Saudi Arabia’s Top Diplomat Demands Israel Set a Path Toward a Palestinian Arab State 

The dispute over Gaza’s future pits Israel against its top ally, America, as well as much of the international community and poses a major obstacle to any plans for postwar governance of the coastal enclave.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, on December 8, 2023, at Washington. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

JERUSALEM — Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said the kingdom would not normalize relations with Israel or contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible pathway to a Palestinian Arab state — a nonstarter for Israel’s government.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s remarks in an interview with CNN broadcast late Sunday were some of the most direct yet from Saudi officials. Prime Minister Netanyahu — who faces mounting domestic pressure over the plight of Israeli hostages, including an angry protest inside a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday — has rejected Palestinian Arab statehood.

The dispute over Gaza’s future — as the war still rages with no end in sight — pits Israel against its top ally, America, as well as much of the international community and poses a major obstacle to any plans for postwar governance or reconstruction of the coastal enclave that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

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

In September, Mr. Netanyahu had said Israel was on “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 offensive has caused unprecedented destruction — 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 October 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 Palestinian Arabs seek a state that would include Gaza, the West Bank, and eastern Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel — and the United States Congress and administration — views Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which is legislated policy of the United States.

Israel counts the West Bank, which comprises Judea and Samaria, as the historical and biblical heartland of the Jewish people. It has built scores of settlements across both territories that are home to hundreds of thousands of Jews. The last of several rounds of peace talks broke down nearly 15 years ago.

The New York Sun

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