This week, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia gave a speech that was unusually candid for a senior member of the Saudi royal family. The speech was about the present bloodshed that is taking place in the Middle East.
It is widely considered as the clearest indicator there has ever been of the way the Saudi leadership is now thinking about the issue.
Following Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7 and the accompanying Israeli bombardment of Gaza, Prince Turki, an older statesman who is generally respected in Saudi circles, has publically criticized both Hamas and Israel for attacking civilians. This comes after Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel on October 7. He stated that there were no heroes but only victims in the situation.
Prince Turki, who was addressing an audience in the United States at Rice University in Houston, is a rare Arab voice of condemnation of Hamas in the current atmosphere. This is because there is a surge of outrage across the Arab world in response to the Israeli air raids.
He stated that the actions of the gang violated Islamic injunctions that state it is forbidden to hurt civilians. Hamas is responsible for the deaths or kidnappings of the vast majority of innocent civilians.
Prince Turki, a cautious and thoughtful former diplomat and espionage head, struck a balance between his condemnation of Hamas and that of Israel, which he accused of “indiscriminate bombing of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza” and the “indiscriminate arrest of Palestinian children, women, and men in the West Bank.”
He took exception to the phrase “unprovoked attack” being used by the media in the United States in connection to the raid that took place on October 7 and stated, “What more provocation is required.. than what Israel has done to the Palestinian people for three-quarters of a century?”
He concluded by stating “all militarily occupied people have a right to resist occupation” .
Prince Turki further criticized politicians from the West for “shedding tears when Israelis are killed by Palestinians” but for refusing to “even express sorrow when Israelis kill Palestinians.”
Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, stated while he was in Israel that the United States mourned all innocent victims.
What, therefore, is the significance of this statement, which the prince must have been aware would be reported widely?
It is improbable that he would have talked without first checking in with the Royal Court of his country, which is run by the all-powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who held discussions with Rishi Sunak on Thursday.
The lineage of Prince Turki is pretty impressive. His father was the well-liked and forward-thinking King Faisal, who reigned from 1924 until his death in 1975. His brother served as Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister for a lengthy period of time until his passing in 2015.
Prince Turki’s education in the United States and the United Kingdom at institutions such as Princeton, Cambridge, and Georgetown has not only provided him with an invaluable perspective on Western culture and thought, but it has also provided him with lifelong contacts among decision-makers in both Washington and Whitehall.
After that, he rose through the ranks to become the head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, where he oversaw operations for 24 years and was specifically responsible for Afghanistan.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he was appointed to the position of ambassador for Saudi Arabia, first in London and later in Washington.
Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist, served as his media spokesman at the Saudi embassy in London. In 2018, Saudi government operatives were responsible for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia pointed the finger at an unauthorized “rogue operation” as the culprit.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, who is now 78 years old and does not hold a formal position in the Saudi government, yet provides an intriguing glimpse into Saudi thinking on the few occasions that he speaks openly at foreign events.
Hamas is not popular with the leaders of Saudi Arabia. In point of fact, a good number of the regional administrations are opposed to this as well. Hamas and its revolutionary style of so-called “political Islam” are seen as a danger to the secular authority of Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain by the rulers of those countries.
In 2007, Hamas essentially drove the Palestinian Authority, which was based on Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party and administers the portions of the West Bank that have not been colonized by Israel, out of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority oversees the areas of the West Bank that have not been colonized by Israel. During a disagreement within their group that did not last long, several of its members were killed by being hurled off of the rooftops of high buildings.
Iran, which has a long history of being Saudi Arabia’s adversary, is Hamas’ primary financial sponsor, despite the fact that Hamas keeps a political office in Qatar.
Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a formal agreement in March of this year to settle their dispute, there is still a significant amount of mutual mistrust between the two countries. In spite of this, they have issued a unified statement denouncing Israel’s bombing of Gaza and restating their commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
It is difficult to imagine now, but just two weeks ago, prior to the Hamas raid, Saudi Arabia was well on its way to normalizing ties with Israel, much like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco have done. This is something that is almost impossible to comprehend now. This is currently placed on hold.
Several observers are of the opinion that Hamas’s deadly foray into Israel was in part motivated by a desire to thwart that normalization, which, if it had occurred, would have relegated both Hamas and Iran to a supporting role in the new Middle East.
Will the situation in the region ever get back to the way it was before?
It is difficult to imagine it occurring right now, with a wounded Israel in no mood for compromise and worried Arab countries watching the mounting anti-Israel protests on the streets. However, it is possible that this may happen in the future.
It is possible that Saudi Arabia’s huge riches may help pay the rehabilitation of Gaza after the current conflict in Gaza comes to a conclusion, as it is imperative that this conflict stop. It will be worthwhile to keep an eye out for Prince Turki’s speeches in order to get the Saudi perspective on whatever happens next.