Saudi-Israel normalization impossible if Palestinian state is on the table, says Pompeo

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  September 28, 2023

Former US secretary of state says normalization between the two countries easier to attain under a Republican president.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel is impossible if such a deal included the creation of a Palestinian state.

Speaking in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, published on Wednesday, Pompeo, who served under the previous US President Donald Trump, said “it is impossible to imagine a two-state solution with the current Palestinian leadership”, accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) of “underwriting terrorism, taking money from Iran, paying citizens to kill Israelis”.

“It is very difficult to imagine how one would strike a deal with the very leaders that have rejected every reasonable offer with which they have been presented,” Pompeo said.

The remarks from the former US chief diplomat come after Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed ambassador to Palestine visited Ramallah and said that a core element of any normalization with Israel would include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Pompeo, who served under the administration that brokered the initial peace deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, added that Saudi-Israel normalization would “be more easily attainable with a Republican president”.

The former secretary of state’s interview did not make mention of one of Saudi Arabia’s demands for normalization, which is US assistance in establishing a civil nuclear program. 

Under the Trump administration, the US approved secret authorizations for companies to sell nuclear technology and assistance to the kingdom, which received major backlash from members of Congress.

‘Must not give Palestinians veto power’

The Biden administration has for months been pushing both Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations, in a potential deal being touted by the US administration as a “transformative moment” that would move the region from turmoil to stability.

Middle East policy experts, however, have said that a potential deal would lead to a greater state of autocracy and repression in the region.

Last week, in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also stressed that “we must not give the Palestinians a veto over new peace treaties with Arab states”.