A prominent Saudi journalist has said that achieving peace with Israel is more important than the status of Jerusalem and that the Palestinian issue must be "eliminated".
Abdul Hameed Al-Ghabin – an influential political analyst and writer – said in an interview with Saudi Arabian TV that "Palestinians who do not accept [being] part of the State of Israel should be deported to Jordan and Palestinians in other countries should be naturalised, including Palestinians in the Gulf countries, with compensation."
He continued: "After nearly 70 years of resistance and the loss of dozens of opportunities, the Palestinian issue must be eliminated."
The interview formed part of a discussion entitled "The Palestinian Peace Deal: After 70 years, the chances of a Palestinian deal are in dire condition," which also touched on the topic of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Al-Ghabin said of the Holy City: "It doesn't interest us what happens with Jerusalem as much as peace between the states interests us. We need to calm things down and make true peace between the two sides." He added that as long as Muslims are able to perform prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, Saudi Arabia is indifferent to who controls the city.
Al-Ghabin doubled down on his position on Twitter, adding that "this is a painful fact but it is the reality of what will happen".
بعد نحو 70 عاما من الممانعة وضياع عشرات الفرص، تصفية القضية الفلسطينية وترحيل من لم يقبل أن يكون جزء من دولة #إسرائيل إلى الأردن وتجنيس الفلسطينيين حسب الدولة المقيم فيها بما فيها دول #الخليج مع دفع تعويضات.
هذه حقيقة مؤلمة ولكن هذا الواقع وما سوف يحدث.https://t.co/ET0mOujiWo pic.twitter.com/xISYGd7019
— #عبدالحميد الغبين (@Abdullhameeds) April 16, 2019
This is not the first time Al-Ghabin has expressed such views. In a Twitter post in March, he wrote:
"A tip to our Palestinian brothers, especially in the West Bank: [US President Donald] #Trump will sign the deed for the West Bank to become part of the state and geography of #Israel. Accept becoming Israeli citizens, because your refusal will mean being deported to Gaza or Jordan. Enjoying Israeli citizenship means the right to education, healthcare, employment and travel, even to the Gulf States."
تمتعك بالمواطنة الإسرائيلية يعني حق التعليم والعلاج والتوظيف والسفر حتى لدول الخليج
— #عبدالحميد الغبين (@Abdullhameeds) March 30, 2019
Al-Ghabin's comments will be seen as significant given the strong relations currently enjoyed between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the broader normalisation initiatives pursued by a number of Gulf states.
In March, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt rejected a statement by the Union of Arab Parliaments which called for an end to normalisation with Israel. Responding to a suggestion by the speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly – that the final statement of the union's meeting should include a recommendation to this effect – speaker of the Saudi Shura Council Abdullah Al-Sheikh objected, saying: "Calls for stopping normalisation with Israel are the authority of politicians not the parliamentarians."
In February, it emerged that Saudi Arabia has sought to modify the Arab Peace Initiative in order to better align it with the kingdom's warming relations with Israel. The initiative – approved by the Arab League in 2002 – stipulated the creation of a Palestinian state on 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, a just solution for refugees and Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In return, the Arab states would recognise Israel.
However, senior sources close the Palestinian Authority (PA) claimed that "Arab countries – on top of which are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – started to modify the Peace Initiative in order to keep up with the dramatic developments in the region," referring to the domino of normalisation initiatives seen across the Gulf in recent months.
This normalisation is of particular importance due to the proximity of the "deal of the century", the long-awaited US peace plan spearheaded by President Trump and his closest advisors, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Saudi Arabia has flip-flopped on the deal, at first overtly backing the plan before being forced to dilute its support after facing a backlash from the Arab world. The deal is expected to disregard convention on establishing a Palestinian state, and could make use of billions of dollars of Gulf money to provide economic incentives to the occupied Palestinian territories and neighbouring states such as Jordan and Lebanon, which host millions of Palestinian refugees.