Al-Jazeera / December 4, 2020
Prince Faisal bin Farhan quashes speculation that Saudi Arabia may be set to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
Rome, Italy – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has said Saudi Arabia would only normalise ties with Israel within a plan that would deliver a sovereign state to Palestinians, quashing speculation that the kingdom may soon become the latest Arab country to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
“What we need to make [normalisation of ties with Israel] happen is a peace deal that delivers a Palestinian state with dignity and with a workable sovereignty that Palestinians can accept,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Friday.
Prince Faisal was addressing an online talk at Med2020, a yearly international forum held every year in Italy’s capital Rome bringing together world leaders.
He said Saudi Arabia envisaged normalisation of ties with Israel in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borderlines.
“That deal would have to be negotiated, but what is important now is to bring back Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table to work towards a fair deal,” Prince Faisal said.
The so-called Abraham Accords were signed in September to normalise ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
The agreements, brokered by US President Donald Trump’s administration, included a freeze by Israel on planned annexation of Palestinian land.
Palestinian officials condemned the normalisation as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people”.
Prince Faisal said a normalisation of ties with Israel has long been part of Saudi Arabia’s vision.
“It was first put on the table in Fez in 1982 by then Crown Prince Fahad,” he said.
“We still have that same vision, whereby Israel becomes a normal part of the region, where it has fully normal relations with the neighbours. What we need to make it happen is to deliver a [Palestinian] state.”
The two-state solution closely reflects the Arab Peace Initiative, which was proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002. The initiative called for normalised relations between Israel and other Arab states in exchange for a full withdrawal by Israel from lands it occupied in the 1967 war, including the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The initiative was re-endorsed over the years by the Arab League but never implemented, as Israel continued its occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Just a few hours earlier, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also delivered Qatar’s take on the Abraham Accords to the Med2020 platform, saying Qatar did not consider them as helping the Palestinian cause.
Al Thani said the Palestinian issue would have to be at the core of any normalisation agreement between Qatar and Israel.
“If there are chances for peace, based on a just resolution of the Palestinian issue, establishing a [Palestinian] sovereign independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the Arab Peace Initiative, Qatar will go along with other countries in the region,” said the minister.
“Right now, I don’t see that the normalisation of ties between Qatar and Israel is going to add value to the Palestinian issue.”
Al Thani said Qatar had a “working relationship” with Israel aimed at facilitating the delivery of aid and development support to the Palestinian people.
“For the time being this relationship is sufficient to benefit our brothers in Palestine.”
Barbara Bibbo is an Italian journalist who has been living and working in the Middle East for the past 20 years