Saudi Arabia's FM says won’t recognize Israel without path to Palestinian statehood

AP , Monday 22 Jan 2024

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says the kingdom will not normalize relations with Israel or contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible pathway to a Palestinian state.

Saudi FM
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud speaks on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Photo courtesy of Bloomberg

 

Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s remarks in an interview with CNN broadcast late Sunday were some of the most direct yet from Saudi officials. It puts them at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected Palestinian statehood and described plans for open-ended military control over Gaza.

The dispute over Gaza’s future — coming as the Israeli war on the territory still rages with no end in sight — pits the United States and its Arab allies against Israel and poses a major obstacle to any plans for postwar governance or reconstruction in Gaza.

Before the Israeli war began on 7 October, the U.S. had been trying to broker a landmark agreement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for U.S. security guarantees, aid in establishing a civilian nuclear program in the kingdom, and progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In September, Netanyahu had said Israel was “at the cusp” of such a deal, which he said would transform the Middle East.

In the interview with “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS,” the host asked: “Are you saying unequivocally that if there is not a credible and irreversible path to a Palestinian state, there will not be normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel?”

“That’s the only way we’re going to get a benefit,” Prince Faisal replied. “So, yes.”

Earlier in the interview, when asked if oil-rich Saudi Arabia would finance reconstruction in Gaza — where Israel’s air and ground invasion has devastated vast swaths of the impoverished territory, Prince Faisal gave a similar answer.

“As long as we’re able to find a pathway to a solution, a resolution, a pathway that means that we’re not going to be here again in a year or two, then we can talk about anything,” he said. “But if we are just resetting to the status quo before Oct. 7, in a way that sets us up for another round of this, as we have seen in the past, we’re not interested in that conversation.”

The Palestinians seek a state that would include Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital and the West Bank as the heartland of the Jewish people. It has built scores of illegal settlements across both territories that are home to hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers. The last of several rounds of peace talks broke down nearly 15 years ago.

OVER 25,000 KILLED IN GAZA
 

The Israeli war on Gaza has killed at least 25,105 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded more than 60,000, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Israeli military claim it has killed around 9,000 militants, without providing evidence.

Some 85 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes, seeking elusive shelter in the south as Israel continues to strike all parts of the besieged strip. U.N. officials say one in four people in Gaza are starving as relentless Israeli bombardment and restrictions hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The Israeli war has also stoked tensions across the region, with Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen attacking Israeli and U.S. targets as the risk of a wider conflict grows.

NETANYAHU UNDER MOUNTING PRESSURE FROM ALL SIDES
 

Netanyahu has vowed to continue the invasion until “complete victory” over Hamas and to return all of the remaining captives after more than 100 were released in a cease-fire deal in November in exchange for scores of Palestinian women and children imprisoned by Israel.

But Israelis are increasingly divided on the question of whether that’s possible.

Israel has only successfully rescued one captive, while Hamas says several have been killed in Israeli airstrikes or during failed rescue operations.

Families of the captives, as well as other protesters, have set up a tent camp outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem and vowed to remain until a deal is reached with Hamas to bring the rest of the captives home. Other protests have called for new elections.

Netanyahu has ruled out another cease-fire and exchange, saying military pressure is key to freeing the captives. Hamas has said it will only release more captives in exchange for an end to the war and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

The long-serving prime minister, whose popularity has plummeted since Oct. 7, faces pressure from the U.S. — Israel’s top ally — to shift to more precise military operations, do more to facilitate humanitarian aid and embrace postwar plans with broad support across the region.

But Netanyahu’s governing coalition is beholden to far-right parties that want to step up the invasion, forces hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to “voluntary” leave Gaza, and re-establish Israeli settlements there.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

Search Keywords:
Short link: