Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is seriously considering organizing a summit like the one held at Camp David in 2000, this time with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Donald Trump. As reported by Middle East Eye, the prince has asked his task force to consider the possible scenario. This is the task force that he created to combat repercussions from the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
The site of the potential meeting would be Camp David itself, one of the residences of the U.S. president located in the mountainous area of northern Maryland. This was the setting of the summit in 2000 between then-President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
The Saudi Plan
As Middle East Eye explains it, the purpose of the likely summit is to cast the Saudi crown prince − who has been personally accused of Khashoggi’s murder and therefore discredited on the world stage − in a new light as a peacemaker, in the image of former Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat. In fact, at a 1978 summit organized by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which also took place at Camp David, Sadat shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. On that occasion, the Camp David Accords were signed, which led to the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979.
The two framework agreements, one for “peace in the Middle East” and another for the “conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel,” were signed after 12 days of negotiations. The meeting led Egypt to become the first Arab state to recognize Israel. Salman thinks that this type of summit would be a great opportunity to partially mend his reputation after Khashoggi’s death. Starting in January, in fact, the U.S. Congress could become even more hostile toward Riyadh, given that the Democrats will take control of the House while various Republican senators have openly accused the prince of ordering the murder of the Washington Post columnist.
As if that weren’t enough, in recent days, the U.S. Senate voted – in a nonbinding though powerfully symbolic decision − to end support (military and non-military) to Riyadh for Yemen, also singling out the crown prince as the one responsible for the dissident journalist’s death. The week before, senators had already clearly distinguished themselves from President Trump’s position, stating that there is no doubt as to the crown prince’s involvement in the brutal murder that took place at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Riyadh Looks to Israel To Remake Its Image
The crown prince has no choice but to turn to Israel to try to restore some of his authority in the United States. Nevertheless, the proposal to organize an official meeting with Netanyahu has divided the Saudi task force, which includes Saudi intelligence, the military, media officials, foreign officials and policy advisers. “Some voiced concern about the consequences of this on the Arab and Muslim world,” a source explained to Middle East Eye.
Others, to the contrary, are said to be less worried. “Salman is keen on the idea. He comes from a new generation and does not feel the weight of history on his shoulders. He has shown this repeatedly. He has no particular sympathy with the Palestinian cause,” the same source confirmed to the online newspaper. Meeting Netanyahu in the United States, therefore, could truly be the controversial crown prince’s next move. Will that be enough to recover his lost credibility?