Israel-Saudi peace deal likely within 6 months, says Israeli FM; Saudis may ‘bribe’ Abbas

Saudis may bribe PA to accept their normalization with Israel, as Israeli Foreign Minister predicts breakthrough in next six months.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Saudi Arabia is prepared to pay the Palestinian Authority (PA) to gain its acquiescence to Riyadh’s normalization of relations with Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Former Palestinian officials and Saudi officials who are involved in the discussions say that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, raised the suggestion of restoring the kingdom’s financial support with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in April.

The Saudis cut its aid to the PA by over 80% in 2019, to some $32 million per year, although it also consistently supports the UN’s Palestinian refugee program, UNRWA, with some $27 million donated in 2022.

The pledge was made conditional on Abbas retaking control over security in the territory it controls in Judea and Samaria and bringing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups there into line. The Journal’s sources said that it was also “a sign of the Saudi effort to overcome obstacles and establish diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Eliminating PA opposition to Riyadh establishing diplomatic relations with Israel would help legitimize the move, the officials said, removing the most likely source of opposition to such a deal within the Arab world.

The PA, which is in dire financial straits, has not closed the door in MBS’ face, the report said. According to the paper’s sources, the PA will send a group of senior officials to Riyadh next week to see what gains the Saudis can make on their behalf with Israel in return for a deal.

The Palestinians reacted with extreme anger when other Muslim countries normalized relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords – Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan.

Any agreement would have to involve the United States as well, since most of the Saudi demands revolve around American aid in establishing a civilian nuclear program in the kingdom and tightening U.S-Saudi defense ties.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has been publicly extremely optimistic about normalization with the vast Gulf country.

In his latest statement on the subject, he told Israel National News on Tuesday, “Benjamin Netanyahu is the one who will lead the agreement with Saudi Arabia – and I believe it can happen, it is within reach, within the next six months.”

Speaking at a Binyamin Regional Council event, Cohen noted the latest diplomatic achievements in the Muslim world, with two Muslim-majority countries opening embassies in Israel “in just the last six months.”

Azerbaijan, the first Shi’ite state to inaugurate an embassy in Israel, did so in Tel Aviv in March, three decades after establishing diplomatic relations with Israel that are warm and strong. Chad, which has about a 55% Sunni Muslim population, opened its representation a month earlier in Ramat Gan, five years after relations were renewed with the Jewish state.