Saudi Prince: It Used to Be the Arabs Who Said No, Now Israel Is Refusing Peace

In a special televised interview ahead of Haaretz Peace Conference, Prince Turki al-Faisal says that if Netanyahu was a far-sighted leader, he would negotiate on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Haaretz

If Benjamin Netanyahu “was more of a far-sighted leader, he would break the logjam and negotiate on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative,” said Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Saud. In a special interview with Haaretz, to be broadcast during the upcoming Second Haaretz Peace Conference on November 12 in Tel Aviv, Turki said that such a move would “remove the doubts and suspicions on the Arab side.”

In advance of his meeting with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in New York on Wednesday, the prince said that one could not depend on Netanyahu to make such a move “but he is the Israeli prime minister. If the Israeli people were to choose someone else who is more willing to engage, that would be a welcome development.”

“It’s a matter of political will,” Prince Turki said. “It used to be the Arabs who said no, and they galvanized popular support for that claim. Unfortunately, it is now Israel who is saying no.” He added “It’s obvious that that the United States won’t push Israel, but there’s nobody else who can. President Obama was all gung-ho when he began his administration but then he backed down. It was very disappointing.”

Prince Turki is the eighth son of King Faisal, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964 until his assassination by his cousin in 1975. He served as the Saudi Intelligence Minister for almost a quarter of a century, from 1977 to 2001. He was then posted to London as Saudi Ambassador to the Court of St. James, then served for a short time as ambassador to Washington and now heads the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

Prince Turki, who has met in public with several Israelis in recent years, including former Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, penned a special article for Haaretz’s Israel Peace Conference last year. This is his first televised interview with Israeli media, filmed in his New York hotel this week.

Prince Turki said that the Arab Peace Initiative, which was first proposed by his uncle King Abdallah when he was Crown Prince and was subsequently ratified in two Arab summits, in 2002 and 2007, “lays the foundations” upon which peace can be negotiated. He rebuffed reports of behind-the-scenes collaboration between Israel and Saudi Arabia, saying emphatically that as long as Israel does not accept the Saudi/Arab initiative “there’s no chance in hell” that the two countries would collaborate on any subject, whether in public or clandestinely.

Prince Turki said that Saudi-American relations had improved in recent years after the “rough patch” they underwent in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring. He claimed that the Saudi regime has given the nuclear agreement with Iran its full support, though he said that it would nonetheless spark an arms race in the region.

The full content of the Prince’s interview – on Saudi-Iranian tensions and relations, on his attitudes towards the “apostates” of Islamic State, on claims that Saudi Arabia is itself a purveyor of extremist ideologies and on a host of other issues will be published in a special supplement that Haaretz will publish in conjunction with the second Israel Peace Conference.