Saudi media reported this Sunday that the Kingdom has decided to pause negotiations with Israel over a normalization deal between the two.
According to a report by a Saudi-owned newspaper this Sunday, the Arab country has sent a letter to the Biden administration, announcing Washington that the Kingdom is no longer continuing the US-brokered efforts to normalize relations with Israel.
The reason for the unexpected announcement, as the report said, was that in the eyes of the Saudi leaders, Israel is not yet willing to make any concessions to the Palestinians as one of the Kingdom’s conditions for restoring ties with Tel Aviv.
“The extremist nature of Israel’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is torpedoing any possibility of rapprochement with the Palestinians, and thus with the Saudis,” the report said. Citing an Israeli official in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying, the Arab news outlet Elaph also noted in its report that the US has informed Israel of the Saud’s decision.
Recognizing Palestinians’ rights, a prerequisite for normalization with Israel
From the beginning of the normalization efforts between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has asserted that granting Palestinian rights is a main condition for any future deal of restoration of ties with Tel Aviv.
In this regard, it was last week on Wednesday when the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Saudi Arabia informed the Biden administration that resolving Palestinian issues is critical for any normalization deal with Israel.
“It is also clear from what we hear from the Saudis that if this process is to move forward, the Palestinian piece is going to be very important too,” Blinken said on Wednesday in an interview with the podcast Pod Save the World.
Israeli normalization with the Arab world and “any of the efforts that are going on to improve relations between Israel and its neighbors cannot be a substitute for Israel and the Palestinians resolving their differences and having a much better future for Palestinians,” Blinken said. “In our judgment that needs to involve a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he also explained.
Saudi Arabia’s announcement, a wake-up call for Israel’s illusions
Sunday report was in fact a wake-up call for Israeli leaders who seems to have taken the achievement of a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia so much for granted. To read between the lines, it was last month in August that Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stressed in an interview with Elaph news agency that the Palestinian issue is not an obstacle to peace.
“Saudi Arabia joining the expanding list of Arab and Muslim countries that have made peace with Israel would make history, and a visit to Israel by a Saudi foreign minister would be a day of celebration,” Cohen said.
Around the same date, Netanyahu stepped even further and indicated that he was open to gestures to Palestinians if a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia depended on it, and hinted that he would not let coalition members block an agreement.
“Do I think it’s feasible to have that, and do I think that political questions will block it? I doubt it,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Bloomberg. “If there’s political will, there will be a political way to achieve normalization and a formal peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. I think there’s enough room to discuss possibilities,” he added.
But members of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition rebuked his optimism and rejected the idea of any compromise with the Palestinians. “We will not make any concessions to the Palestinians. It’s a fiction,” Smotrich, the heads of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said speaking to Israel’s Army Radio in August.