The former Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, appeared on Al-Arabiya tv on Thursday evening, October 7, 2020.
The Palestiniansa And Oslo
Next came the Oslo Accords in 1993. What happened in Oslo is well known. Ammar [Yasser Arafat], [Israeli former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin, and [former President Simon] Peres went to Washington and signed the Oslo Accords and recognized each other, the thing that everybody was forbidden to do before. But we should not forget that that moment was an important stage during the period in which there was no positive movement toward the Palestinian cause, and despite all the events I mentioned, whether it was Abu Ammar going to Saddam [Hussein], or the dancing in Nablus in celebration of Riyadh being hit, and so on …
The Palestinian Cause is Not the Palestinian leaders
After all this, we had no relations, all relations with Abu Ammar and his people were cut, but we did not cut off our relations with the Palestinian cause. Palestine is not its leaders, Palestine is Palestine. They are the ones causing harm, not us, and if something happened like the boycott after the liberation of Kuwait and so on, they were the reason.
Saudi Efforts continue
Immediately after the war, King Fahd ordered me to work with President Bush Sr. and Secretary of State [James] Baker to quickly achieve something for peace. Then Prince Saud, Baker, and I sat together in 1991. Discussions took place with [Soviet former President Mikhail] Gorbachev at the time, and there was an agreement to hold a peace conference in Madrid in October 1991. It was very important because it was sponsored by the two superpowers: the US and the Soviet Union. So we started planning for the Madrid conference, as I said, given its importance due to the fact that it was held under the auspices of the two superpowers and would be attended by President Bush and President Gorbachev. [Syria’s] President [Hafez] al-Assad decided not to attend, so King Fahd asked me to go and meet him. I met President al-Assad at his palace in Latakia, and after a long dialogue, I made clear to him King Fahd’s stance and that it served Syria and did not harm it, and served Arab influence vis-a-vis the Palestinian cause.
The Saudis include the Syrian Golan for Settlement Efforts
I said, “Mr. President, you have a burden which is the occupied Golan Heights, and we want to see it liberated, God willing, and the burden of the Palestinian cause. It is not possible for the entire Arab world to go, and the important Arab countries are the Gulf states as represented by their secretary general, whom I will accompany, then Egypt, the Palestinians, Jordan and Lebanon. The Lebanese said they would only go if you go. You are the Syrian President, and Syria would be absent while the two superpowers attended.”
The Late Syrian President Does Not Lie, But He has Disadvantages
He thought for a while, we were sitting in his salon opening out onto a large balcony overlooking the sea. On the balcony, I could see a young man from his security forces carrying a Kalashnikov and walking back and forth. May God have mercy on Hafez al-Assad, he had bad deeds and good deeds, but one thing about him that I recall is that he never lied to me. But for him to agree was one of the most difficult things, getting his approval… but once he agreed, he was committed.
Syrians Join In
He said to me, “I agree, and I will send our delegation headed by [former Foreign Minister] Faruq al-Sharaa, and of course if our Lebanese brothers want to go they can go.” I said, “Mr. President, if you go, the Lebanese will go.” He said OK, and the Lebanese foreign minister at the time was [Fares] Boueiz. He then said something to me I will never forget, he said, “Listen carefully, do you see that young man over there?” I said yes. He said, “After we announce that we are going to attend a face-to-face meeting in which Israel is present, I do not trust that I can turn my back to him.” I then understood the size of the problem for him internally, security-wise and partisan-wise. Later, I thought about it, and it is actually not strange, you fill people’s heads and hearts with a certain idea, and suddenly an opportunity arises without you having the chance to convince the people with the wisdom and the public interest that this opportunity presents. Like what I am trying to do now with Saudi citizens. I told him, “Mr. President, on the contrary, you are a role model for your people and they trust you. If you decide to do this, they will understand, God willing.”
Weird Situation in Madrid
We went to Madrid and the rest is history. A minor incident took place in Madrid. There was a Palestinian young man wearing a Palestinian keffiyyeh [traditional scarf] over his shoulder, and as Abdullah Bishara and I were going to enter the meeting room, we heard a heated discussion inside. We asked what was going on, and we were told that the Israeli delegation was objecting to this Palestinian wearing a keffiyyeh over his shoulder. We asked why. They said, “He can’t come in wearing that, he needs to take it off and then come in.” I saw the whole discussion was over nothing, but I was moved… first, their land was taken, and then he is told he cannot wear his keffiyyeh over his shoulder… I said, “Wait, if this Palestinian youth cannot come in wearing what he wants, something he considers patriotic, then I and Abdullah Bishara and the Gulf delegation will withdraw.” When you stop to think after a decisive moment, you must be prepared and must be logical. As the saying goes, if you want to be gratified, request what is possible. So, I said “But I will remove this young man’s keffiyyeh from his shoulder if the members of the Israeli delegation who are wearing head coverings remove them.” The people we were talking to fell silent. Spanish security, American security and it appears there were Israelis as well. Anyway, then Jim Baker came and they told him what was going on, and he said, “Now I know why there is a problem in the Middle East. If you cannot agree if someone can wear their national dress then we have a bigger problem than I imagined.” I said, “Jim, welcome to the Middle East.” We laughed. Then he said, “Do not waste time. Presidents Bush and Gorbachev are on the way. Everyone should just go in and sit down however they want.” So, we went in. Some people may think that this is a silly story, but it has a deeper meaning for anyone who wants to understand it.
Some Progress Without Results
After that event and after Oslo, in 1995 they began to negotiate with each other, and they no longer needed a mediator to sit with them or secret meetings. They started meeting publicly and so on.
In 1995, there were meetings attended by the Syrians, the Palestinians, and the Israelis, but the Syrians insisted that this would not be a joint Arab-Israeli meeting. The Palestinians meet with the Israelis and the Syrians meet with the Israelis. When they first started, they would not sit in the same room, but then afterwards the meetings became face-to-face and so on. The negotiations went on from 1995 to 2000 but did not yield anything tangible.
Assad is Dead, Clinton is Gone
In 2000, President al-Assad died, may God have mercy on him, and the Syrians stopped their activity for a certain period. The new president was a young man, he was trying to see what the next steps should be, and he did not have the same presence as his father in the country. A Palestinian-American meeting took place at Camp David in December 2000 where President Clinton presented his final plan. But by January, a month later, Clinton’s term ended and a new president took office. The offer the Americans presented was rejected by the Palestinians, and after I was briefed on it and informed Prince Saud, and then Prince Abdullah, may they rest in peace, I got instructions that we also were rejecting it and to tell the Americans that we could not support this agreement.
More Palestinian Games
As part of the mental games and manipulation of the Palestinian cause, Abu Ammar used to say that they had offered us something that we could not accept at Camp David, but what he did not say is that the Americans agreed that there was something wrong with it and that the offer needed to be improved. In January, there was a meeting between Abu Ammar and Clinton in which the final offer was presented, that – in my opinion – could have changed the shape of the whole map. The Palestinians were initially convinced, but others convinced them otherwise – or it was a lack of success from God – since he is the son of Bush Sr., who is said to have been a friend of the Saudis, then surely his son would also be their friend. Why would we make an agreement during the term of an outgoing president? We reach an agreement, then reject it and stop it, then when the new president comes, we accept the agreement.
George Bush Jr. Did Not Like Palestinian Manipulation
I told the Palestinians that the idea they had was wrong, and that the new person who will come into office had an opinion on foreign policy that is different from what they expect, and that anything that they could secure from the Americans now was a commitment and was in their interest. They asked us to confirm this from the president-elect. I called president-elect Bush Jr. and told him, “The Palestinians believe they should not sign the agreement with President Clinton and are waiting for you to take office and sign the agreement during your term.” George W. Bush said to me, “Bandar, you know me well, I want to tell you three things, the first you can say to the Palestinians, and the second and third points, you are free to say them or not. The first point is that America only has one president at a time. Tell them not to discuss with me what they plan to do after I become president. The other two points are for you, and if you want to tell them you can, which is that Camp David is not a hotel. I go to Camp David with my family to relax, or I go to meet with American officials. I am not opening Camp David as a hotel like Clinton used to do. The last thing is that I do not like to speak on the phone. I have been informed that Clinton used to talk with Abu Ammar for four hours on the phone. I do not even talk to my own mother for more than half an hour, so how would I talk to him for that long? Whatever I find signed by the American President, I am committed to it, and beyond that I have nothing for you.”
Final Conviction: Palestinian Leaders Do Not Deserve to Be Trusted
I conveyed this to the Palestinians, who said, “But there is another problem.” I asked what it was. I want to show how they did not want to reach a solution, to free the Palestinian people from their suffering. They said it was about Colin Powell, then designated secretary of state, who had an office already in preparation of the new president’s term. They said “We have been informed that he received an Israeli delegation already. This is bias. Whereas we asked him and he said he did not have time to see us.” I said to them, “I know Colin personally very well, and I am sure that his view will not be negative towards you, so do not bother him until after he becomes secretary of state.” They insisted. So I called Secretary Powell, I implored him, “Please meet with the Palestinians, seeing as you met the Israelis, and it will not look good if you do not meet them.” He thought for a minute and said, “OK, let them come, but just for fifteen minutes.” I said, “Two minutes.” They were happy, they went and saw him and came back. The Americans told me about their new offer, and they told me that the Palestinian delegation was happy with it.
I no longer trusted them not to let us down again, so I sought permission from Prince Abdullah and Prince Saud, may they rest in peace, and I went on my annual vacation at the end of the year. I was in Colorado, when Prince Abdullah called me and said “Abu Ammar is in Washington, and he asked me for you to return to Washington to be with them.” I said, “With all due respect, if they agree, there is no reason for me to be there, and if they disagree then I am sure that my presence will not have any effect.” But he said “Abu Ammar insisted, so I told him OK. And I coordinated with Hosni Mubarak that you and your colleague, the Egyptian ambassador, would go and see Abu Ammar.”
Arab League was Ready to Support without Conditions
I returned from Aspen and met with Abu Ammar at my house, along with the Egyptian ambassador, and we talked about the matter at hand, and how grateful and appreciative he was. I asked how things were going. He said “Things are good. There is just one little detail. Tomorrow morning we have a meeting at the White House, and after that the announcement will take place, but I have a request from you.” He meant me and my colleague Egyptian Ambassador Fahmy. We asked what the request was, and he said, “I want you to make sure that Prince Abdullah, King Hassan, and President Hosni Mubarak – right after we announce the agreement between Clinton and Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister of Israel – immediately declare their support so that it balances things out for us. And so that Syria does not give us trouble.” The Egyptian ambassador said to him, “Mr. President, if you announce it, not only will they declare their support they will come here and support it if you like.” I said, “I agree, once Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt declare support, I assure you that the Gulf states will support you, and Jordan will support you, no problem in this regard.” He said OK, and left.
The next day I asked my friend, the Egyptian ambassador, “What do you think?” He said, “I am starting to have doubt.” I said, “You call through your channels and I will call the Americans through my channels, and we will see how things are, and if needed, you and I can intervene quickly, and if we cannot, then at least we can inform our leaders to move quickly, there will not be other chances, tomorrow is decisive.” The next day we got a call mid-morning, saying that Abu Ammar wanted to see me and the Egyptian ambassador right away at the hotel he was staying at. We went in to him, greeted him and sat down. He did not seem like his usual self, so I asked him, “Abu Ammar, please reassure us.” He said, “Good news, it went through.” I said, “Are you sure?” He said yes. “Why did you not announce it?” He said, “There is just a small matter related to security, I am waiting now for the head of the CIA – George Tenet at the time – because there is a simple amendment to be made, maybe linguistic or something, and after we finish, I will return to the White House.” I said, “Thank you for the great news.” Fahmy said, “Congratulations, Mr. President.”
The White House Reveals the Lie of the Palestinian President
At that moment, the Saudi accompanying officer, Major General Nayef Al-Muzaini, came in and gave me a piece of paper. I opened it, it was a message saying “We would like Bandar to contact the White House as soon as possible because the president’s national security adviser wants to talk with him.” I closed the paper and looked at Abu Ammar, and said “With your permission, Mr. President, I need to go out and take a call.” He said, “No, take the phone call from here.” I said, “No, I want to speak outside.” He said, “Why when there is a phone in the room?” I said, “Abu Ammar, this is a personal family issue, I will go out and make the call and be right back.” I went out, and phoned the national security advisor who told me “Abu Ammar is late, there is no time left, and we need to know his response.” I said, “Abu Ammar says that you have agreed and that is that.” He said, “What he is saying is not true.” I said, “How so? He said, “It is not true.” Then the voice changed, it was President Clinton, he was in the room, and he took the receiver and talked to me. He said, “Listen, Bandar, I offered an agreement that no one before me ever offered the Palestinians, and two days ago Ehud Barak called and said, “I cannot go through this agreement because I do not have support for it in Israel and in my government.” And I told Barak, “This agreement that we reached with you will not be changed, and if you withdraw from it or reject it, I will publicly declare that Israel has failed in the peace agreement that was proposed and previously approved.” So I told Abu Ammar the same thing and now he wants to change some paragraphs; I do not accept changing them and we cannot change them. And I have Israeli approval now, if Abu Ammar came here I will make this announcement with him, Barak will come here and the three of us will meet and announce the agreement.” I said, “But Abu Ammar says that he agrees, Mr. President.” He said, “He is lying, he said he would be back in half an hour, and we have been waiting for him for two hours.”
A Tragic Situation
I wanted to cry, my heart was burning at how the opportunity was lost again and perhaps for the last time, as if I was seeing a movie playing in front of my eyes. An opportunity comes, and it is lost. After it is lost, we agree on what we rejected, and we put it on the table. Then people say that there is nothing on the table, and so on over and over. As the saying goes, with repetition you become cleverer. With all due respect to our viewers, the Saudi people and the Palestinian people.
But this is what happened. I went back to the room. I said, “Abu Ammar, I am going to ask you a question for the last time. Have you and President Clinton agreed?” He said yes. I said, “Congratulations.” He stood up and hugged us. Then I asked for his permission to leave. He said, “No, do not go. Stay here with us until we are done.” I said, “But you are done.” He said, “No, please, you must stay and celebrate with us.” I told him, “Listen Abu Ammar, the ambassador of Egypt, the largest Arab country, is here, my brother and colleague Fahmy who represents all Arabs will stay here with you.” The Egyptian ambassador looked at me as if to say, ‘What is happening?’, and then I added “but I must go because my family is in the place I left them on vacation. I wholeheartedly congratulate you, and I will watch it on TV and share in your joy. And at the first opportunity, I will tell Prince Abdullah, Prince Saud, and our officials that, praise God, Palestine has been liberated, just as Abu Ammar said it would be.” He insisted that I do not go, he took hold of me and pulled me, and I kept pulling away, all the way to the elevator, he would not let go of me. Finally, I said to him, “Abu Ammar, I need to travel. What do you want? If you are telling the truth and you have reached an agreement, then what do you need me for?”
The Hopes Disappeare
The officers who were with me and the American security opened the elevator, and I got in and went down, and got into my car. I said, “Head for the airport, we will leave tonight as soon as the plane is ready.” I called Prince Abdullah, who said “So, Bandar, is it a lion or a hyena?” I said, “By God, I did not expect a lion, just a hyena, I do not know.” He said, “How come?” I said, “Abu Ammar is saying, ‘We have reached an agreement,’ and Clinton just talked to me and he says, ‘We have not reached an agreement, and if he does not sign, I will withdraw the entire agreement and I will not transfer it to the next president, because he does not want us to leave unfinished business for him.'” He said, “For goodness sakes, Bandar.” I said, “As you can see, this is what’s happening.” He said, “What will you do?” I said, “I want to go back to my family if you give me permission.” He told me to go ahead. And that was that.
Continuous Saudi Protection for the Palestinians
Despite all that happened, I received directives to ask Clinton not to hold Palestine fully responsible. After some back and forth and calls from Prince Abdullah himself to President Clinton, he said, “Ok, I will declare that we have not reached a solution.”
George W. Bush and Prince Abdullah are helping the Palestinians
After the new president, George W. Bush, came to office, Prince Abdullah made a second attempt and a great effort. He visited the US and visited the president on his ranch, and important points were reached. Bush agreed that in late August, early September, when he was going to give a speech in front of the UN, that he would include a paragraph on the Palestinian cause, and that he would recognize both the Palestinian and Israeli states, and that work was being done to achieve this goal, and to add some paragraphs that the Palestinians were demanding. President Bush assigned Secretary of State Colin Powell, Head of the CIA George Tenet, and his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to meet with me and to write this paragraph in the speech in the way that we agreed upon. And after lots of back and forth, referring back to Riyadh and to the Palestinians, we finally arrived at a semi-agreed upon text.
On September 8, Colin called me and said, “Tomorrow I have to go to Latin America, there is a meeting of the countries of South America, and I have to give a speech there. I return on the night of September 10, on September 11 let us meet and finish this. Then I’ll send it to the President for final approval, and we’ll go to New York.” I agreed. We called the others to meet on the 11th in order to activate the Palestinian cause in the first year of the new president’s term. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be.
After 9/11, the Palestinian Cause was no Longer Important
The day of September 11 requires no explanation. The Palestinian cause became the least concern for America and for much of the world, until some other attempts were made later on.
The Truth Must Prevail
Going back to the reason why I bring all this up now, it is because our dear Saudi citizens and our brothers and sisters in neighboring Gulf countries need to know what their leaders and countries have done in service of the Palestinian issue, with complete dedication. And that if there is now a denial of this on behalf of the Palestinian leaders, this will not affect our attachment to the cause of the Palestinian people. But with these people [the leaders] it is difficult to trust them and to do something for the Palestinian cause with them around.
Israeli Challenges And the Elusive New Players
In my personal opinion, with all the events that have taken place around the world, we are at a stage in which rather than being concerned with how to face the Israeli challenges in order to serve the Palestinian cause, we have to pay attention to our national security and interests. New players came into the picture, claiming that they are serving the Palestinian cause and that the Palestinian cause is their priority, and that Jerusalem is their first goal. These are countries such as Iran and Turkey, and the Palestinian leaders have come to regard Tehran and Ankara higher than they regard Riyadh, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Manama, Oman, Muscat, and Cairo.
The Saudis are Obvious in following Sharia’s Instructions
As I said before, God says in the Holy Book, “My Lord, forgive me and my parents.” Knowing that Heaven is under the feet of mothers. We never made any violations, and never violated God’s law. We are followers, given that we live in this challenging era, and the duty of our leaders is to preserve our national security and the security, economic, welfare, and social interests of our peoples. We are surrounded by a stormy sea all around us, and we are one of the few [stable] countries – islands in the middle of this sea. We owe it to our peoples to maintain this situation that we live in.
Egypt is the largest Arab country and a great nation, and works day and night to lift the Palestinians up from all the challenges and restrictions imposed on the people of Gaza by Israel, [but] is facing a hotspot for terrorism from which terrorists enter Sinai and Egypt and commit crimes. O people, we do not see God with our eyes but we believe in Him with our minds. Neither the Egyptian people, nor the people of the Gulf and many Arab nations are pleased with what we see.
Turkey occupies Libya and wants to liberate Jerusalem by withdrawing its ambassador from Abu Dhabi.
Iran wants to liberate Jerusalem through the Houthis in Yemen or through Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.
Things are clear and we are at our limit with those guys. And now, I have conveyed what was in my heart and spoken directly to the audience that concerns me and to our citizens. Everything that I said is documented and known, and I am going to start a social media account, Twitter, etc., and I will post all these documents and everything I talked about on this account. Anyone who wants more details can find them there, otherwise I could spend ten hours telling you all the details, which I will not do.
I hope and ask God Almighty that I have faithfully fulfilled my obligation, so that we do not allow liars, cheaters, those who are disloyal and who deny what was done for them, to impose their traditions and their way of dealing with each other on us. We also have our own history, we know it and we know theirs, and this is what I wanted to explain to my fellow citizens, given the crucial importance of this stage and the circumstances we are experiencing now. And Allah is the grantor of success.
Thank you for giving me the time to talk about this with you.
You can watch this part here