom than Saudi citizens. Those in the Gaza Strip may grumble under increasingly strict rule by Hamas, but they freely elected their Islamic extremists, something Saudi citizens never did for the House of Saud, endorsed by the countrys puritanical Wahhabi school of Islam.
If Saudis enjoyed the rights Israeli Arabs do the same rights exercised by Israeli Jews, including access to independent courts, a free press, male and female equality, minority religious equality, representative elections and so on they would not be living under monarchical domination and Turki al-Faisal would be Mr., not prince.
* Al-Faisal refers to Israels "[West Bank] borders in existence before the 1967 Six-Day War." A man of his experience knows that what existed then was the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice line, not an internationally recognized border. He misleadingly conflates the armistice lines as a starting point for talks into their being the only possible end point, "with agreed [land] swaps."
He can do so because he falsely describes the 2002 Saudi plan demanding Israel vacate "all occupied lands, including East Jerusalem" as "based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 242" (adopted shortly after the 67 war). But 242, the basis of subsequent Arab-Israeli diplomacy, called for "secure and recognized boundaries," not a complete Israeli return to the pre-67 lines. Prince Turki tries to buttress his argument by citing Israeli compromise offers without acknowledging Palestinian rejection of them. He manipulatively implies that "land swaps" are an accepted part of a future settlement when theyve never been incorporated into previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and Palestinian leaders continue to reject them publicly.
* "[W]hy should Palestinians not be granted the same rights the United Nations accorded to the state of Israel at its creation in 1947?" the prince asks, chutzpah clearly on display. Perhaps because in 47 the Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, rejected the U.N. partition plan for two states, one Jewish, one Arab, in Mandatory Palestine west of the Jordan River, and because the Arab states and Palestinian Arabs attacked Israel in 1948, attempting to destroy it in violation of the U.N. decision?
* The prince insists that his countrys "wealth, steady growth and stability have made it the bulwark of the Middle East." In addition to policing Bahrain in apparent opposition to its citizens desires, this "bulwark" hosts ousted Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abidine ben Ali and wounded Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, target of months of mass protests, and refuses to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assads slaughter of anti-regime demonstrators.
Two days after The Post
gave al-Faisal his unearned platform, Germanys Spiegel
magazine posted online a detailed report on the wealthy, worried, internally conflicted kingdom. Headlined "Last Bastion: Saudi Arabias Silent Battle to Halt History," it provides context
for the princes angry, attempted blame-shifting. In context, the princes Post
Op-Ed reads not only hypocritically, but also evasively by reason of fright.Yet he threatens the United States that "there will be disastrous consequences for U.S.-Saudi relations if the United States vetoes U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state."
Never mind the consequences for the United Nations if the Palestinian leadership, with Saudi help, subvert U.N. Security Council requirements for statehood and international law based on Resolutions 242 and 338 governing Arab-Israeli negotiations. Consider the dire consequences for the House of Saud if the United States concludes should al-Faisals threats become Saudi policy that the kingdom cant be relied on in the struggle against Iran, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other "Muslim brothers" who could swallow a Saudi Arabia that turned its back on America.
Op-Ed by another Saudi, Nawaf Obaid (" The U.S.-Saudi split; For a stronger Middle East, Riyadh must go its own way," May 16) a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies, the same Riyadh outfit chaired by Prince Turki rehearsed al-Faisals piece. Obaid warned
that "Washington has shown itself in recent months to be an unwilling and unreliable partner against this [Iranian] threat." As a result, "The emerging political reality is a Saudi-led Arab world facing off against the aggression of Iran and its non-state proxies .... Saudi Arabia will not allow the political unrest in the region to destabilize the Arab monarchies the Gulf states, Jordan, Morocco."
Prince Turki, like his royal relatives, is threatened primarily by Iran, appears to have doubts about the Obama administration, and fears potential unrest at home. He wants Washington to toss Israel to the Palestinian Arabs in the mistaken belief Iran backs Hamas and Hezbollah, which the Saudis also oppose this will calm the water for and in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Faisals column is, like his "Peace for the Mideast: How Our Plan Could Aid Barack Obamas Efforts," Dec. 26, 2008 a trap
for non-specialist readers. But two days later its main allegation was parroted
by The Posts
own syndicated columnist Richard Cohen ("From a Saudi prince, tough talk on Americas favoritism toward Israel," June 14 online).
Will Post readers find a "balancing" commentary by a senior Israeli political figure who blasts Riyadh and Washington for allegedly playing into Iranian hands by supporting Palestinian intransigence, or does Prince Turki have the Op-Ed equivalent of a permanent hall pass, with copies for his pals?