Motasem A. Dalloul
Middle East Monitor / September 21, 2023
The normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israeli is in the news again, in what has become a will they-won’t they situation. Israel is eager to have formal ties with Saudi Arabia as it is the richest Arab country in the Middle East and has the weight and influence that makes it the main player in regional politics.
Saudi Arabia already has relations with Israel, of course, and Israeli companies operate in the Kingdom, including those responsible for security during the Hajj period in Makkah. However, it is keen to have formal relations with the apartheid state in order to get US arms supplies and have its own uranium enrichment facility.
For the US, having a formal and smooth relationship between its two major allies in the Middle East will be good for its own foreign policy. Washington’s interests in the region will be protected and it will be able to implement its policies with relative ease.
The losers in all of this are the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia is no friend of the Palestinians, despite recent claims by Riyadh’s foreign minister that an independent state of Palestine is essential for normalization to take place. Riyadh has been against the legitimate Palestinian resistance for more than two decades. Moreover, it has imposed severe restrictions on charities operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and the transfer of donations from Saudi citizens for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Anyone showing any kind of support for the Palestinian cause can expect to be imprisoned or worse
During the 17-year-old crippling Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, Saudi Arabia has basically abandoned the Palestinians living there. Saudi Imams are banned from praying for the Palestinians or mentioning them in their supplications in mosques across the Kingdom, especially in Makkah and Madinah. Anyone showing any kind of support for the Palestinian cause can expect to be imprisoned or worse.
I have heard Muslim pilgrims complaining of being suppressed by security officers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah when they prayed for the Palestinians, Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Appeals to the Almighty to rid Palestine and Al-Aqsa of the Zionists are simply not allowed by the Saudi regime.
With the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Palestinians will lose a fair-weather “friend” who used to be shy about dealing with the Israelis. This shyness pushed Riyadh to throw some crumbs to the Palestinians out of shame and embarrassment. Now it is all out in the open; Saud Arabia even has someone in Riyadh declaring that he is the “chief rabbi” of the Kingdom.
The PA… exists solely to protect Israel and the Israeli occupation
What about Saudi support for the Palestinian Authority, you may ask? The PA is not working for the Palestinians; it exists solely to protect Israel and the Israeli occupation. PA security officers are never there to protect Palestinians when they are attacked and abused by illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians engaged in legitimate — under international law — resistance against the occupation are tracked down, tortured and imprisoned by the PA. When the Israeli occupation forces killed five Palestinians the night before last in Jenin, the PA was busy detaining Palestinians in Nablus and other West Bank cities.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June that the regional normalization push with Israel has “limited benefits” without Palestinians being given a state of their own. “We believe that normalization is in the interest of the region, that it would bring significant benefits to all,” he said. As long as Saudi Arabia believes that benefits come from the Zionist entity killing your Palestinian brothers, occupying their land, demolishing their homes and desecrating religious sites, then you clearly do not care about them.
“Without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people, without addressing that challenge, any normalization will have limited benefits,” added the minister. What peace does Saudi Arabia want? The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative proposed by the Saudi regime called for two states in Palestine, one for Jews in the lands occupied in 1948 and the other for the Palestinians in the land occupied in 1967, in return for normalized relations.
The Saudis were thus willing to abandon more than two-thirds of historic Palestine and essentially condone the ethnic cleansing of the land from pre-1948 to today; the Nakba is ongoing. Have the Saudis not yet understood that Israel has never, ever, made any concessions on territorial or other issues? And that Zionism demands the creation of Greater Israel? The usurper state is expanding constantly, which is why Israel has never declared where its borders are. They will be wherever Israel can push them to be. All of this has happened even while the so-called “peace process” was going on; even as “normalization” and the “Abraham Accords” have been signed.
The Saudi foreign minister has repeatedly mentioned Saudi conditions for normalization, including the creation of a Palestinian state in the land occupied by Israel since 1967 alongside a Jewish state. “There is no way to resolve the conflict other than by ensuring the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” he said as recently as Monday.
Israeli Channel 12 TV has reported senior Saudi officials as saying that the Kingdom will not sign a “free” normalization deal as the UAE and Bahrain did.
This is all a smokescreen. I am certain that the Saudis do not care about the Palestinians. This is evident from the way that the regime keeps praising the Israelis and demonizing the Palestinians, to the extent that speaking about supporting the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation has become a crime, while showing support for the Israeli occupation has become the norm.
Saudi media host Israelis, but not Palestinians who are against the Israeli occupation. On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told Fox News that, “every day we get closer” to normalizing ties with Israel. “We don’t look at Israel as an enemy, we look to them as a potential ally with many interests that we can pursue together,” the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia told The Atlantic last year.
An announcement about a normalization deal with Israel that disregards legitimate Palestinian rights is just a matter of time. I expect it to be made very soon, because the Kingdom does not care about Palestine or Jerusalem; it cares about Israel.
Motasem A. Dalloul is Middle East Monitor’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip