Policy about Israel should be decided by OIC
Many Islamic countries were still in a state of shock because of the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan establishing diplomatic ties with Israel that another bombshell has triggered a new controversy.
The new development is that Israel claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
It has been stated by Israeli media that Netanyahu was on the ground in Neom, a Red Sea city, for more than three hours for the first known high-level meeting between an Israeli and Saudi leader. He was accompanied by Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen.
However, Saudi Arabia has denied the meeting.
Arab News has quoted Saudi foreign minister as saying that there were no Israeli officials at a meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the US Secretary of State.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan says the meeting was only attended by Saudis, Pompeo himself and the US ambassador to the Kingdom, John Abizaid.
“The only non-Saudis at the meeting with HRH the crown prince were Secretary Pompeo and the US ambassador,” Prince Faisal told the Jeddah-based official newspaper of the kingdom.
“I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said. “No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”
Pompeo met with the crown prince in the northern city of NEOM on Sunday evening as part of his regional tour.
They “reviewed friendship relations, areas of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and ways to enhance them,” Saudi Press Agency reported. They also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East.
The meeting was attended by Prince Faisal and Abizaid.
The contradictory statements made by Israel and Saudi Arabia about the Sunday meeting raise a very pertinent question as to why the Jewish state made such a claim knowing well that the Islamic world is very sensitive on the subject. Most countries in the 57-member OIC will not like any of its members even to shake hands with Israel unless the Palestine issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the Palestinians.
But the initiative taken by the UAE and Bahrain – and lately by Sudan – has changed the situation. Now it has become clear that any country can take any decision to serve its economic interests, putting aside the OIC policy.
The OIC and Arab League stand effectively bypassed. None of the countries who changed their policy about Israel took the decision even from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s platform, because of which it can be rightly claimed that all these organizations have practically become irrelevant.
The Islamic brotherhood demands that a decision on ties with the Jewish state should have been taken – collectively – from the OIC’s platform. And Saudi Arabia, because of its special status among the Islamic states, should have played the lead role in this regard.
The kingdom should have called – or sought – an extraordinary meeting of the bloc, discussed all aspects of the matter and then left it to the bloc to take a decision keeping all merits and demerits in mind.
But the Saudi leadership has failed to play the role it was expected to.
There are speculations that the kingdom wants to normalize its ties with the Jewish state to be able to strengthen its ties with the United States.
US president-elect Joe Biden is a strong supporter of the Jewish state and any country with stronger ties with Israel will be very dear to him.
Apparently, Israel has made public Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia – no matter how brief and in what circumstances – is aimed to gauge reaction of the Islamic countries.
A deliberate confusion on the ‘meeting’ could be part of a strategy.
But, ultimately, Saudi Arabia will follow suit and normalize ties with the Jewish state.