Saudi Arabia’s new ambassador to the Palestinian Authority officially visited the occupied West Bank for the first time on Tuesday, seeking ways for US-sponsored Saudi-Israel normalization negotiations to benefit the Palestinians.
(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia’s new ambassador to the Palestinian Authority officially visited the occupied West Bank for the first time on Tuesday, seeking ways for US-sponsored Saudi-Israel normalization negotiations to benefit the Palestinians.
“The interest of the crown prince in the Palestinian issue is not new and he’s keen for the region and the world to witness security and flourish,” Naif bin Bandar Al Sudairi, who is also ambassador to Jordan, told journalists before presenting his credentials to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki and President Mahmoud Abbas.
The visit comes as the Biden administration works with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a framework that would see Saudi Arabia normalize relations with Israel in exchange for firm security guarantees from the US and Israeli steps to preserve the possibility of a Palestinian state.
Normalization with Saudi Arabia would be a significant win for Israel. While it has established formal relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan since 2020, Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s largest economy and a major regional investor. It’s also the guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites, giving its stance weight in the broader Islamic world.
Biden administration officials have been shuttling back and forth to Riyadh for months, hoping to conclude a deal ahead of next year’s US presidential elections, but have also signaled that major obstacles remain, including over the fate of the Palestinians.
The naming of Sudairi as an envoy to the Palestinian Authority was an attempt by Riyadh to assure the Palestinians that their interests would not be lost in this process.
“I personally believe we will get a normalization deal ultimately with Saudi Arabia,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a confident of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in an interview Friday on Bloomberg Television.
A big question has been what the Netanyahu government, which is the most religious and right-wing in Israel’s history, will be willing to yield to the Palestinians.
The Saudi and broader Arab world back a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital but that seems, at best, a very distant possibility, given the hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, Israel’s claim on all of Jerusalem as its united capital, and the fierce divisions within Palestinian politics.
A Palestinian foreign ministry statement said Sudairi repeated his support for such a state and that he would also serve as consul general in Jerusalem to the State of Palestine.
Asked by reporters about a Saudi embassy in Jerusalem, Sudairi answered: “God-willing.”
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.