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PA issues list of demands for Saudi-Israel deal

Ramallah wants a resumption of Saudi funding, the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and increased control in Judea and Samaria.

Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, Sept. 3, 2020. Credit: Flash90.
Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, Sept. 3, 2020. Credit: Flash90.

The Palestinian Authority wants more control over areas of Judea and Samaria, the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and the resumption of Saudi financial support in return for supporting a Saudi-Israel normalization deal.

“Senior [P.A. President Mahmoud] Abbas adviser Hussein al-Sheikh, who is leading the consultations on the issue with Riyadh, gave Saudi national security adviser Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban the list of possible deliverables three months ago,” Axios reported on Wednesday.

Riyadh has already proposed resuming financial assistance to the P.A., according to Saudi officials and former Palestinian officials. Earlier this month, Riyadh appointed its first-ever non-resident envoy to the P.A., who will double as consul general to Jerusalem.

The list of demands suggests Palestinian leaders are taking a more practical approach to Saudi-Israel normalization than it did in 2020 to the Abraham Accords. It described that deal between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”

This time, the P.A. appears ready to accept a pact in return for concrete gains. It seeks to expand its footprint in Judea and Samaria by demanding more control in Areas B and C. Judea and Samaria is divided into three administrative zones under the Oslo Accords. Only Area A is under full P.A. civil and security control.

Its request for a reopening of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem will strengthen its claim to part of Israel’s capital. The U.S. consulate had acted as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians before the Trump administration shuttered it in March 2019.

A resumption of Saudi funding will help shore up the P.A. economy, which is in shambles. Saudi Arabia had contributed billions to Palestinian causes until cutting off funding in 2016 over P.A. corruption. Aid dropped from $174 million a year in 2019 to zero in 2021.

Saudi officials for their part are eager to secure Abbas’s support. The kingdom is sensitive to allegations it is sacrificing the Palestinian quest for a state for its own goals, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Even though Saudi Arabia occupies a leading position among Muslims due to its control over Islam’s holiest sites, it must tread carefully to avoid antagonizing Muslims for whom the Palestinian cause is a central issue.

Meanwhile, Israel has concerns about Saudi Arabia’s own demands regarding a normalization agreement. Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met on Wednesday with Brett McGurk, U.S. National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, to request clarification regarding the kingdom’s demand for U.S. assistance in building out its civilian nuclear program.

Specifically, Israel has questions about the fuel cycle, which could potentially allow the Saudis to enrich uranium independently, Hebrew media reported.

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