Despite war, Saudi Arabia ‘absolutely’ interested in peace deal with Israel

‘But we can’t live with Israel without a Palestinian state,’ the Saudi envoy said in remarks to the BBC.

By World Israel News Staff

Saudi Arabia has expressed continued interest in a normalization agreement with Israel, despite the ongoing war in Gaza, the kingdom’s envoy said on Tuesday.

Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, confirmed Riyadh’s “absolute” openness to establishing ties with Israel – contingent on the formation of a Palestinian state – in a BBC radio interview.

“Absolutely there’s interest, there’s been interest since 1982 and before,” Bandar stated, acknowledging Saudi Arabia’s long-standing willingness to recognize Israel. However, he emphasized that this recognition is contingent on the establishment of a Palestinian state: “But we can’t live with Israel without a Palestinian state.”

Discussions for a potential deal were reportedly in advanced stages prior to the October 7 Hamas attack. “The discussions had been going on for quite some time… it was close, there was no question,” Bandar revealed.

Several reports emerged after October 7 that the Hamas invasion of southern Israel was an attempt to scuttle the brewing normalization deal between Jerusalem and Riyadh.

Read  Biden breaks silence on pro-Hamas campus protests

“The final endpoint definitely included nothing less than an independent state of Palestine. And while we still — going forward, even after October 7 — believe in normalization, it does not come at the cost of the Palestinian people,” Bandar said.

Saudi Arabia has yet to condemn the murder, rape, and torture perpetrated by Hamas. It has, however, condemned Israel for its “inhumane” campaign against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud, called for an immediate ceasefire last month.

Bandar expressed a need for compromise from both sides for a resolution, while also highlighting the necessity of both the Palestinian Authority and international involvement in post-war Gaza, as well as full acceptance for stability .

“Without question you can’t do it without the Israelis accepting it, so the big stopping point to this is Israel, not everyone else,” he said.

He evaded a question about Hamas’ role in a future Palestinian state, saying, “there’s always room for change if you have optimism and hope, but when there’s a conflict, the first thing you have to recognize is that both sides have lost. And when both sides lose, both sides are then willing to compromise. And if there’s no compromise there’s no solution.”

Read  Biden administration considering allowing Gaza refugees into the US – report

Bander’s remarks coincide with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, where discussions suggested that normalization talks were still on the table. Blinken emphasized the need for the Gaza conflict to end and a viable pathway to a Palestinian state for such talks to progress.

As part of his Middle East tour, Blinken is in Israel to address the escalating conflict with Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border. He also urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to minimize civilian harm in Gaza,” in a meeting between the two on Tuesday.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby in November confirmed that Saudi Arabia was still interested in a normalization agreement with Israel, in exchange for Washington’s military protection of Riyadh in case of an attack by Iran.