update deskMiddle East

Riyadh summit to focus on push for Gaza ceasefire

The Arab foreign ministers are also slated to discuss rehabilitating the Strip after the war and further integrating Israel into the region.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (second from left) at a meeting with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, June 16, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (second from left) at a meeting with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, June 16, 2023. Source: Twitter.

Saudi Arabia is hosting a summit on the Gaza war on Thursday with the participation of the foreign ministers of four other Arab countries.

Two senior Arab diplomats said that the agenda for the Riyadh conference includes stepping up pressure for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which runs counter to Jerusalem’s goal of defeating the terrorist group, the Times of Israel reported.

Additionally, the ministers are slated to discuss plans to rehabilitate Gaza after the war and further integrate Israel into the region. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been promoting these goals during his latest Middle East diplomatic swing—his seventh visit to the region since Hamas’s massacre of some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7. Thousands more were wounded and more than 250 kidnapped during the attack.

According to the Arab diplomats, the Israeli integration is conditioned on Jerusalem agreeing to take steps to establish an “irreversible pathway to an eventual Palestinian state.”

Polling after the Oct. 7 attack shows widespread opposition among the Israeli public to creating a Palestinian state in exchange for Israeli-Saudi normalization. A recent survey also showed that a majority of Israelis don’t want to stop the war in Gaza until Hamas is defeated.

The top diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar will be in attendance at the meeting, which has not been publicized. They will be joined by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Hussein al-Sheikh, a top aide to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, is also expected at the summit.

Another topic to be discussed is reforming the P.A. in a significant way to facilitate its return to governing the Gaza Strip, an idea promoted by the United States but opposed by Israel, given Ramallah’s support for terrorism.

One of the diplomats said the Arab countries taking part in Thursday’s summit don’t want Hamas to play a role in the governance of Gaza after the war but believe the terrorist group will survive the war in some form and this will need to be accepted to advance the Strip’s rehabilitation.

This prediction goes against the Israeli aim to dismantle Hamas in Gaza.

“We are on our way to total victory,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared during a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday. “Total victory over Hamas will not take years. It will take months. Victory is within reach.

“The IDF is working miracles and working methodically to achieve all the goals that we set,” he said.

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