Middle East Monitor / September 15, 2023
Saudi Arabian leaders last week assured a Palestinian Authority delegation that Riyadh “will not abandon” the Palestinian cause as it engages in negotiations with the United States about normalizing ties with the occupation state of Israel, US and Arab officials told the Times of Israel on Wednesday.
The US and the Arab officials said the message was passed along in multiple meetings between the PA delegation and senior Saudi officials, including Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan.
The PA delegation, led by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein Al-Sheikh, PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi, discussed a series of measures it would like to see advanced in the context of a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Last month, officials told The Times of Israel that the PA is seeking “irreversible” steps from Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US, such as Washington’s support for recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, the US reopening its consulate in Jerusalem that historically served Palestinians, the scrapping of congressional legislation characterizing the PA as a “terror organization”, the Israeli transfer of West Bank territory to Palestinian control, and the razing of illegal Jewish outposts in the occupied West Bank.
These and other measures were presented in last week’s meetings.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has conveyed to Washington that advancing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a critical component of a potential normalization deal that America is brokering between Riyadh and Jerusalem.
“It’s also clear from what we hear from the Saudis that if this [Israel normalization] process is to move forward, the Palestinian piece is going to be very important too,” Blinken told the Pod Saves the World podcast. “That’s clearly something that’s important to the Saudis in doing any kind of deal. It would be important to us too.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, however, insisted that the Palestinian issue is not as important to Saudi Arabia as commonly believed and that it has not been a significant component of the normalization talks that Riyadh has held with Washington.