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Saudis condition Israel ties on Palestinian state, Gaza withdrawal

It was previously reported that Riyadh would accept a declaration by Jerusalem on a two-state solution for normalization.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Feb. 5, 2024. Source: X.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Feb. 5, 2024. Source: X.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday clarified that it will not establish diplomatic relations with Israel until there is a Palestinian state, an end to the war against Hamas and a complete military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The Saudi foreign ministry statement came in direct response to comments made by White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby during Tuesday’s daily press briefing regarding a potential U.S.-brokered normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh.

“We certainly received positive feedback from both sides that they’re willing to continue to have those discussions,” said Kirby.

This prompted Riyadh to issue a statement clarifying its stance on moving forward with a normalization agreement.

“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the U.S. administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.

Polling shows that a majority of Israelis are against the establishment of a Palestinian state in exchange for Saudi ties and don’t want to stop the war in Gaza until Hamas is defeated, a stated goal of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the War Cabinet. The terrorist group initiated the conflict with its bloody Oct. 7 invasion of the northwestern Negev, in which some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered, thousands more wounded and over 250 taken hostage.

Riyadh put Israeli normalization talks on ice after the Oct. 7 massacre and ensuing war, but is maintaining that a potential deal is still on the table.

According to a report in Reuters last Friday, citing three unnamed sources, behind the scenes Riyadh is taking a more flexible position on Palestinian statehood in a bid to secure a defense pact with Washington before the November U.S. presidential election.

The Saudis would suffice with a declared Israeli commitment to the two-state solution to normalize ties with Jerusalem as part of a broad agreement, according to the report.

Riyadh’s primary goals are to shore up its security due to intensifying threats from Iran and forge ahead with diversifying its oil-based economy by attracting foreign investment.

To achieve this goal, the Saudi monarchy is willing to accept a political commitment by Jerusalem to the two-state solution, according to Reuters. To this end, Riyadh has been urging Washington to apply pressure on Israel to end the war against Hamas and agree to a “political horizon” for establishing a Palestinian state.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his sixth trip to the Middle East region since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Saudi Arabia, where on Monday in Riyadh he met with the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In addition to discussing the war in Gaza and reducing regional tensions, they talked about the “importance of building a more integrated and prosperous region,” according to a State Department readout.

Shortly before the Oct. 7 attack, it appeared that progress was being made on bringing the Sunni Muslim kingdom into the Abraham Accords, the 2020 diplomatic pact brokered by the Trump administration that established ties between Israel and four Arab nations—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

On Sept. 29, Kirby announced that Jerusalem and Riyadh had “hammered out” the contours of a possible American-mediated normalization agreement.

“All sides have hammered out, I think, a basic framework for what, you know, what we might be able to drive at,” he said.

The weekend before the Hamas attack, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia was not conditioning a peace deal with Israel on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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