Turki al-Faisal Picked the Wrong Day to Make Veto Threats

From everything I know, Saudi Prince and former Intelligence Chief Turki al-Faisal is incredibly shrewd. And I believe Saudi Arabia has already started to make the kind of strategic realignments he threatens in his op-ed threatening consequences if the US vetoes Palestinian’s bid for statedhood at the UN Security Council.

The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.

Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well.

The reason why this threat wouldn’t work even if supporting Israel unquestioningly weren’t already a third rail of our politics has to do with NY-9, Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat.By all appearances, Democrats are going to suffer an embarrassing loss there tomorrow. And while pollsters offer mixed messages about its true impact on the race, the Republican, Bob Turner, has made real efforts to suggest Obama is anti-Israel.

One surprise in Siena’s polling, however, is the relative importance of Israel to the race. Turner has made it an absolutely critical issue for his campaign, slamming Obama’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at every turn in an effort to win over Jewish voters in the district. Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, has a similar position on Israel but Turner has argued that unless he breaks with Obama entirely and refuses to endorse him, he’s still tainted.

But according to the numbers, it may be less of a factor than it seems.

“I don’t see it at all,” Greenberg said, when asked about the “Israel effect.”

Siena asked voters to pick from five options to explain their vote, including the candidate’s party, position on Social Security and Medicare, whether they were endorsed by a trusted source, their position on economic issues, and finally their position on Israel. Only 7% of voters picked Israel, including just 16% of Jewish voters.

That may not be the whole story, however: Weprin’s lead with Jewish voters has collapsed from 21 to 6 in the last month. It’s roughly in line with the total 12% drop among voters overall, but may be more complicated to tease out. Jensen, for his part, doesn’t want to make any conclusions on the Israel issue without seeing more detailed results first.

Between our sure veto of Palestine’s efforts at the UNSC and the increasingly dangerous squabble between Turkey and Israel, not to mention increasing tensions between Egypt and Israel, Obama ought to attempt a grand bargain to foster peace in the Middle East.

But it’s not going to happen.

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27 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Not a little risible, considering Saudi intervention in Bahrain was at the private behest of the US and that the US’ opposition was for-public-consumption kabuki bullshit.

  2. MadDog says:

    The US government (note that I do not equate the US public with that entity) had a Op-Ed up yesterday decrying the thought of Palestinian Statehood. The very first sentence says it all:

    “A United Nations vote on Palestinian membership would be ruinous…”

    Oh wait, that was merely the NYT speaking. In an “unsigned” opinion meant to obscure just who is speaking for whom.

    Might it be chairman and family owner Arthur Sulzberger Jr.? Might it be managing editor Jill Abramson? Perhaps I was correct in my first description of the Op-Ed’s paternity.

    In any event, the “powers-that-be” are insistent that only negotiation can be the tool to arrive at Palestinian Statehood.

    I suppose these “powers-that-be” would have taken the very same stance in the America’s desire for Statehood.

    As in: “Just negotiate with the Brits!”

    If that had been the case, I’d imagine I’d be writing (if I actually knew how to write) with an English inflection, and I and my family would still be living in servitude in Ireland on some absentee English landowner’s estate.

    But I’m sure I’d like potatoes.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    Obama attempt a grand bargain?!? The man can’t even negociate with himself without caving in.

    If we had a real leader in the Wihte House, I still don’t think it’s doable. Israel has no desire for peace except on their terms, which are very similar to the terms we issued to the natives back in the 1800’s: Go quietly to your reservations, keep your mouths shut and we won’t kill you.

    Were I suddenly president, I would:

    1) Tell the Palistinians to recognize Israel and the right of all parties to live in Peace. In Arabic.

    2) Once #1 is done, I would tell Israel to drop the seige of Gaza stop West Bank construction and I’d cut off their allowence until they did so.

    3) Once they’d done that, I’d tell the Palistians to hold another election. UN monitored. And I’d promise to deal with whatever government was formed, even if it was Hamas.

    4) Then I take the new Palistine leadership and the old israeli leadership and lock ’em in a room. I make sure they understand I’ll back whatever deal both sides can pass and I’ll cut off the allowences of anyone not negociating in good faith. I give ’em a portajohn and a slot in the door for food.

    Boxturtle (It’d probably take the senate about 15 minutes to impeach me)

  4. Cregan says:

    We are in some agreement on this post.

    But, really, the base question is this (for me):

    If Palestine were given a state that they were part of the arranging of, would that be the end of it?

    If it were, the state would be no problem. But, among the population, I don’t see any change from the long time desire to retake the entire area. Further supported by the statements of Iran, Hez and Hamas.

    Maybe someone out there has some evidence to show that Palestinians will be happy and finished if two states were created.

    Are we creating a better launching pad to further attacks, or a home that both will live in peacefully? That’s the question i struggle with.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    @Cregan: I think regardless of what we do or who signs what, there will always be Settler or Terrorist violence in one direction or the other. We’d have to hope it could be kept to a manageable level.

    I suppose letting each side shoot the others terrorists is too simplistic.

    Boxturtle (Haters gotta hate, I suppose)

  6. nomolos says:

    @Cregan: Well maybe if the Israelis gave the Palestinians back their land, their homes, their farms, their orchards, their way of life there would be some form of peace but if the Israelis persist in their expansionist, thieving, segregationist, agressive actions then there will be no peace…and there should not be.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @Cregan: @Cregan: I’m curious, why do you think al-Faisal disagrees with your take, when the stakes are so much higher for him and his kingdom?

    He sees creating a second state as a crucial step in disempowering Iran and its proxies.

    Is he wrong?

  8. Cregan says:

    @nomolos:

    Your post illustrates the extreme difficulty. By your take, a new state is just a better launching pad.

    Let me rephrase, if you were an Israeli that wanted a Jewish state to continue, would you agree to it?

  9. Cregan says:

    @emptywheel:

    I said I quite agree with your post.

    Is he wrong? THAT is the $64 question.

    First, I think this situation is one of the most difficult to resolve well of about any in history. Yeah, it could have been handled better at the beginning, but we are not at the beginning.

    Where we are today, it is the most difficult situation. By today, I mean the current times of the last 6 or 7 years, not merely September 12.

    Will it empower Iran further? It could go either way.

    Will it create a better rocket launching pad?

    While there may be different ways of looking at it, the experience of Gaza has to weigh on Israeli thinking. Just as people will always think of reasons why launching rockets from there is OK, they will think of reasons why launching rockets from WB will be OK.

    The ONLY thing that would make Faisel’s ideas more likely to produce a final settlement is that part of it is full recognition of Israel by all Arab countries.

    Would that happen? Would it include Iran and Syria?

    AND, the big question, when some splinter group decides to launch rockets, and they will, and Israel responds, then what? Where does that recognition go then?

  10. nomolos says:

    @Cregan: Would I agree to a religious state of israel, no would I agree to a secular state of israel yes but restricted to the “original” borders given to the israeli terrorists by great britain and I wold demand the repatriation of all Palestinians to their homes and lands.

  11. nomolos says:

    @Cregan: full recognition of Israel by all Arab countries.But Israel must stop their overt and covert agression against Arab States either originated in Israel or by their client states i.e. USA

  12. rugger9 says:

    Cregan, it’s a false equivalency unless you acknowledge that the entire purpose of the WB settlements is to abrogate the Oslo accords on the land question. In short, Bibi thinks possession is 9/10ths of the law, and he has his fanatics out there. As it is, I don’t think you spend much time seeing what the ACTUAL Israeli public thinks, they certainly don’t agree with you. Likud, sure, but not the others.

    As ew pointed out, these policies of embargo and de facto annexation are the driving forces for the unrest. We do need to pay close attention to the fact that Bibi has soiled all over the two strongest alliances he had in the region, due to his sheer pigheadedness combined with his electoral calculus problems [he’s gone as head of Likud if he backs down, kind of like our GOP primary voters], which means that the USA will have to bludgeon support for Bibi in the region. That will be costly.

    The Arabs must conform to UN 242, the right of Israel to exist. The Israeli government must be an honest player in negotiations and follow Oslo, otherwise who will trust them concerning Jerusalem, a topic so far too hot to touch? IMHO, Jerusalem as a city where God is quite active, based on the evidence collected by all three faiths, should belong to God only, as an open city. No nation should own it.

  13. rugger9 says:

    As for Turki, when Saudi Arabia owns up to and makes the USA whole for 9/11/01, then he will have credibility. Otherwise it is just blackmail.

  14. Bill Michtom says:

    Obama “can’t even negotiate with himself without caving in.”

    While it’s a great line, I disagree with the implication that he’s caving. That implies lack of spine rather than lack of principles. Obama’s politics are Republican, and have been from before he took office.

  15. nomolos says:

    @rugger9: The Arabs must conform to UN 242, the right of Israel to exist. What about Israel conforming to the 14 or so resolutions first.

    And all the hoopoo about god is the whole damn problem in the first place. If tese various factions would stop trying to agree on which fantasy is the “real” fantasy we would not have all these bloody wars.

  16. rugger9 says:

    @nomolos:
    That’s why the comment about the government being an honest player in negotiations. Right now, they aren’t for political calculus reasons. It will be interesting to see what the next Knesset elections will do. In addition, the Gaza blockade is illegal under UN treaty obligations, especially regarding what is allowed in or out.

    The idea about Jerusalem being an open city is analogous to why Belgium was formed after the fall of Napoleon by Lord Palmerston. He saw that a neighbor’s possession would be an inevitable source of conflict, so he engineered an independent nation [deriving from old Burgundian roots] plopped into the prime invasion route between Germany and France. It worked for just under a century then, in a more jingoistic time.

    More recently, Trieste can provide a model, it was an open city during the cold war.

  17. Cregan says:

    @rugger9:

    you need to read Nomolos’s posts.

    That is the prevailing view of most Palestinians.

    IN view of that, would a new state just be a further stepping stone? If Nomolos’s view prevails, yes it will.

    If there is other sentiment out there, it won’t.

    I haven’t seen a lot of evidence in WB and Gaza that Nomolos’s view is an unpopular one.

    Further, will the new state change the psychology of the local population? I can see how it might.

    But, betting on that hunch? I am glad I am not the one having to decide.

  18. lysias says:

    Why should the anomalous behavior of such a heavily Jewish district in Brooklyn have any effect on the thinking of the Obama administration?

  19. rugger9 says:

    @Cregan:
    Palestinians aren’t going to solve this one at this time. Agitation would be construed as a reason to keep the thumb on them, regardless of legitimacy.

    I was referring to the Israeli public, which is more closely interested in peace than Likud would have you believe.

    For what it’s worth, the fact that Israel is blockading Gaza means they made the same mistake Lincoln did early in the Civil War, in that a sovereign nation closes its ports, not imposing a blockade. Blockade has to be effective, and is applied to another sovereign nation as a punishment or war plan. When Lincoln proclaimed his blockade he nearly gave the CSA its formal recognition all by himself.

    This is important in the discussion of Palestinian statehood, which I support BTW, because Israel’s activity points toward acceptance of Palestine as a separate entity => statehood.

    The hope is that owning something will mean that better care will be taken of it. While expansionism would remain a concern, extirpation of the state of Israel would be far too expensive. The state was weaker in 1948 and in 1967 than it is now, and the Arab League then was more cohesive than now. That is another reason Bibi’s policies were so wrongheaded, because when Turkey and Egypt both are angry enough to withdraw ambassadors [the next step is hot war], the counterweights to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, et al. aren’t there. Bibi will also manage to get the Saudis and Iranians [Sunni vs Shia] to work cohesively, something not done for 13 centuries or so. Way to go, Bibi.

    If control is what you’re looking for and no border issues, why not have the Ottomans march back in?

  20. jerryy says:

    Saudi Arabia can also have a direct impact on the cost of doing business, while we do not get massive amounts of oil from them, they can affect the prices of oil on the world market, which means the biggest customer in the US (the DOD) is going to face more and more problems obtaining their go-juice.

    You may recall recently that President Obama had a recent meeting with car makers and announced a sudden big change in fleet average mpgs. The car makers agreed to the new requirements without any fanfare considering that all of them especially Ford could have easily said ‘nehhh’ — they are well aware any necessary future bailouts for them will have to be negoiated from scratch with future admins, the cureent one does not really have much keverage. This has had folks scratching their heads over his subsequent abandonment of clean air standards.

    But mpgs and emissions are not as directly related as is fuel usage in war time and fuel usage by vehicles supplied by those car makers.

    Perhaps the point of diminishing returns is close, ie the oil made available from countries we have invaded is not as abundant as what is being expended to soothe right wingers fears of mushroom clouds.

    http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/08/04/04greenwire-army-aims-to-get-a-handle-on-battlefield-fuel-24267.html

    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/29925

    http://www.peak-oil-news.info/military-oil-usage-statistics/

  21. Cregan says:

    @rugger9:
    Well, you are taking my post too far.

    I don’t have any thing on control of the borders of a PA state.

    Re: Gaza, I am only talking about what it turned into after it was handed over.

    The Palestinians also will be likely constrained by the fact that rockets coming from an occupied territory and ones coming from another independent state are quite different, and the response to it likely much different.

    Such as what France might do if rockets were launched against it from Germany.

    My view is that it is one of the most difficult problems to face the world, and it may be that no solution exists that can solve it and keep a lid on it. I am only glad that it isn’t my job to solve it.

    And, yeah, I think it is heading for two states. That’s easy. But, when and how?

  22. Cregan says:

    Last, I think the Palestinians should understand that if such a state is created as a result of the UN vote and an agreement with all sides occurs, it will likely be impossible to launch any further attacks of any kind.

    No one in the world will support it after such a state is created, and THAT may be the thing that will resolve it and make it final.

  23. ReaderOfTeaLeaves says:

    I suspect the Saudi birthrate ( over 6% per year IIRC), the Arab Spring, the recent Egyptian fury at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, plus news of Iran starting up a nuke plant all far outweigh the race in Weiner’s district.

    Anyone who cares about Israel should consider that it’s not about yet one more US Congressional race. Too many other factors have come to outweigh the old political calculus.

    The extremists, like Bibi, as well as Assad, are too much dead weight for the needs of young, burgeoning populations. Ditto Ghaddafi and the soon-to-be-ex ruler of Yemen.

    It looks to me as if Turki is simply reading the writing on the wall that Israel refuses to see at it’s peril.

  24. rugger9 says:

    @chetnolian:
    After the Imperial German high command brushed aside the Belgian Treaty [Bethmann-Hollweg: “a scrap of paper” in a tirade with the UK ambassador before the UK joined France], belgium was forced to choose sides and did so. If you actually READ the post I said it covered things for just about a century (84 years), which beats the League of Nations and is still down the road for the UN.

    As far as Belgium’s economy goes, you might want to do more research, their banking system is superb and they are not part of the PIGS basket case.

  25. Larue says:

    And then now, what of the US/Saudi relationship?

    Do we believe Faisal in that it will be fractured, will the Bush Oil be put to test?

    Will Obama abandon House Of Saud’s request?

    Or is this all kabuki on part of House Of Saud or Faisal?

    What’s the end game, on this, ma’am?

  26. fuster says:

    What’s the problem with this?

    The guy is taking a position that he knows won’t change the US’s veto, but will help the US use the resultant leverage with Israel to force the Israelis to stop snubbing Abbas and sit down and negotiate with him.

    Even though Abbas and Netanyahu aren’t going to settle on a viable peace deal as long as Iran supports Hamas in blocking one, reinforcing Abbas’ government makes it easier for the Saudis (and other Arab states) to work toward thwarting Iranian influence in the area.

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