Israel normalization: Saudi Arabia wants ‘Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital’

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  September 26, 2023

In the first official Saudi visit to Palestine since the Oslo Accords in 1993, Ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi seeks to win Palestinian backing for normalization with Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Jordan, Nayef al-Sudairi, has said that the kingdom is “working towards establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital” during an official visit to the occupied West Bank.

Sudairi was part of a delegation of Saudi officials who arrived in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday to meet with Palestinian officials amid Riyadh’s bid for normalization with Israel.

The diplomat was recently appointed as the kingdom’s non-resident ambassador to Palestine.

During his visit, Al-Sudairi met with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, according to the foreign ministry in Ramallah. He will also be meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We welcome His Excellency the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the State of Palestine, who will present his official credentials to His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas within a few days,” senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.

The visit marks the first by Saudi officials to the occupied West Bank since the Oslo Accords in 1993, and comes against a backdrop of a warming of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Palestinian demands

PA President Mahmoud Abbas had earlier outlined a set of demands to Saudi Arabia in exchange for his support for the normalization of relations between Israel and Riyadh.

Earlier this month, Axios reported that the Palestinians want status changes to areas of the occupied West Bank at present considered Area C. These are currently off limits to the vast majority of Palestinian residents of the territory and are fully under Israeli military control.

Palestinian officials want the territories to be designated Area B, which are areas under Israeli security control but where the civilian administration is handled by the PA.

Other demands listed in the report include the opening of a Saudi consulate in Jerusalem and for the Israelis to resume final-status negotiations with a “clear timetable”.

On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave his first wide-ranging English language interview to Fox News where he spoke at length about Saudi negotiations with Israel over a normalization deal.

But during the discussion there was no mention of Palestinian statehood, civil and human rights, or any other specifics.

“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader told the US media outlet. “We hope that it will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians and get Israel back as a player of the Middle East,” he said.