A former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US has given an unprecedented interview to an Israeli TV channel that was broadcast just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Omani foreign minister in Poland to discuss a new era for the Middle East.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 news, Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud said that Saudi Arabia and Israel have the funds and political means to work together provided that they reach a lasting peace first.
“With Israeli money and Saudi brains, we can go far. Yes, if there is peace. Unfortunately. Israel chooses to ignore all the efforts of Saudi Arabia to make peace, expects Saudi Arabia to put its hand on its hand and go forward on technology, on water desalination, on issues like that. It’s not going to happen”, Prince Turki, who served as ambassador to the United States, said.
He further stressed that the Israeli public should not be deceived into thinking that Israeli ties with Arab states could experience a thaw without the Palestinian issue being solved.
“Israeli public opinion should not be decieved into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue. 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”.
The prince made a reference to the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, set out by the late Saudi King Abdullah in 2002 that envisaged a quid pro quo approach to the longstanding issue: Israel withdraws from occupied Arab territories in exchange for Arab recognition of the Jewish state, end of hostilities, and normalisation of relations.
The 74-year-old prince said he had never been to Jerusalem and looked forward “to the day when there is peace between Israel and the Arab world, and I can visit what I consider to be not only a holy place, but a place of my history as an Arab and as a Muslim. […] Jerusalem is something I want to see before I die. Unfortunately, I’m not too optimistic that I’m going to see that”.
When asked whether he anticipated a meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a Saudi king or crown prince in his lifetime, Prince Turki said: “In my lifetime — and there’s very little of it left to come — I don’t think I’m going to see that. Not before the Palestinian issue is resolved. I am looking for an Israeli peace initiative. I haven’t seen one. What is it that Israel thinks will make peace?”
Even though Riyadh has no diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, there’s been much speculation that the two countries have been maintaining clandestine contacts.
Netanyahu once admitted that Israel had “fruitful cooperation with Arab countries” that was kept in general secret, while Israeli Energy Minister Yubal Steinitz said that Tel Aviv has had secret contacts with a range of Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, with the IDF chief of staff suggesting sharing intelligence with Riyadh to resist Iran.
Last April, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the kingdom had no “problem with Jews” and shared “a lot of interests with Israel”. He also underscored that both Israeli and Palestinians are entitled to their own land, and that a bilateral peace agreement is needed “to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations”.
Back in December 2017, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the France 24 broadcaster that Riyadh has devised a “roadmap”, the Arab peace initiative, to establish “normal” ties with Israel.
“Our position on Jerusalem has always been very clear. We believe in a two-state solution based on the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab peace initiative. We believe that in the end, we will have a Palestinian state in the ’67  borders… with east Jerusalem as its capital. This has been our position, this remains our position”, he said.