Dec. 15, 2017
Saudi Crown Prince Doesn’t Want to Talk about Jerusalem – Robert Satloff (Foreign Policy)
Last week, I was in Riyadh with 50 supporters and fellows of the Middle East think tank I direct. The morning after Trump’s speech on Jerusalem we met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – deputy prime minister, minister of defense, president of the council of economic and development affairs, and favorite son of the king. He is where the buck stops in Saudi Arabia these days.
Mohammed bin Salman has a lot to say – about jettisoning entrenched but non-Islamic ideas about separating women and men, about containing Iran now or fighting them later, and about a hundred other topics – but Jerusalem was not one of those topics. If we hadn’t asked him directly about Trump’s announcement, it may never have come up.
He limited himself to a single word of disappointment about the President’s decision, and then quickly turned to where Riyadh and Washington could work together to limit the fallout and restore hope to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He spoke of the promising future that awaited Saudi-Israeli relations once peace was reached and committed himself to bringing that about. That was the official Saudi view.
He could have used the occasion to send a piercing message through us to American leaders about the high costs of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He didn’t, and that matters a great deal.
Those who prophesied that the Arab and Muslim response to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be apocalyptic seem to have been totally wrong. Among the Arabs that count – America’s allies – the reaction has generally been sober, measured, and mature.
The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.