What is Israel willing to give for a Saudi pact?

Sep 26, 2023 6:34 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia’s historical first ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Nayef al-Sudairi, touched down in Ramallah, emphasizing that the foundation of a Palestinian state, with its capital in east Jerusalem, would stand at the core of any imminent agreement with Israel. As he announced the Kingdom’s plans to inaugurate a consulate in east Jerusalem, it raised the anticipation of what Israel might be willing to offer to consolidate ties with the Saudi powerhouse.

The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia and supported by the Arab League, stands as the linchpin for peace, from their viewpoint. It necessitates Israel’s endorsement of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its epicenter, striving for a “just solution” for the Palestinian refugee debacle, and a retreat from the Golan Heights. Meeting these conditions will signal an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, paving the way for normalization.

On the Palestinian front, there’s a growing sentiment of quid pro quo. PA officials articulated their stance: if Israel halts its unilateral actions in pursuit of the Saudi deal, the Palestinian side will reciprocate. Despite past differences, especially concerning the Abraham Accords of 2020 that left the Palestinians blindsided, there’s a cautious optimism in Ramallah about the recent openness in negotiations. A senior delegation from the PA even visited Riyadh to deliberate on the subject.

Riyadh’s ambitions aren’t solely focused on Israel. They’re eyeing a comprehensive defense pact with the US, along with advanced weaponry and backing for a civilian nuclear program on their soil. Yet, the Palestinian cause remains a pivotal discussion point. A Palestinian official remarked, “Saudi Arabia has agreed completely to our demands. They told us they are not brokers between us and the Israelis; rather, they are our partners.”

In the maze of these negotiations, the contentious issue of Ramallah’s welfare payments, which critics argue incentivize terror, came under scrutiny. The PA defends this as vital social welfare. If modified, it could potentially pave the way for the US to champion Palestinian requests in the Saudi dialogues. One Palestinian official asserted the PA’s prerogative to support needy families but expressed willingness to broach the subject with Israel.

With Saudi Arabia intensifying its role in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, it’s evident that the Kingdom, amid its normalization negotiations, seeks a renewed vigor in the peace process. Their recent collaboration with the European Union, alongside the ambassador’s new role, underscores this commitment.

Excerpt: As Israel and Saudi Arabia inch closer to a potential historic pact, the central question arises: What concessions is Israel ready to make? With the Arab Peace Initiative at the forefront and the Palestinian Authority’s conditions on the table, the geopolitical chessboard of the Middle East seems poised for a strategic shift.