Powerful Saudi Prince condemns Hamas violence

An influential Saudi Prince has issued a strong condemnation of Hamas in a rare rebuke from one of the Middle East’s main power brokers.
According to a report monitored on BBC, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom and United States, said he preferred “civil insurrection and disobedience” to the murderous tactics adopted by the Palestinian terror group.
“I categorically condemn Hamas’s targeting of civilian of any age or gender as it is accused of,” Prince al-Faisal said in a speech at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, a USA think tank based at Rice University in Texas.
“But equally, I condemn Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian innocent civilians in Gaza and the attempt to forcibly drive them into Sinai,” he added, citing Israel’s recent bombardment of the enclave and order for its residents to flee south towards Egypt ahead of an expected ground offensive.
Prince al-Faisal’s remarks underline recent comments from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and indicate Riyadh may still be amenable to a historic normalisation deal with Israel, despite having put on hold talks amid the current war.
Last week, the Crown Prince “asserted the Kingdom’s opposition to any form of civilian targeting and the loss of innocent lives” in a carefully worded statement.
On Thursday, during a meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the Saudi capital, he warned of “dangerous repercussions” should the war expand.
The Crown Prince has staked his name on a major economic transformation; a vision for the future of his own country, and of the Middle East, which would revamp the region and support political stability.
Such plans underpinned a recent resumption of relations between Riyadh and regional rival Iran, and even a foray, led by the United States, into normalising ties with Israel.
Saudi Arabia had requested major military support from Washington and significant Israeli concessions to the Palestinians as part of any normalisation deal.
“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” the Crown Prince told Fox News during a rare interview last month.
For now, such diplomatic engagement has been suspended, but the threat of escalating conflict clearly does not serve Saudi Arabia’s stated interests, analysts said.
The Crown Prince’s vision “cannot happen with a war”, said Alistair Burt, who served as the United Kingdom’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa from 2017 to 2019.
“Hamas is clearly as much an enemy to peace for Saudi Arabia, as it is to Israel,” said Mr Burt.
“But it’s also clear that there is no pathway to this new Middle East without a resolution of the issue between Israel and Palestine,” he said.
“The future of the Middle East cannot go on with these deep-seated enmities not being resolved.”
Still, it remains to be seen how the Israeli military campaign against Hamas unfolds in the next few weeks. For Saudi Arabia, there will be some degree of frustration over a perceived lack of effort from the West, particularly the United States , to push more strongly for a ceasefire.
Mr Burt said that on the whole, “there has been a fundamental change, because of the horror of what happened, and the potential for further catastrophe of what is next, and a recognition that if that continues, the ability to repair the region is going to be unbelievably difficult”.
Prince al-Faisal, who also served as intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia for more than two decades, said that “two wrongs do not make a right” and accused Hamas of “giving the higher moral ground” to Israel’s government.
“There are no heroes in this conflict; only victims,” he said.
“I condemn Hamas for sabotaging the attempt of Saudi Arabia to reach a peaceful resolution to the plight of the Palestinian people.”
Analysts said his remarks suggested Riyadh may be attempting to temper the anger that has raged across the Arab world in recent weeks as Israel has responded forcefully in Gaza to the killing of more than 1,400 Israelis by Hamas on Oct 7.
Prince al-Faisal’s words anchored condemnation of violence by Hamas in “vernacular and Islamic values rather than international law”, said Rim Turkmani, a research fellow in the Syria conflict research programme at the London School of Economics.
“There is an Islamic injunction against the killing of innocent children, women and elders; the injunction is also against the desecration of places of worship,” she added.
“This is very important because, frankly, international law is not only less relatable to people in the region, but also because it has lost its credibility in their eyes.
“They have been complaining about the hypocrisy in the way international law is implemented in the region for decades and they see it being violated by Israel on a daily basis.”

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