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No Palestine concessions to secure deal on Saudi ties, Israel Minister says

July 31, 2023 at 3:33 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in the voting to approve a controversial bill as part of the government’s judicial overhaul plan in Jerusalem. [Noam Moskowitz – Knesset – Handout – Anadolu Agency]

A key party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government will not agree to any concessions to the Palestinians as part of a deal on normalising relations with Saudi Arabia, one of its cabinet ministers said on Monday, Reuters reports.

US President Joe Biden last week dispatched his National Security Adviser to Saudi Arabia to discuss a possible Saudi-Israel deal, which he deems a policy priority, and on Friday said “there’s a rapprochement maybe under way”.

The idea has been under discussion since the Saudis gave their quiet assent to Gulf neighbours, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, establishing ties with Israel in 2020.

Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian demands must first be met.

Asked whether her pro-settler party, Religious Zionism, would accept concessions to the Palestinians in return for cementing formal ties with Saudi Arabia, National Missions Minister, Orit Strock, said: “We certainly won’t agree to such a thing.”

READ: Saudi FM: Saudi-Israel normalisation without two-state solution has limited benefits

“We are done with withdrawals. We are done with freezing settlements in Judea and Samaria (the biblical term for the West Bank). This is the consensus among the entire right-wing,” Strock said, in comments to public broadcaster, Kan.

A spokesman for Religious Zionism head, Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, did not immediately respond when asked whether Strock’s remarks reflected those of Smotrich.

Such a position would pose a political obstacle for Netanyahu, who has cast the normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia as a major foreign policy goal.

US-Israel ties have been strained in recent months by the government’s expansion of Jewish settlements on land that the Palestinians seek for a state and by contentious judicial changes pursued by Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition.

On Sunday, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party dismissed the suggestion that an impasse between the Israel’s hard-right government and the statehood goals of the politically divided Palestinians was the main obstacle to a Saudi deal.

He also said a deal did not appear imminent.

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