Saudi Arabia Nixes Israeli Normalization, Says Peace Deal First

In this Thursday, April 27, 2017 photo released by Saudi Press agency, SPA, Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reacts during the opening of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, GCC, Interior, Foreign, Defence Ministers Joint Meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Interior Ministry via AP)
Saudi Interior Ministry via AP

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it would not normalize relations with Israel without an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, breaking the kingdom’s silence since last Thursday’s announcement to establish diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“When we launched the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, we fully envisioned that there would be relations between all Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, and Israel. But from our perspective, the conditions for that are clear: Peace must be achieved between the Israelis and the Palestinians, on the basis of international parameters. Once this goal is achieved, anything is possible,” Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said at a press conference in Berlin with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.

The Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative stipulates Arab normalization with Israel in return for Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 borders.

However, far from condemning the UAE-Israel deal, Saudi Arabia said it “could be viewed as positive.”

The UAE said in return for the deal, it had succeeded in taking Israel’s plans to apply sovereignty over parts of the West Bank off the table.

Al Saud hailed the UAE over the move, and added: “We consider any unilateral Israeli measure taken to annex Palestinian territories or to build settlements as illegitimate and detrimental to the two-state solution, and any efforts to suspend those unilateral moves are appreciated.”

Egypt, Bahrain and Oman all welcomed the UAE deal, while the Palestinian leadership panned it as “despicable” and a “stab in the back.”

Senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat said that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states would “never” follow the UAE’s footsteps.

“The Gulf will never normalize with Israel. Saudi Arabia will never normalize with Israel. Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Arab and Islamic world. Saudi Arabia sees its security as emerging from within the Arab depth, rather than from outside forces,” Erekat told The Times of Israel.

President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner on Friday said normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel was only a matter of time.

“I do think we have other countries that are very interested in moving forward [with Israel] and as that progresses I do think that it’s an inevitability that Saudi Arabia and Israel will have fully normalized relations and they’ll be able to do a lot of great things together,” Kushner said.

Saudi Arabia’s undercover cooperation with Israel in recent years has been steadily increasing. Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has viewed Israel as a strategic partner against Iranian hegemonic aspirations.

 

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