Saudi Arabia will not normalise its relations with Israel as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved, Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan affirmed on Tuesday. Bin Farhan’s comment was made in reply to questions raised in a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
According to a video clip broadcast on the Saudi Al-Ekhbariya channel, the moderator asked about Saudi Arabia’s position on normalisation with Israel, after she referred to a press report that talked about the possibility of this happening.
“Nothing has changed in how we view the subject. We have always seen normalisation as the end result, but the end result of a path,” Bin Farhan replied. “Saudi Arabia is the one who launched the Arab Peace Initiative [at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002] and it will lead [the initiative] to full normalisation of relations between Israel and the region.”
The 2002 initiative proposed the establishment of normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel if it withdraws from the Arab territories occupied since 1967 and accepts the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, along with a just solution to the refugee issue.
However, Bin Farhan added, “We will not be able to normalise as long as the Palestinian issue is unresolved. The priority now is to push the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis forward, and this will certainly benefit the region, Israel and Palestine.”
Peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have been suspended since April 2014, due to Israel’s refusal to stop building and expanding its illegal settlements and release long-serving prisoners. It is also abandoning the two-state solution.
On Tuesday, the American news website Axios reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration is mediating to complete the first step towards normalising relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
In response to a question by the Atlantic magazine, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said on 3 March that his country does not look at Israel as an enemy. “We look to [Israel] as a potential ally, with many interests that we can pursue together,” reported the official Saudi Press Agency. “But we have to solve some issues before we get to that. We hope that the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is solved.”
In 2020, Israel signed agreements to normalise relations with four Arab countries: the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Of the 22 Arab countries, those four countries plus Egypt and Jordan have declared official relations with Israel.