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Growing Israel/U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince isn’t just immoral, it’s foolish

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Michael Wolff’s second exposé of the inner workings of the Trump White House says that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has “a cocaine problem.” In the just-published Siege: Trump Under Fire, Wolff charges that Prince Mohammed “could disappear for days or longer on benders.”

Wolff is not an unimpeachable source. But his assertion should be a warning to the United States and Israel about their budding alliance with Prince Mohammed; building your Mideast foreign policy around a 33-year-old of questionable stability might not be a wise choice. 

Morality clearly means nothing to either the Trump administration or to the Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu. The Crown Prince’s murder of the brave dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October did not delay the strengthening U.S.-Israel-Saudi engagement for a nano-second. Self-styled realists like former American diplomat Dennis Ross, the pro-Israel Peace Processor, argued that “The U.S. and Saudi Arabia Can’t Get a Divorce.” Another supposed expert added, “Mohammed bin Salman Is Here to Stay.”

But here’s some genuine realism: Why assume Prince Mohammed can hold on to power indefinitely? The Saudi royal family is notoriously opaque, but we do know that it includes somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 princes, and that over the decades the kingdom’s political stability has depended on a careful balancing of family groupings. Why should Trump, Netanyahu (and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who wrote that embarrassing love letter to Prince Mohammed last year) assume that one young man of doubtful judgment can indefinitely maintain control of this complicated governing apparatus? In the past, the Saudis royals have acted collectively and decisively; in 1964, they removed King Saud, allegedly for profligacy, and replaced him with his half brother, Faisal.  

What’s more, Saudi royals are surely aware that hostility in the Arab world to Prince Mohammed is on the rise. Just last week, angry Palestinians in Jerusalem chased away Arab “normalizers” who favor abandoning the Palestinian cause; one of the prime targets of the Palestinians was Mohammed Saud, a young Saudi who is prominent in the kingdom’s online troll army. Saud, who tweets as @mohsaud08, was described by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as “a hyper-enthusiastic pro-Israel activist.” (The normalizers were guests of the Israeli government, and Benjamin Netanyahu himself later apologized to Saud for his rough reception.) 

More ominously, rumors are circulating that Israel wants to transfer control of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem from Jordan, which presently oversees it, to Saudi Arabia. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest shrine. Jewish Israeli extremists want to blow up the centuries-old building and replace it with the Third Temple. Any change in the mosque’s status is guaranteed to trigger an international upheaval.

Meanwhile, Prince Mohammed continues to prosecute the murderous war in Yemen, even after his erstwhile allies in the United Arab Emirates have abandoned him. These various Saudi provocations have prompted a surprising development; religious Islamic scholars across the Mideast and North Africa are calling for a boycott of the annual hajj, or pilgrimage, to the holy city of Mecca, which all Muslims are encouraged to undertake in their lifetime. There is even a hashtag on Twitter: #boycotthajj.

Finally, Donald Trump has a surprising ally in his vicious attacks on Muslim-American Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Organized lies about the two women have also been pouring online from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi troll army dishonestly smeared the two as members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Omar’s case, they also deployed racial slurs based on her African ancestry. And the Saudi trolls even echoed the dishonest claim, common on the U.S. far right and echoed by Donald Trump, that Ilhan Omar had married her brother. 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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24 Responses

  1. annie on July 28, 2019, 1:39 pm

    when Khashoggi was slaughtered there was barely a hiccup in US alliance with saudi arabia because there was simply no time to waste in the US/israel agenda for the trump term (just in case he doesn’t get reelected which i highly doubt).

    “The US is building up its military capability by re-opening its air base in Saudi Arabia (Prince Sultan desert base) – the same base that the US used for its war against Saddam Hussein in 1990.”

    Saudi Arabia is critical for israel’s war on iran.

  2. DaBakr on July 28, 2019, 2:10 pm

    Naturally, any action towards Israel normalizing relations with neighboring states will vex this author. What neighbor of Israel does he believe is ‘moral’ enough to engage with Israel considering they are all, for the most part, military dictatorships? KSA is the same as its always been, controlled by the family. Of course the author is full of sour grapes and virtue warrior outrage that yet another Arab muslim regime had started to accept the futility of warring with Israel for 70yrs and gaining nothing.

    • annie on July 28, 2019, 2:17 pm

      What neighbor of Israel does he believe is ‘moral’ enough to engage with Israel considering they are all, for the most part, military dictatorships.

      states who engage w/israel, including the US, are acting immorally, not morally. morals aren’t a priority for israel, obviously.

      • DaBakr on July 28, 2019, 8:16 pm


        “….for Israel, obviously.”. as in Netanyahu? Israel collectively or Israel as a whole including the over two million non jews living as fully invested citizens… or probably the entire idea of Israel since inception would meet the requirements of immorality to the editors at MW. I can’t figure out where the scale sits. Is it black or white as in, if Bashir Assad and the US are both immoral so they are equal or if there is a sliding scale. I suppose that “..obviously” just means to the regular readers of MW, obviously.

      • oldgeezer on July 29, 2019, 12:22 am


        As in Israel the state. You know, the entity that Zionists keep saying they have a right to? I know you know that. I have so little patience for the feigned ignorance of Zionists. Why are you so racist that you deny Israel any agency for it’s actions. Is Israel, and Jews since you, not me, construe Israel to be Jewish, incapable of making decisions, initiating actions and accepting the responsibility of doing so. How many other nations are also incapable of doing so. I grant you the US, UK and Fra. But I don’t grant them as role models in any way.

        If you are sincerely confused, while I doubt anything about you is sincere, then it’s because you keep mixing religion, ethnicity, race and religion in so many variable combinations to avoid responsibility and accountability for it’s actions. Surprise! Here you are again attempting to muddy the waters instead of address it head on.

        Really Dabakr, why is Israel held to such an extremely low standard by Zionists and Israel supporters. Do you really feel that it can’t stand with other nations?

        Frankly do you really feel this will end well for your descendants? I don’t. You’re on the wrong side of humanity and morals (you have none).

      • Talkback on July 29, 2019, 3:06 am

        DaBakr: “… or probably the entire idea of Israel since inception would meet the requirements of immorality to the editors at MW.”

        Who wouldn’t consider settler colonialism after 1919 to be immoral? The Palestinians (the native citizens of Palestine whether Jewish or not) have a right to self determination since mandate times. And this right was violated by Jewish colonists or on their behalf.

      • Talkback on July 29, 2019, 2:54 pm

        DaBakr: “… including the over two million non jews living as fully invested citizens…”

        That’s your deceptive way of saying that they are neither enjoying full citizenship rights nor equality since only Jews are nationals. Like the Reichsbuerger in Nazi Germany where Jews were only “citizens”, too.

    • Misterioso on July 29, 2019, 10:00 am


      You known nothing. like Egypt and other “friends” of the U.S., medieval, monstrous and corrupt Saudi Arabia’s greatest fear is that the desire for democracy throughout the Arab world, including the KSA is rapidly gathering steam. Given its racist, fascistic nature, illegal occupations of Arab lands and oppression/dispossession of indigenous Palestinian Arabs now well known globally, including the U.S., its no surprise that “Israel” is cozying up to MbS as well as other fascistic regimes around the world, e.g., that of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, i.e., “birds of a feather.” The criminal alliance between Trump’s U.S., the KSA and “Israel” comprises a gang of devious murderous thugs. It will not survive. The “Arab street” from Morocco to Iraq despises the KSA and also stands with the Palestinians, as does Iran.

  3. Ossinev on July 29, 2019, 7:17 am

    “the futility of warring with Israel for 70yrs and gaining nothing”

    The Arabs including the Palestinians are by nature a very patient people. Like most Zionists you live in the past. By that I don`t mean the David and Goliath Wonderland of 3000 yrs ago when the “nation” of Israel existed for just about 90 years. No I mean the recent past as in 1967 /1973 when a heavily armed (by the US = qualitative edge arms) and a 1967 arguably motivated conscript mentality just about managed to win the day primarily due to the Pearl Harbour standard “pre-emptive” strike.
    Times have moved on. Israel with its 6 million Jews is still surrounded by hundreds of millions of Muslims who loath it and for very good reasons. and they are all now in possession of up to date high quality armaments and well disciplined and inventive troops (not to mention Hezbollah ). And not forgetting of course the 6 million approx Palestinian Arabs in their midst and unable to be ethnically cleansed.

    Yes Israel can bomb to smithereens from the air with F35s and missiles but it will be bombed to smithereens in return. As for a boots on the ground war – as I said it is 2019 not 1967. Israel as Hezbollah has proved would be mince meat particularly with an increasing core of the most moral more interested in Torah interpretation than tiresome military duties.

    Israel is not staring into the abyss. It is standing on the edge of the abyss but purposefully with its back to it.

    Tick tick

    • Misterioso on July 29, 2019, 11:12 am


      “… two million non jews living as fully invested citizens…”

      More nonsense!!

      A reminder:
      Reality regarding Palestinian Arab citizens of “Israel,” i.e. west of the green line: Israel is and always has been governed under an apartheid system:

      Hendrik Verwoerd, then prime minister of South Africa and the architect of South Africa’s apartheid policies, 1961: “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” (Rand Daily Mail, November 23, 1961)

      Jacobus Johannes Fouché, South African Minister of Defence during the apartheid era, compared the two states and said that “Israel” also practiced apartheid. (Gideon Shimoni (1980). Jews and Zionism: The South African Experience 1910-1967. Cape Town: Oxford UP. pp. 310–336. ISBN 0195701798.

      “Former Foreign Ministry director-general invokes South Africa comparisons. ‘Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”
      EXCERPT: “Similarities between the ‘original apartheid’ as it was practiced in South Africa and the situation in ISRAEL [my emphasis] and the West Bank today ‘scream to the heavens,’ added [Alon] Liel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria from 1992 to 1994. There can be little doubt that the suffering of Palestinians is not less intense than that of blacks during apartheid-era South Africa, he asserted.” (Times of Israel, February 21, 2013)

      Video: Israeli TV Host Implores Israelis: Wake Up and Smell the Apartheid

      In its 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, issued in 2016,the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor acknowledges the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.” (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)

      “Construction, Not Destruction”
      “While Israeli Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population, Arab communities’ jurisdictions occupy just 2.5 percent of the state’s land area, and the process of approving new construction in Arab towns takes decades.” (Haaretz Editorial, April 4, 2017)

      One example of apartheid within “Israel”:
      “Jewish town won’t let Arab build home on his own land ”
      Excerpt: “Aadel Suad first came to the planning and construction committee of the Misgav Local Council in 1997. Suad, an educator, was seeking a construction permit to build a home on a plot of land he owns in the community of Mitzpeh Kamon. The reply he got, from a senior official on the committee, was a memorable one. ‘Don’t waste your time,’ he reportedly told Suad. ‘We’ll keep you waiting for 30 years.’” (Haaretz, 14 December 2009)

      Adi Ophir, professor of philosophy, Tel Aviv University: “…the adoption of the political forms of an ethnocentric and racist nation-state in general, are turning Israel into the most dangerous place in the world for the humanity and morality of the Jewish community, for the continuity of Jewish cultures and perhaps for Jewish existence itself.” (1998 issue of “Theory and Criticism,” published in Israel)

      Ilan Pappe, then professor of political science at Haifa University: “[Israel’s] political system [is] exclusionary, a pro forma democracy – going through the motions of democratic rule but essentially being akin to apartheid or Herenvolk (‘master race’) democracy.” (“Jerusalem Report,” Feb. 14/2000)

      Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the struggle against the former South African apartheid regime, minister for intelligence and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

      Shlomo Gazit, retired IDF Major General: “[Israel’s] legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.” (Haaretz, July 19, 2011)

      “Israel” is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality, i.e., “Israeli” nationality does not exist, only Jews and non-Jews, and each citizen carries an appropriate identity card. While the implications of this absurdity for discrimination and racism against non-Jews are obvious, it has been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court.

      The effect of Israel’s blatantly racist “Citizenship Law” and more than fifty other restrictions Arab citizens have to endure is well expressed by writer and Knesset member, Ahmed Tibi, “…dutifully defining the state [of Israel] as ‘Jewish and democratic,’ ignores the fact that in practice ‘democratic’ refers to Jews, and the Arabs are nothing more than citizens without citizenship.” (Ma’ariv, 1.6.2005)

      • jon s on July 29, 2019, 4:49 pm

        Misterioso, “each citizen carries an appropriate identity card” -wrong.
        All citizens and residents carry the same ID card, regardless of ethnicity.

      • Talkback on July 29, 2019, 11:19 pm

        jon s: “All citizens and residents carry the same ID card, regardless of ethnicity.”

        Oh really? Is the Hebrew calender also used for Nonjews to show their date of birth?

    • jon s on July 29, 2019, 4:11 pm

      A different opinion, from a person who knows what he’s talking about:

      • eljay on July 29, 2019, 5:04 pm

        || jon s: A different opinion, from a person who knows what he’s talking about: … ||

        He’s right: Apartheid South Africa wasn’t a deliberately and unapologetically oppressive, colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State”.

        I like how well and succinctly he sums up Zionism (Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”):

        … A mass return [of non-Jewish refugees] would destroy Israel as a Jewish state, which is the whole purpose of its existence. …

        Thanks, jon s. It was very helpful of you to link to that article.

      • Talkback on July 29, 2019, 11:13 pm

        Well jon s, just another South African born Israeli who needs to distract from the main issues.

        It almost seems that the author has to deny the existence of the Crime of Apartheid as defined in international law and Israel’s now constitutionally enshrined Only-Jews-are-National-in-Israel policy,

        His claim that “Israeli Arabs have the vote and enjoy full citizen rights” is absolutely deceptive for two reasons.

        1.) The majority of “Arabs” who should be Israelis according to customary law and human rights (and the partion plan) are kept expelled, denationalized and therefore out of the voting process . This inhumane methods are intended to maintain Jewish dominance through a fake Jewish majority which amounts to full bore Apartheid and “apartheid-style racial segregation.”
        2.) if Israeli “Arabs” are not nationals they obviously do not enjoy “full” citizens rights which can only be enjoyed for priviliged nationals.

        And then he goes on comparing South Africa’s so called “petty” Apartheid to Israel’s. Of course it’s not similar, but this is absolutely irrelevant for the “grand” Apartheid as defined in international law.

        He totally ommits that Jews in occupied territories don’t live under martial, but civilian law which means that there are two different laws for two people. And he also totally ommits that there are about 50 laws in Israel which racially differentiate between Jews and Nonjews while claiming that only “South African apartheid rigidly enforced racial laws.”

        And at the end with have the usual lie that it would be uniquely to Palestinians that the descendants of the first generation refugees are refugees, allthough this is standard practice under UNHCR, too.

        He even claims that a “mass return would destroy Israel as a Jewish state”, but without admitting that this is exactly the reason why the Palestinans were expelled or at least kept expelled (racially segregated by law) in the first place.

        Does this really convince you, jon s or are you as desperate as he is?

      • RoHa on July 29, 2019, 11:47 pm

        IT doesn’t matter much whether the evil of Israel is the same as the evil of South Africa or not. It is evil regardless.

      • oldgeezer on July 31, 2019, 10:47 am

        I love how jon s confers the honour of knowing what he’s talking about upon pogrund. In doing so he overlooks, even denigrates, the statements made by Black South Africans who were the victims of apartheid and clearly know what the structure of oppression looks like.

        The relevant comparison is not with South Africa anyway jon. The relevant comparison is with the codified crime of apartheid of which Israel is clearly guilty.

        btw the article adds nothing useful. It’s a mere regurgitation of some of the more asinine zionist talking points.

    • DaBakr on July 29, 2019, 9:09 pm

      Tell that to the Supreme Court Justice that sentenced the Jewish former president to jail. There are 1000s of others but start with that since you think I “know nothing”

      Meanwhile, Israel, with its 2 million non jews is just chugging along. On the abyss? Delusional a bit?

  4. Elizabeth Block on July 29, 2019, 9:33 am

    In 1804 when the Duke of Enghien was executed by Napoleon, the Bonapartist minister of police Joseph Fouché said of the incident, “It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder”.

    Another nasty thing Saudi Arabia, under MBS’s leadership, has done: Support China’s cultural genocide (and perhaps physical genocide to come) of its Uyger population.

  5. bluecharm91 on July 29, 2019, 9:47 am

    Saudi Arabia’s stance is clear. They will always stand with the Palestinians cause. They ask that Israel should stop occupation from continuing heinous practices that are still imposed on Palestinian people.

    • Misterioso on July 29, 2019, 11:20 am


      You’re correct, the Saudi Arabian people will always stand with the “Palestinian cause.”
      However, its despotic, corrupt rulers, desperate for survival in a region increasingly desirous of democracy, are jumping in bed with “Israel,” and the U.S., i.e., enemies of the Palestinians.

  6. bluecharm91 on July 29, 2019, 9:50 am

    earlier this week Saudi Arabia stated that there is a report which confirmed some serious problems being experienced by the Palestinian people as a result of continued Israeli violations of their basic rights.

  7. Ossinev on July 30, 2019, 1:14 pm

    “Oh really? Is the Hebrew calender also used for Nonjews to show their date of birth?”

    You raise an interesting point. ID Cards/Driving Licences/National Insurance details etc etc.
    Under the alleged “non – discriminatory” LOL Nation State Law what calendar is actually used on the documents ? What was the pre Nation State Law situation ?

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