Last November, there were talks of a secret meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi officials have strongly denied the reports, but mutual concern over Iran has gradually brought Israel and the Gulf countries closer together.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan recently acknowledged that a normalization of Israel’s status would bring “tremendous benefit” to the region, but emphasized on similar comments made previously by Saudi Arabia that it must be within a plan that would deliver a sovereign state to Palestinians.
“It would be extremely helpful economically, socially and from a security perspective,” he said during a Thursday interview with CNN.
Saudi Arabia has for decades reaffirmed its policy of not establishing formal ties with Israel until the conflict has been resolved, with Prince Faisal reiterating that any deal with Israel was “very much dependent on progress with the peace process.”
He further noted that the process “can only be successful if we address the issue of the Palestinians, and if we are able to deliver a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders that gives the Palestinians dignity and gives them their rights.”
Prince Faisal made similar comments in early December during an online talk at Med2020, where he stated that “what we need to make happen is a peace deal that delivers a Palestinian state with dignity and with a workable sovereignty that Palestinians can accept.”
Last year, former US President Donald Trump brokered the Abraham Accords, which found four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – in agreement to normalize ties with Israel. Palestinian officials, however, condemned the agreement and called it “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”
In the recent interview, the Saudi foreign minister confirms that negotiations with Israel over Palestine have been on the table for years, highlighting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offered normalization with Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The 2002 initiative was repeatedly endorsed but has not been agreed upon. Reports suggest that Riyadh has been working on building relations with Israel for several years.
This also comes amid a simultaneous announcement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the US is revoking sanctions imposed on prosecutors and officials associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which recently announced that it would be examining alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli military in Palestinian areas, including Gaza and the West Bank territories.