Saudis softening demand on Palestinian state to normalize relations – report

Riyadh badly wants a defense deal with US, say sources, but a sop to the masses is critical.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Saudi Arabia is willing to normalize relations with Israel even if it only receives a “political commitment” and not a material plan for a Palestinian state, Reuters reported Friday.

Two senior kingdom sources say that officials “have told their U.S. counterparts that Riyadh would not insist Israel take concrete steps to create a Palestinian state and would instead accept a political commitment to a two-state solution,” the report said.

Citing three regional sources, the news agency said that Riyadh’s primary concern is to sign a defense deal with the U.S. before November’s elections as protection against Iran’s hegemonic ambitions.

The Biden administration had long hinged such a deal on the Saudis establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, and progress was reportedly being made in this direction last year, with barely a mention being made of the Palestinian issue.

It is believed that a major reason that Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, sparking off the current war, was to show especially the Arab world that Palestinian demands could not be ignored. The Saudis indeed backed off, and began talking of the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state as a condition of this tripartite agreement.

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Riyadh has also been asking Washington to use its considerable influence over Israel to stop the war and allow more humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, as anger among the Saudi people has grown over the continued sights of Gazan suffering due to the fighting.

The Sunni kingdom would then not only normalize relations, but also pay for a good part of the massive reconstruction that will be necessary in the coastal enclave, a source said.

“If Israel stopped its military offensive on Gaza – or at least declared a ceasefire – it would make it easier for Saudi Arabia to go ahead with the deal,” the source said.

Israel and Hamas re currently indirectly discussing some kind of deal for the release of 106 hostages still left alive in captivity of the 250 originally abducted during the terrorists’ surprise invasion in which they massacred 1,200 people.

Hamas is also holding some 29 bodies of kidnap victims, as well as those of two IDF soldiers from 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and two live, mentally disturbed Israelis who crossed into Gaza of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

The terror group is demanding a cessation to the war and IDF withdrawal from Gaza, which is a nonstarter for Jerusalem, as well as most of the Israeli public. In addition, although the softened Saudi position would ostensibly ring well in Washington ears, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would find it politically very difficult to commit to any kind of commitment in favor of a Palestinian state, having rejected the idea outright many times when pressed for acquiescence by President Biden as well as other Western leaders.

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