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Prominent Saudi royal blasts Obama on Israel
Question of the Day
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a leading figure in Saudi Arabia's royal family, called Israel "a drain on the United States, and not an asset" Friday while accusing the Obama administration of a blatant pro-Israel bias in its Middle East policy.
"Within the makeup of this administration, ladies and gentleman, there are officials who rationalize, excuse, and condone Israeli intransigence while seeking to put more pressure on the Palestinians to concede even more," Mr. Al Faisal said, in a speech to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. "These same officials believe that the Palestinian problem is not the root cause of Arab and Muslim antagonism to the United States. It is these officials who propose that the Netanyahu government should be rewarded for its intransigence rather than sanctioned."
Mr. Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief and U.S. ambassador, was referring to a widely reported American offer of diplomatic and security guarantees to Israel in exchange for a two-month extension of its 10-month settlement moratorium, which expired on Sept. 26, causing Palestinians to suspend their participation in freshly launched U.S.-sponsored direct peace talks.
"Saudi Arabia," he said, "agreed with other Arab states to give peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine a chance -- more than once -- under the United-States-negotiated partial colony freeze. The United States failed to stick to its assurances and, to add insult to injury, offered the Netanyahu government more money, arms, protection from U.N. sanction, and, shamefully, the stationing of Israeli troops on Palestinian territory -- as if this territory were part of the United States' sovereign lands. And this was to get him to extend the partial freeze for a few more days. Now that the Netanyahu government has rejected that offer, we are waiting to see what else the United States will offer."
While Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, it has been reported that the kingdom would allow Israel use of its airspace for airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.
In 2002, King Abdullah, crown prince at the time, proposed the "Arab Peace Initiative" -- unanimously endorsed by the 22-member Arab League -- which promises Israel normalization in return for a full withdrawal to the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war and for a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem. Mr. Al-Faisal criticized Israel for not accepting the terms.
In addition, he castigated the Obama administration for protecting Israel's nuclear program from international scrutiny and the Bush administration for undermining a Saudi-brokered power-sharing agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.
He said that throughout history, the United States had shown "its capability to bring Israeli craven ambition to heel in many instances."
"However -- and there is always a however as well when dealing with the United States -- there has grown over the years a web of very tight and strong strings that bind the U.S. to her client state, Israel."
"In the public sphere," he said, "there are journalists whose view is so distorted by the neoconservative mantle -- or, as I call it, 'burqa,' that they wear -- that they cannot see that the call for independence from Middle East oil is a canard that defrauds the average consumer of energy by promising him clean energy, which is nonexistent, and to pay a higher price for that energy regardless of the abundant availability of the secure source of energy that comes from the Middle East -- and at a cheaper price."
Mr. Al-Faisal made his remarks after a presentation by Sesame Street on its programming in the Arab world. "I was very much impressed with the muppets and the fact that these were the genuine muppets that bring laughter and fun for everybody," he said. "But unfortunately, as one of the commentators here reminded us earlier, there are live human muppets in Washington, D.C., who are run by AIPAC [the main pro-Israel lobby]. And, unfortunately, what they bring is war and tragedy."
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About the Author
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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