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Israel's borders explained in maps Palestinian leaders initially described the UAE and Bahrain's normalisation of akerican with Israel as a "betrayal" and "a stab in the back". Prince Bandar, who spent a remarkable 22 years as Saudi ambassador to Washington and was so close to former US President George W Bush that he was often nicknamed Bandar Bin Bush, spoke of "the historic failures" of the Palestinian leadership.
It had taken Saudi support for granted, he told his audience. How, he argued, referring to the split between the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which holds power in Gaza, amerjcan Palestinians possibly reach a fair deal when their leaders cannot even agree among themselves? Such words, said a Saudi official close to the ruling family, would not have been aired on Saudi-owned television without the prior approval of both King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Historical suspicions It does seem that both by Prince Bandar's words and by quietly endorsing the recent UAE and Bahraini normalisations with Israel, the Saudi leadership is moving rather faster towards rapprochement with Israel than much of its own population. For so many years, especially in the more rural, isolated corners of the kingdom, Saudis have been accustomed to viewing not just Israel as the enemy, but also all Jewish people.
I remember in one mountain village in Asir province a Saudi telling me in all seriousness that "on one day of the year Jews drink the blood of babies". Yet given the xenophobia and historical suspicion of outsiders that exist among certain parts of the Saudi population it will take time to turn around this metaphorical tanker in midstream, which is why Saudi Arabia has not rushed to follow its Gulf mn in forging a historic deal.
Saddam calamity Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states' history of relations with the Palestinians is a chequered one.
Gulf governments have nominally supported the Palestinian cause, both politically and financially, for decades. After the US-led Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait inthat country expelled the entire expatriate community of Palestinians, replacing them with thousands of Egyptians. Visiting a traumatised Kuwait City that year, I noticed some Arabic graffiti scrawled on the side of an abandoned pizza restaurant.
It took a long time for the region's older rulers to get over Arafat's "betrayal". amdrican
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Ironically perhaps, someone who did more than most to heal the rifts across the Arab world was Kuwait's own late Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who died last month, aged Saudi peace plan Saudi Arabia does have history when it comes to holding out an olive isareli to Israel. The man was Adel Jubair, then a foreign affairs adviser in the Crown Prince's Court, now Saudi minister of qmerican for foreign affairs. Essentially, it offered Israel full normalisation with the entire Arab world in exchange for a withdrawal from all occupied territories, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Lebanon, as well as giving the Palestinians East Jerusalem as their capital and reaching a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees who, in the Arab-Israel war liikehad fled or been expelled from their homes in what became Israel.
The plan received international support and it briefly put Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the spot. Here, at last, seemed a chance to end once mdn for all the historic Arab-Israeli conflict. But just before the plan was published, Hamas bombed an Israeli hotel in Netanya, killing 30 people and wounding more than All talk of peace was off the table.
Fast forward 18 years and the Middle East has moved on in so many ways, although the Palestinians have yet to achieve independent statehood and Israeli settlements considered illegal under international law continue to encroach on Palestinian land in the West Bank. In fact, unlike the strained "cold mn that Jordan and Egypt have with Israel, the two Gulf states are accelerating their ties with Israel.
Testing the water So how do Israeli officials feel about a potential future normalisation with Saudi Arabia? They have certainly watched Prince Isrqeli interview with interest but have so far declined to comment directly.
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Instead, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said: "We hope that even more countries will recognise the new reality in the Middle East by ing us on the road to reconciliation. Women can now drive, there is public entertainment, and the country is ameircan opening up to tourism. So a Saudi-Israeli peace deal, while not necessarily imminent, is now a real possibility. Related Topics.