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Bin Salman and Jumping over Palestine
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
April 9, 2018

This is not a detailed attempt to read what was stated in the “Atlantic” magazine's interview with the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (3/4/2018). But rather a desire to correct what he said about Israel, in keeping with the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

What needs to be clarified, is that the conflict is not with the Jews, because Israel is not the representative of the Jewish people in the world, and if we digress to say that the conflict is religious between Islam and Judaism, it is as we have digressed to say that Israel is a Jewish project for all Jews in the world. Thus, we have ignored the opinion of millions of Jews in the world, who openly have declared that they refuse that Israel claims to speak on behalf of them, because they are citizens of their countries before they are Jewish, and they respect their belonging to their homeland and reject dual nationality (for example to be French Jews and at the same time Israeli Jews).

What should also be clarified is that thousands, even tens of thousands of Jews, reject the Israeli occupation of Arab land, including inside Israel itself, and others outside it.

The other opinion that needs to be clarified is that the core of the issue is not negotiating for "peace", as the conflict with the Palestinians, is not a conflict between a Palestinian state and the state of Israel on disputed issues of borders and water. The conflict is between a state that occupies the land and the people, and colonizes them by all the most backward and repressive forms and methods, through looting of land, destruction of houses and economy, murder, mass imprisonment, displacement and siege. At the same time, it refuses to withdraw from the occupied territory and plans to annex it and to destroy the existence of the Palestinian people and to deprive it from exercising its right to self-determination over its land.

In addition, there is the issue of Palestinian refugees, which was ignored by Mohammed Bin Salman. It is no surprise in that, as the former king, Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz is the owner of the "Arab Peace Initiative", whose job was to convey to Israel a clear message of abandoning the right of return for Palestinian refugees in exchange for a Palestinian state and an Arab-Islamic normalization with Israel. (It is no coincidence, that President Abbas does not mention the Arab peace initiative unless it is linked to resolving the refugee issue). Ben Salman is, therefore, not clear in referring to the refugee issue. We believe that he deliberately ignored this issue because he is well aware of the Israeli and American positions on this issue, and he does not want to engage in a political conflict nether with the United States nor with Israel, while calling for a regional Arab-Israeli alliance against Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the other parties of the Palestinian resistance.

The other issue ignored by Ben Salman, is the issue of the Palestinian people within Israel, who is living under the racist laws of the Zionist system. And thus, ignoring in the context, the Zionist system, as a political project has its intellectual, economic and security dimensions with their known risks on the entire Arab region and not only the Palestinian people. It was surprising, that he went too far to explain what he saw as "the dangers of the Iranian state" on the Arab region. It also was surprising to read the future of the relationship with Israel with optimism, and to read the future of the relationship with Iran as a future of endless conflict based on ideological clash.

If Bin Salman tried to appear in the American magazine , from the position of "civilizational tolerance" and openness, including openness to Israel itself, only because it is an economic power, he could not hide, at the same time, that his position on Israel, was in its background, a commitment by the Saudi Arabian regime to the "deal of the century", which is based on a "regional alliance" with Israel as its main pillar, and the Arab regimes revolve in its orbit under American patronage.

It does not take much evidence to confirm the validity of this estimate, and the extent to which it dictates to Riyadh from practical positions, contradictory to the verbal declarations. As in the case of Jerusalem, for example, which was limited by Bin Salman to Al-Aqsa Mosque (pursuant to the Fatwa of "Ibn Taymiyyah", which removed the holiness from Jerusalem and made it to Al-Aqsa Mosque alone), Riyadh did not take any practical positions in the face of the Trump Declaration on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the transfer of the embassy of his country to it. On the contrary, it has gone to strengthen the relationship with the United States through economic and arms contracts, which required Trump himself to declare that his country has become a partner of Saudi Arabia in its financial wealth.

At the meetings of the Ministerial Follow-up Committee of the League of Arab States, Riyadh, through its Foreign Minister, rejected any Arab position of practical value, enough to issue a statement reaffirming issues that do not need a ministerial meeting to confirm. When Amman and Riyadh differed, Saudi Arabia resorted to pressure on the Jordanian state by stopping its financial aid until it takes positions that would meet Saudi Arabia's position on Jerusalem, the refugees, as well as the permanent solution with Israel.

One of the important issues that we can read from the interview, and the tone, in which Bin Salman spoke, is that Saudi Arabia is in the process of a regional policy based on Riyadh's leading for the Arab position in the region's issues, after being led by Cairo in the time of President Mubarak, as it seems that Cairo's preoccupation with its complex internal affairs in its various fields has hindered this role. Jordan, in its well-known regional position in terms of economic weight and country size, also seems unable to play this role. It is Saudi Arabia that is now leading, in the "confrontation" with Iran and with Hezbollah. It is also leading the way, for the regional alliance, announced by Trump, at the Riyadh conference, in the presence of more than fifty-five Arab and Muslim countries. So, the gradual steps of normalization between some Gulf states and Israel are clear evidence on the way to build this alliance. And what was said in the interview of Bin Salman about the future relationship with Israel, especially in economy (and necessarily security as long as Iran is the "common denominator" between the two), except in the context of the cumulative steps to build the «regional alliance».

If the Palestinian issue is the "complex" in front of this alliance, Bin Salman's pouch of ideas and fatwas, has what can make him able to solve this complex.

And what came in his last speech, is but one of these attempts.

Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by Ibrahim Motlaq

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