Saudi-Israel deal would entail delay in sovereignty over Judea, Samaria for four years – report

Neither side is really interested in the Palestinian track but Riyadh officially wants something on the issue in order to please the U.S.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Saudi Arabia may be willing to normalize relations with Israel if the issue of applying sovereignty over most of Judea and Samaria is pushed off for four years, Israel Hayom reported Monday.

Neither Israel’s current government nor the Saudi de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Sultan (MBS), is in sync with the Biden Administration regarding the Palestinian issue, the report said.

Washington is reportedly pressing Israel for sweeping concessions to the PA, along with other demands, in exchange for what it would give Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with the Jewish state.

Israel Hayom noted that MBS would not be held back by the Palestinian issue from promoting his country’s vital interests. In his comment to a group of Jewish leaders a few years ago, referring to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he reportedly said, “I told Abu Mazen [Abbas’s nom de guerre] – the train (of normalization) has left the station. You decide if you get on it.”

It is also common knowledge that Bahrain and the UAE, the first two Arab countries to sign the Abraham Accords with Israel in 2020, would never have done so if the Saudis had not quietly agreed – even without political progress on the Palestinian track.

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For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the way to regional peace is “from the outside-in,” that is, by normalizing relations with Arab states and only then negotiating with the PA.

A senior official told Israel Hayom that the prime minister wasn’t going to alter this stance.

“Netanyahu will not change his principled and historical position on the Palestinian issue for a settlement with Saudi Arabia,” said the official. “The way to achieve a breakthrough depends on the talks between Washington and Riyadh. This is what the Saudis are asking for in exchange. The Palestinian issue is not on their order of priorities.”

What Riyadh wants is security in the face of the Iranian threat, despite their recent renewal of diplomatic relations. The kingdom’s major demands are the inking a NATO-like defense agreement with Washington, several major new arms deals, and assistance in setting up a civilian nuclear program.

Officially, however, s part of its price for normalizing relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia does back the PA demands for Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem as its capital. Israel Hayom speculated that Netanyahu could offer the same deal that he did to get Bahrain and the UAE to sign on the Accords three and a half years ago. In exchange for being able to “build a train to Riyadh,” he would delay any declaration of Israeli sovereignty in the disputed region for four years.

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In this he would take a leaf out of then-president Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” which allowed Israel to apply sovereignty immediately over a portion of Judea and Samaria. If four years of subsequent peace negotiations with the PA would fail, Jerusalem would be able to apply sovereignty in additional sections of the disputed region.

Netanyahu would very much like to have his legacy include an agreement with Saudi Arabia; upon winning the last elections, he said it was one of his administration’s goals.

But it is not an absolute necessity.

As the senior official also said, “Israel and Saudi Arabia maintain extensive ties under the table. Israel has no reason to take steps that would endanger it in Judea and Samaria for things that to a large extent are already happening.”