Middle East Monitor / January 13, 2021
Saudi Arabia has condemned Israel’s approval of the construction of 800 new illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, calling it a threat to a peaceful political solution.
A statement by the kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said today: “We strongly condemn Israel’s decision to approve the establishment of 800 new settlement units in the West Bank, and we reiterate our categorical rejection of this step as a new violation of international legitimacy decisions, a threat to peace, and an undermining of efforts for the two-state solution.”
The condemnation comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday ordered for the proceeding of plans to construct 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the settlements of Beit El, Tal Menashe, Rehelim, Shavei Shomron, Barkan, Karnei Shomron and Givat Zeev. A date for the beginning of the construction has not yet been given, however.
Despite repeated warnings from Israel’s allies against the building of settlements in the West Bank – deemed illegal under international law – Tel Aviv has persisted with its construction efforts in order to further spread throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and gain control of strategic areas.
France has also condemned Israel’s decision.
Saudi Arabia’s own condemnation comes amid speculation that it could normalise relations with Israel in the near future, following in the steps of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco last year.
The kingdom has not ruled out that possibility, but has insisted that the Palestinians must first be guaranteed their rights and equal representation before any move for normalisation. As Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan stated in October last year: “We have always envisioned that normalisation would happen, but we also need to have a Palestinian state and a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan.”
There has been some pushback in the warming relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, with Saudi prince and former senior official Turki Al-Faisal last month calling out Israel for building an “apartheid wall“, putting Palestinians in concentration camps, and denying equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens.