What the Saudis Understand – and We Don’t

Who would have thought that we would find ourselves agreeing with the Saudi approach to events in the Middle East, while thinking our own government needs a “reset”?

Who would have thought that we would find ourselves agreeing with the Saudi approach to events in the Middle East, while thinking our own government needs a “reset”?

National Security Council Advisor Tom Donilon visited Saudi Arabia and Saudi King Abdullah brought three of his advisors to the meeting: Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz; Secretary-General of the National Security Council Prince Bandar bin Sultan; and Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Jubeir. David V. Dafinoiu of the Global Intelligence Center describes Muqrin as focused on Iran, Yemen, Libya and al Qaeda; Bandar on foreign military relations other than the United States; and Jubeir having the U.S. portfolio. All, according to the Dafinoiu, are “Hawks and live wires.”

That looks about right – Iran, Yemen, Libya and al Qaeda are where the action is; Saudi Arabia is buying military equipment from China as well as the United States; and well, it was an American envoy, so Jubeir was there. Notice what did not appear to be on the agenda – Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestinians or Palestinian independence.

Perhaps King Abdullah believes Iranian attempts to destabilize the Gulf and al Qaeda in Libya and Yemen are real threats to the future of the Kingdom. Perhaps he believes Saudi Arabia needs to prepare for the coming confrontation with Iran. And perhaps he believes the United States should be doing its utmost to undermine the Iranian and Syrian regimes in hopes of ensuring Saudi and Egyptian (Sunni) hegemony in the region because that would better preserve Saudi oil producing interests – and would better preserve American/Western oil consuming interests as well.

We hope Mr. Donilon took the message.

But the Obama Administration seems fixed on “solving the Palestinian problem,” which, in their lexicon means creating a Palestinian state come hell or high water. Secretary of State Clinton told the U.S.-Islamic World Forum (an offshoot of the Brookings Institution and the Government of Qatar) in Washington last week, “The status quo between Palestinians and Israelis is no more sustainable than the (Arab) political systems that have crumbled in recent months.” She didn’t mention that the crumbling (Arab) regimes look very much like the Palestinian Authority – corrupt and authoritarian – and their successors bear more than a passing resemblance to Hamas – corrupt, authoritarian and religious.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “American and European diplomats are continuing to prod Netanyahu to lay out his vision for restarting peace talks and ending the occupation of the West Bank. If he does not, diplomats warned, the so-called Mideast quartet – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – may attempt to jump-start the process by formally endorsing, for the first time, the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Talk about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

As a small matter, they appear to be interested in “ending the occupation of the West Bank” with no mention of Gaza, but all the talk about a Palestinian state includes “the ’67 borders” (which are not borders, but armistice lines) including Gaza. Does that mean they are prepared to give Abu Mazen control of Gaza, or Hamas control of the West Bank? Or does it mean, “Never mind that iceberg; put the chairs where I tell you”?

As a large matter, Israel, the only Western and pro-Western democracy from the eastern Mediterranean around to Australia, sits amid conflagration, and the Quartet led by the United States, can think only of birthing another anti-Semitic, a-historical, Islamic, anti-Western kleptocracy allied with all the wrong people. If they think Hamas and Fatah, which will fight each other to the death over the new Palestinian entity, are friends of anything the West used to treasure, they are mistaken. And if they think pressuring Israel to come up with a plan for its own destruction will make the Saudis happy, they are mistaken twice.

The Saudis appear, for the moment, to have aligned their priorities correctly and are worried about precisely the right thing. How odd that the United States is so far behind a country still working its way through the 10th Century.