TEL AVIV – Hamas slammed the Saudi government for “normalizing” relations with Israel by allowing a delegation to visit Jerusalem for a series of meetings last week.
A team of academics and businessmen from the Kingdom, led by retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki, arrived in the country for an unprecedented visit to meet their peers and government officials in an effort to renew the dialogue surrounding the Arab Peace Initiative. The API, a Saudi-led framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians first initiated in 2002, would see 57 Arab and Muslim nations normalize ties with Israel upon reaching a final status agreement with the Palestinians.
Gaza-based terror group Hamas rejects any peace overtures and demanded that Saudi Arabia “take measures to prevent these normalizing visits that [Israel] uses to undermine the rights of Palestinians and penetrate into the [Muslim] nation in thought and culture.”
According to a statement published on Hamas’ website, many Saudis are furious at the delegation and at the former general for visiting Israel.
Eshki met with Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and several Knesset members from the opposition.
However, according to the Times of Israel, the meetings with Gold and Mordechai did not take place at official Israeli government facilities but at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
Even though it is unlikely the Eshki-led delegation traveled to Israel without the Saudi government’s blessing, a source from the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the visit “does not reflect the views of the Saudi government,” according to the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper.
Even though Hamas has expressed support for Saudi Arabia, it is not necessarily reciprocal, with Saudi officials expressing their disdain for Iran’s use of proxies – including Hamas and Hezbollah – to “create chaos” in the region.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have no diplomatic ties and their citizens are denied entrance to their respective countries.