The Saudi Foreign Minister said on Tuesday that the Kingdom may recognize Israel if a comprehensive agreement is reached that includes the establishment of a state for the Palestinians, an ambitious talk given that the war between Israel and Hamas shows no sign of abating.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “We agree that regional peace includes peace for Israel, but that can only happen through peace for the Palestinians through a Palestinian state.”
Asked whether Saudi Arabia would then recognize Israel as part of a broader political agreement, he said: “Absolutely.”
Prince Faisal said that securing regional peace through the establishment of a Palestinian state is “something we have already been working on with the US administration, and it is even more important in the context of Gaza.”
Securing a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia would be a major prize for Israel after it established diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, and could transform the geopolitics of the Middle East.
The Sunni Muslim kingdom, the most powerful country in the Arab world and home to the holiest sites in Islam, enjoys significant religious influence around the world.
After the outbreak of war last October between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip, Saudi Arabia froze US-backed plans to normalize relations with Israel, two sources familiar with Riyadh’s thinking said, in a rapid realignment of Saudi policy. for its diplomatic priorities
The two sources told Reuters that there will be some delay in US-backed talks on normalizing Saudi-Israeli relations, which is seen as a key step for the kingdom to secure what it sees as the real prize of a US defense agreement in return.
Before October 7, when Iranian-backed Hamas fighters launched an attack on southern Israel, Israeli and Saudi leaders indicated they were moving steadily toward establishing diplomatic relations that could reshape the Middle East.
The Palestinians want to establish a state on the lands occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital. US-sponsored negotiations with Israel to achieve this have been stalled for more than a decade.
Among the obstacles are Israeli settlement in the occupied territories and the dispute between the Western-backed Palestinian authorities and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which refuses to coexist with Israel.
Prince Faisal said: “There is a path to a much better future for the region, for the Palestinians, and for Israel, and that is peace, and we are fully committed to that.”
“…A ceasefire by all parties must be the starting point for a lasting and sustainable peace, which can only happen through justice for the Palestinian people.”
Israel's far-right government has played down the possibility of it making major concessions to the Palestinians as part of any potential normalization deal with Saudi Arabia.
The war in Gaza began when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostage. Israel says more than 130 remain in captivity.
Israel responded to the Hamas attack with a blockade, bombing and ground invasion of Gaza, devastating the small coastal area and killing more than 24,000 people, Palestinian health officials say.
The war raised fears of broader regional instability. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group has frequently clashed along the border with Israel, while pro-Iranian militias have attacked American targets in Iraq.
Attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen have disrupted navigation in the Red Sea and they say they will not stop until Israel stops its bombing of Gaza.
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