Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Saudis and Palestine

A Hamas spokesman told AFP on Monday that ousted Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya was prepared to meet with Abbas in Saudi Arabia to try to resolve the crisis on the basis of the Mecca accord.

The official Saudi account of the talks suggested Abbas had been assured of Riyadh's support.

The Saudi and Palestinian leaders discussed "the need to remove internal differences amongst the Palestinians... and return the situation to what it was," the state SPA news agency reported.

It said they also reviewed international efforts to activate the stalled Middle East peace process.

Saudi Arabia.

Reports about Saudi Arabia in regional relations almost always paraphrase Saudi statements. That makes me suspicious because I get the feeling there sometimes is an element of hopeful or wishful thinking on the part of Western Middle East analysts.

My feeling is the Saudis are less enthusiastic supporters of the West than Western analysts want to believe and their statements may have double edges that readers of the Western press are protected from. The Saudis right now are certainly less hostile to Iran than is commonly presented.

But it cannot be denied that Saudi Arabia often ends up on the side of Israel conflicting with other Arabs or Muslims. You never saw Nasser ally with Israel to confront Saudi Arabia, but you saw the other way around. You never saw Iran ally with Israel, or Syria ally with Israel. Somehow Saudi Arabia often ends up in these tacit allegiances with the United States and Israel against other Muslims but somehow the Saudis still claim to be leaders of the Muslim world. Weird.

And here we have the Saudis, claiming some principle or another, supporting Abbas along with Israel and George Bush.

How unfortunate it is for the people of the Middle East that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. But the Saudi version of the Shah remains the most ardent defender of Israel in the Middle East. It is difficult to understand why this is so. One day I hope to ask a Saudi official what the story is.

No comments: