Here’s future Commentary editor John Podhoretz’s take on a recent interview that Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, gave to Time magazine:
He says he will refuse to shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s hand, even though he is a seeker after peace. He never says there will be peace with Israel, only “normalization,” and that this will only occur after Israel does every single thing he wants it to — and will not say there will be an exchange of ambassadors if that happens.
It’s helpful to look at the actual Time magazine interview to see that Podhoretz is spinning the prince’s words.
The prince did say of Annapolis, “I’m not going to be there for theatrical gestures of shaking hands that mean nothing.” But he also said, regarding shaking hands with the Israelis, “The hand that has been extended to us has been a fist so far. Once it opens for peace, it will be shaken.”
The prince also said: “We have made clear that peace means more than the end of hostilities. It means normalization. It means open borders. It means all those elements that normal human beings in one neighborhood act with together.” Asked a follow-up question about opening reciprocal embassies, the prince was evasive: “I hope we can imagine that they will withdraw, first of all. And that normalization will come after withdrawal.”
It’s certainly true that the peace process could benefit from some Sadat-like generosity on the part of the Saudis (though it’s worth remembering that they do have political considerations to take into account). But Podhoretz’s characterization is that of someone who is determined to see the Saudis’ intentions (and the prospects for Annapolis) in the worst possible light.