A senior member of the Saudi royal family granted an unprecedented interview to Israeli media this week in order to convey a simple message to all Israelis: Don't believe Netanyahu!
Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US and UK, was interviewed by Israel Channel 13's Barak Ravid in London.
He told Ravid that Israelis need to know that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exaggerating the extent to which Israeli-Arab ties have warmed in recent years. Prince Turki said Netanyahu is no doubt doing so in order to make himself look good ahead of the upcoming election in Israel: "He’s a man who runs for election on platforms of ‘look what I have done for you. I have brought you this. I have brought you that.’ Like all politicians."
Prince Turki explained that the reality of the situation is that Saudi Arabia, and possibly other Gulf states, are never going to fully normalize ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is solved.
"Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue," said the Saudi prince. "From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around."
Netanyahu has suggested on several occasions of late that the wider Arab world was tiring of the Palestinian cause, and was eager to cooperate with Israel on a range of issues regardless of the situation in the "West Bank." Those suggestions have been supported by remarks from Arab capitals in recent years, where Arab leaders and media have indeed sounded a weary tone in regards to Palestinian nationalism.
Prince Turki was not at all disparaging toward Israel, but did accuse Jerusalem of failing to take seriously Arab peace offers. He, like other Saudi leaders of late, indicated that he was looking forward to a future in which Israel and the Arab world work together: "With Israeli money and Saudi brains, we can go far."
Prince Turki insisted that he was doing the interview in a personal capacity and did not represent the Saudi government in his remarks. However, he did admit to letting Riyadh know about the interview beforehand, and Ravid revealed that the prince had met with Saudi King Salman only days prior to speaking to the Israeli press. According to Ravid, Prince Turki was clearly conveying a message direct from Riyadh to the Israeli public.
Watch the interview below. The opening is in Hebrew, but the actual interview is conducted in English.
Ironically, at the very same time Prince Turki was claiming that Netanyahu's portrayal of warming ties with the Arab world was a deception, the Israeli leader was in Warsaw, Poland having what appeared to be a very friendly chat with the foreign minister of Oman, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.