In a sharply worded rebuke likely to postpone any talk of expanding the Abraham Accords until after the U.S. election, Saudi Arabia said unequivocally it will not normalize relations with Israel as desperately hoped for by the Biden administration in Washington, and would only consider it if the war in Gaza stops and an independent Palestinian state is established.
“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the U.S. administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” read a statement from the foreign ministry on Wednesday.
Israeli “aggression” in Gaza must also stop and all Israeli forces must withdraw from the besieged territory, the statement added.
The move appears to pour cold water on the increasingly chaotic and incoherent White House, just as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a visit to Riyadh where he met the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on his way to Egypt, Qatar and Israel, where he is pressing for a truce deal in the Israeli war on Gaza.
Wednesday’s statement is also an explicit dressing down of White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who told reporters a day earlier that talks on Saudi-Israeli normalization were “ongoing” and that Washington had “received positive feedback from both sides that they’re willing to continue to have those discussions.”
“In light of what has been attributed to the U.S. national security spokesperson, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms that the position of [the] Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been steadfast on the Palestinian issue and the necessity that the brotherly Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the U.S. administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” it added.
“The Kingdom reiterates its call to the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that have not yet recognized the Palestinian state, to expedite the recognition of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, so that the Palestinian people can obtain their legitimate rights and so that a comprehensive and just peace is achieved for all.”
On Tuesday, Blinken told reporters in Doha that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had “reiterated Saudi Arabia’s strong interest in pursuing” normalization during their meeting in Riyadh.
“But he also made clear what he had said to me before, which is that in order to do that, two things will be required — an end to the conflict in Gaza, and a clear, credible timebound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Blinken said.
President Biden’s administration has pushed hard for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel.
Before the Gaza war broke out in October, Riyadh laid out conditions, including security guarantees from Washington and help developing a civilian nuclear program, and measures to improve conditions for Palestinians.
Any momentum stalled soon after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7 followed by an Israeli genocidal war on Gaza that has killed at least 27,585 people in Gaza, mostly women and children.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, told the World Economic Forum last month that normalization would be impossible without an “irrevocable” pathway towards the creation of a Palestinian state.
– Wire services and The NewArab. Edited for style.