Washington Watch: Who's the real spoiled child?

Whos the real spoiled c

Don't you just love it when a leader of one of the world's most repressive, corrupt, feudal monarchies lectures the only democracy in his part of the world on how to behave? Had the criticism come from a mature and responsible government, it could be taken seriously, but not when the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia calls Israel a spoiled child and demands that the rest of the world force it to accede to Arab demands. When Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Israel "does what it wants without being questioned or punished," he was more accurately describing his own country which, by accident of geology, has been able to thumb its nose at the rest of the world. When threatened, it cowers under the American nuclear umbrella while demanding that American forces come to the rescue, then quickly vacate Saudi soil and wait over the horizon until called again. That's what happened when Saddam Hussein was at the gates, and it's happening again in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Yet when President Barack Obama asked the king for help in brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he was brusquely turned down, and just in case the message didn't get through, his foreign minister delivered it publicly in Washington, on the steps of the State Department. His only message: Lean harder on Israel. PRINCE SAUD, in an interview last week, again accused Israel of not being serious about peace - empty words from one of the Arab world's greatest facilitators of terrorism. The country that produced 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers - it's on the new US list of terrorism-prone nations - is the chief Arab financial and political backer of Islamist Hamas, the primary obstacle to Palestinian unity under the leadership of the secular nationalist Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas. The Saudis pay lip service to an independent democratic Palestinian state, but that's got to be the last thing they'd want, for fear it would set an untenable example for their own people. If Muslim women are looking for a place in the Middle East where they can be free to vote, speak their minds, pursue education and careers of their choice, practice their religion as they choose, dress as they wish, drive a car and travel on their own, they should stay out of Saudi Arabia. In fact, they're probably better off in Israel than in any Arab country. A Saudi journalist and human rights activist has called her country "the world's largest women's prison." Freedom of religion is nonexistent in the kingdom, which is dominated by the extremist Wahhabi strain of Islam. Non-Muslims are forbidden from publicly practicing their religion; more moderate Muslims live in perpetual fear. The Economist's Democracy Index lists Saudi Arabia as the seventh most authoritarian regime among the 167 countries rated. The latest US State Department report on human trafficking says the kingdom doesn't even meet "minimum standards for elimination of trafficking, and is not making discernible efforts to do so." That means no prosecution or punishment for sexual slavery, involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. International human rights organizations consistently condemn its practice of torture, floggings, honor killings and death penalties for homosexual behavior and adultery. HOW DOES the kingdom respond to such accusations? It dismisses them as "lies" and defends its actions as consistent with Islamic law. And what does the rest of the world do about it? Bupkis. That's the self-anointed paragon of virtue with the chutzpah to call Israel a spoiled child. Don't misunderstand. Israel isn't perfect - far from it - but it can appear that way next to the likes of Saudi Arabia. Is Israel overindulged by the rest of the world, as Saud said? Hardly. Just look at the United Nations, where the Saudis and their friends consistently pass anti-Israel resolutions with barely an objection. If any country is overindulged and immature, it is Saudi Arabia, whose vast wealth and oil allows it to act with impunity. For all its pompous piety in preaching peace, and Saud's charge that Israel is not serious about peace, it is the Saudis who are all talk and no action. They are in the best position in the Arab world to break the impasse, but won't lift a finger to help and instead are the enablers for rejectionists like Hamas. For all their finger-pointing and attacks on Israel, when it comes to peacemaking, the sanctimonious Saudis remain part of the problem, not part of the solution. Saudi Arabia needs our protection and markets more than we need its oil. What we really need is a Manhattan Project to end our dependence on foreign oil and stop letting corrupt feudal potentates and patrons of terrorism hold us over a barrel. That will make us freer, stronger, safer and more prosperous.