Lahore  -   While there is a consensus among people of all walks of life that the Islamabad visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, beginning on Saturday, will take Pakistan-Saudi Arabia ties to new heights, the views expressed by Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, who is a former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the USA and the UK, in an interview to an Israeli TV channel on Wednesday– especially about the Palestine cause– should be a matter of great satisfaction for all Islamic countries.

Although the prince made it clear that the interview was being given in his personal capacity, it only showed that as a seasoned diplomat he was very careful in expressing his views. But he cannot be expected to have said anything different from Saudi policy.

An impression was being spread that the Palestine issue would go into the background now as some Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, will prefer to improve their ties with Israel in the changed situation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was consistently claiming that Israeli ties with the wider Arab world can be warmed without the Palestinian issue being resolved.

But Prince Turki’s interview belies this impression. “Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue,” Prince Turki told Israel’s Channel 13 news in an interview in London. “From the Israeli point of view, Mr Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around.”

Asked specifically if that meant Netanyahu was “deceiving the Israeli public” by claiming to be able to “promote relations with the Arab world regardless of the Palestinians,” Prince Turki replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Questioned why the Israeli premier would do that, the prince said: “For his own purposes.”

The prince said the Saudi public has “a very negative view of Mr Netanyahu because of what is happening on the ground,” and because of what he termed Netanyahu’s “hubristic attitude… praising himself.”

The Saudi prince’s views would certainly be appreciated by all Islamic countries and they will fully stand behind Saudi Arabia in its efforts to find a solution to the Palestinian problem.

True that because of their own reasons, some Islamic countries have now established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, this doesn’t mean that the Palestine issue has been abandoned.

The first step in this regard was taken by Egypt about four decades ago by signing the Camp David Accord. Some other countries followed suit, but the majority of Islamic countries don’t recognize Israel even today, and are determined to adhere to the same stance till the solution of the Palestine issue. This is like a matter of faith for them. They want the liberation of Al-Quds from Israeli occupation at any cost.

If the new leadership of Saudi Arabia keeps distance from Israel and keeps struggling to get the Palestinians their rights, other Islamic countries would also not recognize the Jewish state, no matter what the situation. The unity of the Islamic world would make it difficult for Israel to continue to perpetrate atrocities on the people of Palestine or deny them their due rights for long. But for the attainment of this objective, Saudi Arabia would have to play the lead role.

Prince Turki recalled the Peace Plan given by the late Saudi King Abdullah in 2002. “Basically it’s a quid pro quo: Israel withdraws from occupied Arab territories, in return for Arab recognition of Israel, end of hostilities and normal relations.”

However, he said, “from Day One there has not been an Israeli response.”

Said Prince Turki: “Israel chooses to ignore all the efforts of Saudi Arabia to make peace, and expects Saudi Arabia to put its hand in its [Israel’s] hand and go forward on technology, on water desalination, on issues like that. It’s not going to happen,” he said in plain terms.

“Israel has not been very cooperative as far as achieving peace in our part of the world.”

Prince Turki insisted there was no difference between Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when it came to Israel, rejecting the notion that the king had curbed the Crown Prince’s inclination to warmer ties.

The Crown Prince “is a stalwart representative of Saudi policy,” he said, and the idea that there was a warmer stance from him was likely “wishful thinking on the part of Israeli officials.” The Crown Prince “supports the Palestinian cause to the fullest” and had no differences with the King “on any issue. He does what the King tells him.”

The prince, who is 73, said he had never been to Jerusalem and looked forward “to the day when there is peace between Israel and the Arab World, and I can visit what I consider to be not only a holy place, but a place of my history as an Arab and as a Muslim. Abraham, our father, is not only the father of the Jews, he is the father of the Arabs. Jerusalem is something I want to see before I die. Unfortunately, I’m not too optimistic that I’m going to see that.”

Asked whether he expected to witness a meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a Saudi king or crown prince in his lifetime, Prince Turki said: “In my lifetime — and there’s very little of it left to come — I don’t think I’m going to see that. Not before the Palestinian issue is resolved. I am looking for an Israeli peace initiative. I haven’t seen one”.

Many say that the solution of the Palestinian issue is a great challenge for the young Saudi leadership. The more interest they take, the shorter will be the span of Israeli atrocities.