Israel and Saudi Arabia are making strange bedfellows but there are reasons for the emergence of their de facto alliance, as Lawrence Davidson explains.
By Lawrence Davidson
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his grand tour of the United States last month publicly declared in an interview with the Atlantic magazine that the Israelis “have a right to live in their own land just like the Palestinians.” It is a problematic assumption, given that the Israelis’ “own land” is the land they took away from the Palestinians. This, and much else, has been either forgotten or ignored by the Saudi crown prince.
Seventy-three years ago Saudi Arabia’s first king, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, expressed a very different position in a series of letters to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For instance in a letter of November 1938 Ibn Saud had wrote “The [European] Jews have no right to Palestine and their claim is an act of injustice unprecedented in the history of the human race.” Sadly, there was in fact plenty of precedent when it came to colonial injustice, but Ibn Saud’s declaration certainly demonstrated the King’s depth of feeling. Other letters followed, predicting that Palestine was bound to become a “hotbed of disturbances and troubles” if the Zionists got their way.
The two leaders finally met face to face in 1945 on the U.S. Cruiser Quincy in the Suez Canal during FDR’s return trip from Yalta. In that meeting Roosevelt tried to convince the Saudi ruler to allow European Jewish occupation of Palestine. Ibn Saud countered that “Make the enemy and the oppressor pay; that is how we Arabs wage war.” He continued, “Amends should be made by the criminal, not by the innocent bystander. What injury have Arabs done to the Jews of Europe? It is the ‘Christian’ Germans who stole their homes and lives.” He finally added that “The Arabs would choose to die rather than yield their land to the Jews.”
Now Crown Prince bin Salman shows us that a lot has changed in the intervening years. Zionist Israel has become an established “fact on the ground” and thus…