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Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia recently garnered a lot of appreciation among the Arab world for his straightforward analysis of the latest peace plan being pushed by the Trump administration through Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. It is a plan that is heavily slanted to promoting further expansion of Israeli colonies on Palestinian lands and when details of the plan began to leak out, many denounced the biased nature of such a proposal.

Now Prince Turki is no lightweight when it comes to global politics. A member of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, Turki Al Faisal is generally looked upon as an astute Saudi politician and a seasoned diplomat. His resume includes being the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency for 24 years after which he was appointed as the country’s ambassador first to the United Kingdom, and then to the United States. He is also looked upon as one who has been promoting a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The plan is something that is up in the air. Without a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and its identity as a viable and sovereign state, there is not going to be any peace in the Middle East.

- Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia

Thus, it was of no surprise when during a recent interview in London, the Prince Turki cast doubt over the peace plan being peddled by Kushner and company. Kushner had come to Bahrain to push forward and economic plan meant to encourage Palestinians to give up a sizeable portion of their lands for economic gains.

Stating emphatically that the US administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan will not move forward unless it recognises a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, Prince Turki said, “The plan is something that is up in the air. Without a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and its identity as a viable and sovereign state, there is not going to be any peace in the Middle East.” Without recognition of Palestine rights over their lands, Prince Turki added that the economic plan can only succeed if it is “part and parcel of a broader political proposal that would ensure the rights of all parties.”

Rejection of Kushner plan

Prince Turki has in the past been a vocal critic of American foreign policy in the region which is favourable to Israel. He was critical of Israel’s refusal for not accepting the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by the late King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, which offered a blanket normalisation of relations in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 borders. Unfortunately, Israel rejected such a plan.

Previously also Prince Turki accused US administrations of their pro-Israel bias and protecting Israel’s nuclear programme from international scrutiny, and had called on President Obama to support the two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis.

The Palestinians on their part have rejected Kushner’s overtures, saying that any plan must include ‘the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.’ Contact between the Palestinian leadership and the US administration was stopped in December 2017 after Trump recognised contested [occupied] Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That move was also severely criticised by King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia who emphatically stated, “We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem,” during a speech last year. “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories,” he added.

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The Saudis and other Arab countries have made their position clear on the proposed Trump-Kushner peace plan. They will not be able to support it if it doesn’t include a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. This is the position that the kingdom has taken and has not wavered since.

And it is a matter of right and justice for the Palestinians whose lands today are being steadily encroached upon by Jewish colonists coming from all parts of the world and colonising Palestinian property.

The wave of war crimes has intensified in recent years as Israel chooses to ignore all international condemnation and censure of their actions and proceeds to promote their apartheid policies in the country. If that is indeed the direction that Israel will continue to run, then the prospect of peace will certainly be dimmed and no amount of external pressure will let the Arab world give in to Israeli expansion and injustice.

The Arabs of the 21st century want peace with their Jewish neighbours, but one based on justice and recognition of Palestinian rights. For it to happen, I suggest they go back to the peace plan proposed by the late King Abdullah and give it another look. It is a descriptive definition of what the Middle East neighbourhood could very well become.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena