Saudi Prince: Public meeting with Israeli officials not close

Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal tells Channel 13 News relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia can't improve without progress on peace.

Elad Benari ,

Prince Turki Al-Faisal
Prince Turki Al-Faisal

Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal told Channel 13 News in a special interview on Wednesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is deceiving the Israeli public when he claims that relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia can improve without progress in the peace process with the Palestinian Authority.

The prince is a senior Saudi royal. He is the nephew of King Salman and cousin of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He served as head of Saudi intelligence, as Saudi ambassador to London and as Saudi ambassador to Britain.

Prince Turki told Channel 13 News that he did not meet with Israelis when he served in official roles because "Israel did not cooperate in attempts to achieve peace."

He said that after retiring from his official positions, he met the late President Shimon Peres at a dinner in Davos. "We sat at the same table and Peres suggested that we hold a secret meeting. I told him that nothing in Israel remains secret," the prince said.

He noted that despite the fact that he is being interviewed as a private person, he has a message for Israelis on behalf of the Saudi king.

"Our position on peace in the Middle East takes into account what Israel is doing and says: In 2002, the late Crown Prince Abdullah presented his peace plan - Israel will withdraw from the occupied territories in return for recognition of Israel and normalization," said Prince Turki, adding, "From day one Israel did not respond to our peace initiative. With Israeli money and a Saudi brain, it is possible to go far - yes - if there is peace. But unfortunately Israel ignores all Saudi efforts to make peace and expects Saudi Arabia to reach out to it on technology and water issues. That will not happen.”

Israel to date has rejected the 2002 Saudi proposal due to the fact that it calls for Israel to accept the so-called "right of return" for millions of descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel, effectively bringing an end to the Jewish state.

In 2016, Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement they were ready “to negotiate with the Arab countries on updating the Arab Peace Initiative, to reflect the dramatic changes since 2002, and to maintain the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir rejected Netanyahu’s demand at the time, arguing that the Arab Peace Initiative is the best solution for the conflict.

In Wednesday’s interview with Channel 13 News, Prince Turki expressed pessimism about the possibility of warming of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

"I my lifetime – and I do not have a lot left – I do not think I will see a public meeting between an Israeli prime minister and the king or the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Not before the Palestinian issue is resolved,” said the 73-year-old prince. “I am waiting for an Israeli peace initiative, what Israel thinks needs to be done to achieve peace."