In late January, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s departing ambassador to the United States, attended a Washington reception sponsored by several leading American Jewish organizations. The purpose of the meeting, according to a USA Today report, was “part of a strategy meant to undercut extremists and build momentum for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking for the administration, supported the program claiming: “An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would weaken militants such as Hamas…” Strange how our Saudi friends didn’t feel it necessary to share their real agenda either with our Secretary of State or the American Jewish leaders.
That agenda, however, became clear three weeks later when Saudi King Abdullah brokered a deal between rival Hamas and Fatah factions in Mecca – a deal that effectively transferred control of the Palestinian government to Hamas. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, there is indeed a new “political horizon? (to use the words of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) being created by the Saudis, but it is not the “political horizon? that the U.S. and Israel wanted. The Saudis are playing both sides of the fence.
The “Mecca Accord” is interesting not for what it says, but for what it fails to say. Neither the word “Israel”, nor “peace process”, nor “political horizon” can be found in its text. Nowhere does the Accord demand that Hamas recognize Israel, honor previous peace agreements made by Yasser Arafat (especially the Oslo Accords) or forego violence against Israel. Rather, the purposes of the Accord, according to just released Israeli intelligence reports, are to destroy Iranian influence in the Palestinian territories and to weaken Israel. The Accord is not only camouflage for a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian movement, but it places Saudi Arabia as the primary financier and power broker in the Palestinian territories.
Using their new Hamas proxy, the Saudis intend to eliminate all Iranian Shiite influence from Gaza and the West Bank and prepare Hamas militarily for its inevitable confrontation with Israel. To seal the deal, they have agreed to funnel at least $1B to the terrorist organization and that’s only the beginning of their largess. With American acquiesce and contrary to the statements of Secretary Rice, DEBKAfile reports that Riyadh has “reverted to its original role as the founder and banker of Hamas, which the Saudis created in the 80s as a Sunni counterweight to Shiite Hezbollah.” In Mecca, Hamas succeeded in achieving all its political goals without conceding even one of its basic principles.
Had Tehran contented itself with turning Syria into a client state and igniting last summer’s Israel-Hezbollah War, the Saudis might have been inclined to turn a blind eye to Shiite interference in the Sunni Arab world. But Tehran?s nefarious activities in Iraq, its contradictory statements concerning its nuclear weapons program, its bellicose statements on the pending return of the 12th Imam at a time of great international chaos, its renewal of contacts with dissident Arab Shiite groups seeking to overthrow the Sunni Gulf emirates (which Iranian President Ahmadinejad has referred to as ?gas stations not real countries?) and Hezbollah?s attempted coup d?etat in Beirut convinced the Saudis that it was necessary to make a calculated under-the-table deal with Hamas – a deal designed to undermine Iranian recruitment efforts in the Palestinian territories while preparing Hamas for an expected Israeli re-entry into Gaza.
The Accord has also paved the way for Fatah?s suicidal Al Aqsa Martyrs? Brigades and Hamas’s 4,000-strong paramilitary Executive Force to take over the Palestinian security force ? the same Palestinian security force that the U.S. has just bankrolled with $86M in its failed bid to keep Hamas under Fatah control. (This proposed “security assistance” has now been placed on hold.) Furthermore, with the Saudis committed to bankrolling Hamas, the successful U.S.-led international financial and economic boycott of the terrorist organization will now be circumvented. Regardless of the current stated position of the Quartet and its conditions for recognizing the Hamas-led Palestinian government, the Europeans are already looking for ways to use the Mecca Accord as an excuse to lift their financial sanctions despite the fact that not one of their mandated conditions for recognition has been fulfilled.
The true tragedy is that Washington had enough leverage in Riyadh to prevent Saudi intervention in favor of Hamas but chose not to do so. Perhaps David Bedein, Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency is right when he wrote recently:
“The United States will be hard pressed to reject an internal Palestinian reconciliation agreement that was sponsored by the king of Saudi Arabia. After all, Saudi Arabia remains the third-largest supplier of oil to the United States (14%). Saudi Arabia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which is subordinate to it, has one billion dollars in foreign currency reserves, most of which are invested in U.S. bonds.”
The Saudi Arabian government has also announced that it intends to invest $650B additional dollars in the next few years to develop its economic infrastructure and these enormous projects could be offered to American corporations?or not.
With the signing of the Mecca Accord, Hamas has every reason to celebrate. The Accord has laid the foundations for its international legitimacy. It will help it recover from its economic crisis, strengthen its hold over the Palestinian government and prepare the groundwork required for victory in the forthcoming Palestinian presidential and legislative council elections. By legitimizing an unreformed, unrepentant extremist organization like Hamas, the Saudis have emboldened Hamas’s Moslem Brotherhood affiliates in Egypt and Jordan to the detriment of both those countries and, in the end, to itself.
By erasing any distinction between moderates and radicals in the Palestinian camp, the Saudis have opened Pandora’s Box and destroyed any Palestinian “political horizon” for a separate Palestinian state for the foreseeable future.