The Saudi government says they have given the Palestinians $6 billion in aid since the year 2000. So Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has good reason publicly to declare his support for Saudi Arabia in the standoff with the rest of the world over the Jamal Khashoggi affair. Pictured: Abbas presents Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz with a gift on December 30, 2015 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/Palestinian Press Office via Getty Images)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not wait for Saudi Arabia to admit that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Turkey. Days before the Saudi announcement, Abbas decided that he and the Palestinians have "absolute confidence" in King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and this son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
As Abbas was busy praising the Saudis for their "justice, values and principles," the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria issued a statement in which it accused the Saudi authorities of preventing Palestinian refugees from entering the kingdom.
"Palestinian refugees fleeing war-ravaged Syria have been denied access into Saudi territories," the group said. It pointed out that the Saudi ban excluded Palestinians heading to the kingdom to perform the Islamic hajj, or pilgrimage. The group also pointed out that Palestinians who fled Syria to Saudi Arabia "have been shorn of their right to visas, education, and health care, among other vital services." Saudi Arabia, the group added, "continues to opt for a closed-door immigration policy regarding Palestinian refugees seeking asylum in its territories."
This is only one example of Saudi discrimination against the Palestinians. The group's announcement was published on the same day that Abbas was heaping praise on the Saudi leaders.
In a statement issued by his office on October 14, Abbas, who described himself as the "President of the State of Palestine," said he "appreciated the positions of Saudi Arabia, a country that has always stood, and continued to do so, on the side of our just cause and the rights of our people." The statement quoted Abbas as expressing "absolute confidence" in the Saudi monarch and his son and said that "Palestine has always stood next to Saudi Arabia, and will continue to do so."
This announcement of blind support for the Saudi king and crown prince came as the international community was still demanding answers from the Saudi government concerning the disappearance of Khashoggi.
No one knows on what basis Abbas decided to voice, on behalf of all Palestinians, "absolute confidence" in the Saudi leaders at a time when the Saudis were still denying responsibility for the disappearance and murder of the columnist.
Abbas's support for Saudi Arabia could be directed against Qatar, which he believes is backing his rivals in Hamas.
Relations between Abbas's Palestinian Authority and Qatar have been strained after the emirate decided to buy Israeli fuel for the power plant in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as part of an effort to solve the power shortage there. Abbas's aides have accused Qatar of "meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians" by helping the residents of the Gaza Strip and Hamas.
Last year, Saudi Arabia and several Arab countries severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over the emirate's alleged support for terrorism, especially the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
On the same day the Saudis finally admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside their consulate, Abbas released yet another statement in which he again expressed full support for Saudi Arabia. This time, Abbas went a step further by publishing the statement on behalf of the "State of Palestine."
Here is what the statement, which was released in Ramallah, said about the Khashoggi affair and the Saudi admission that the columnist was killed during a "fight" inside the diplomatic mission in Turkey:
"The State of Palestine affirmed that Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, shall remain the country of justice, values and principles. The State of Palestine has praised the decisions taken by the Custodian of the Holy Sites (King Salman) to implement justice, fairness, truth and law."
First, it is worth noting that Abbas and the Palestinians were not the only Arabs and Muslims publicly to embrace the Saudi leaders in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Khashoggi affair. Several Arab and Islamic countries, including Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Djibouti, and Mauritania have also issued similar statements expressing full support for King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and his son.
The Arab League has also come out in support of the Saudi leadership. A statement issued by the Arab League praised Saudi Arabia for its "measures to achieve justice and hold accountable" those responsible for the Khashoggi killing.
It is not hard to imagine why so many Arab and Islamic countries would rush to heap praise on Saudi Arabia even before the full details of the Khashoggi case remain unclear. Many Arabs and Muslims can hardly afford to alienate a country as rich as Saudi Arabia. This is a good example of "money talks."
However, this does not mean that the Saudi money will ever change the hearts and minds of Palestinians, especially with regards to a peace agreement with Israel. Some Palestinians have been suspicious of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's intentions.
Earlier this year, Palestinians across the political spectrum launched a scathing attack on the crown prince after he was quoted as having told Jewish leaders in New York that Palestinians should accept US President Donald Trump's upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East or "shut up."
Abbas is not different from the rest of his Arab and Muslim brothers. His statements of support for the Saudi leadership are in the context of his wish that the Saudis will give his Palestinian Authority financial aid. The Saudis claim that they have given the Palestinians $6 billion since the year 2000.
Abbas, therefore, has good reason publicly to declare his support for Saudi Arabia in the standoff with the rest of the world over the Khashoggi affair. The $6 billion that the Palestinians received in the past 18 years from the Saudis are sufficient to make Abbas and other Palestinian leaders declare their support for the king and his son even if they commit a crime as bad as demolishing the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Saudi money also explains why Abbas and his top aides have been silent over the way Saudi Arabia treats Palestinians. This is not the sort of treatment that makes the Palestinian leadership proud. However, when a wealthy country like Saudi Arabia humiliates your people, it is not a good idea to complain too loudly.
Last month, it was reported that Saudi Arabia has banned Palestinians holding temporary Jordanian passports from entering the country. The move, according to the reports, basically affects more than 600,000 Palestinians, who will not be able to perform the hajj to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Another report said that Saudi Arabia has issued new directives banning up to 300,000 Palestinians in Lebanon from performing the pilgrimage.
Perhaps these reports about the Saudi discrimination against Palestinians have not reached Abbas's ears. Or perhaps they have, but why should he or any other Palestinian leader care about the plight of his own people if the perpetrators are so wealthy and influential?
In fact, the mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of their Arab brethren has never been of concern to Abbas and his leadership. They are silent when Palestinians are killed and expelled from their homes in Syria. They are silent when Palestinians face discrimination and apartheid laws in Lebanon. This is because Abbas and the Palestinian officials do not seem to care much about what happens to their people in the Arab countries. Now, it is also clear that they do not care about what Saudi Arabia does to their own people (or to a dissident Saudi columnist) -- just let that Saudi cash keep flowing into the Palestinian coffers.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.