Saudi Prince Says Netanyahu Deceiving Public on Peace Prospects

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is deceiving his people by saying Arab countries are willing to establish relations without a peace deal with the Palestinians, an influential Saudi prince said in a rare interview of its kind to Israeli media.

“Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue,” Prince Turki Al Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief, told Israel’s Channel 13 television. “From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around.”

Asked whether Netanyahu is deceiving the Israeli public, the prince said, “absolutely,” adding that the prime minister is doing so “for his own purposes.” Netanyahu is up for re-election in April, and his prowess in diplomatic circles is a key message of his campaign.

Netanyahu’s office had no comment on the report. The prince doesn’t hold a government position.

Israel’s ties with Gulf states have warmed in recent years, primarily over a shared distrust of Iran and its push for regional hegemony. Last year, Saudi Arabia began allowing a limited number of flights traveling to and from Israel to cross its airspace, and in October, Netanyahu flew to Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos. Israeli athletes have recently been allowed to compete in the Gulf under their country’s flag.

U.S. President Donald Trump has promoted this rapprochement, seeing Saudi Arabia and other Middle East allies as key to his policy of confronting Iran and advancing the regional peace proposal he’s promised to deliver soon.

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