Middle East Palestinians and Saudis strengthen ties in view of the possible agreement between Riyadh and Tel Aviv

As rumors about the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia within the framework of a major agreement between this Arab country and the United States turned into optimistic statements from their leaders, the dilemma of Palestinian President Abu Mazen gained strength: stay

Middle East Palestinians and Saudis strengthen ties in view of the possible agreement between Riyadh and Tel Aviv

As rumors about the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia within the framework of a major agreement between this Arab country and the United States turned into optimistic statements from their leaders, the dilemma of Palestinian President Abu Mazen gained strength: stay. on the sidelines and criticize or participate in some way in the process to try to get the most for their people.

The visit this Tuesday to Ramallah of the first ambassador appointed by Saudi Arabia to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Nayef Al-Sudairi, and the recent trip of three important emissaries to Riyadh confirm that Abu Mazen opts for the most pragmatic option. That is, strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia to ensure that it includes the Palestinian cause as a requirement in the agreement that is being simmered in Washington. Abu Mazen does not repeat the formula of 2020 when he launched a harsh attack against the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan for having normalized their relations with Israel.

In this way, the veteran Rais will go from being a critical but more isolated observer to trying to be part of a game in which the Saudis have good cards. The change in strategy is not only due to the fact that it is the most powerful Arab and Muslim country but also because Abu Mazen is facing a critical moment: nine years of paralysis of negotiations with Israel, 16 years of control of the Gaza Strip by part of its internal rival (the Islamist group Hamas), the growth of construction in the colonies in the territory occupied in the '67 war, the most right-wing Government in the history of Israel and the worst instability in the West Bank since the Second Intifada.

Abu Mazen hopes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) will condition the official rapprochement with Israel on "significant steps" towards the Palestinians. The 'compensation' would not be limited only to major economic measures as the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would like, but it would not reach the two-state solution either, although this continues to be Riyadh's objective as Al-Sudairi recalled.

"We are working to establish a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Riyadh has a great interest in the Palestinian question and its solution on the basis of international legitimacy," said the Saudi diplomat in Ramallah, where he has rescued the initiative of peace of his country in 2002 based on the principle "peace in exchange for territories". Regarding possible normalization with Israel, he has limited himself to commenting: "It is normal that there is peace and stability among nations."

In his meetings with Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riad Malki, the non-resident ambassador defended "the close relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Palestine" and confirmed the opening of a consulate general in Jerusalem. Malki defined the meeting as "historic" aimed at "promoting and developing relations between two brother countries and opening possibilities for greater cooperation in all fields."

"The appointment of Al-Sudairi and the resumption of economic assistance are two signals that Saudi Arabia sends to clarify that the normalization of relations with Israel must include the Palestinian issue," says former Palestinian adviser in the negotiations, Gaith. to Omari. When we ask this analyst to specify the measures, he answers: "It has to be related to Jerusalem because of its great religious value and to the two-state solution, but in practice, the Palestinians are realistic and know that they will not receive a state, although they will take steps." tangible".

Among Abu Mazen's main demands, the transfer to the ANP of some territories under Israeli security and civilian control in the West Bank (Zone C, according to the Oslo Accords), the resumption of Saudi economic aid (valued at $200 million annual) and the stoppage in construction in Jewish settlements. According to various leaks, other requests could be an intermediate agreement with Israel, the reinforcement of the ANP's security agencies and the reopening of the PLO diplomatic legation in Washington and the American consulate in Jerusalem, closed during the mandate of President Donald Trump.

But MBS is so interested in reaching an agreement in the coming months with the US that it is unlikely that he will be able to ask for all the Palestinian demands, much less have them accepted by the ultra-conservative Israeli government. He is obliged to "do something" about it to demonstrate support for the Palestinian people, but his top priority is the defense pact with the US and the reception of both its sophisticated weapons and its green light for uranium enrichment in Saudi territory. .

In his interview on Fox News a week ago, MBS revealed that the agreement with Israel is "getting closer every day," hoping to reach a point "so that the lives of the Palestinians are easier and Israel is an actor in the Middle East." ". Shortly before, Netanyahu declared that "the Palestinians must be part of the agreement with Saudi Arabia but they must not have a veto to prevent it."

"Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full, legitimate and national rights would be mistaken," responded Abu Mazen at the UN lectern.

Beyond the declared objective of keeping alive the possibility of an agreement based on two states, Biden needs important concessions towards the Palestinians to convince the most leftist sector of the Democratic Party to support the pact with a figure as controversial as MBS who will also represent a prize for a country (Israel) that he usually harshly criticizes. and then to achieve the majority (67), he will seek the vote of 17 senators from the Republican Party who do not favor uranium enrichment in Saudi Arabia nor give the rival candidate a success a few months before the elections in the United States. To do this, Biden needs the Israeli-Saudi agreement and Netanyahu's pressure among Republicans.

Netanyahu, for his part, does not hide his enormous interest in an agreement that would represent an enormous diplomatic, strategic (also in the face of the common Iranian enemy), economic and political achievement (due to the unprecedented internal crisis caused by the controversial judicial reform proposal ).

For now, this Tuesday the first official and public visit of an Israeli minister (Tourism Minister, Haim Katz) to Riyadh took place on the occasion of a congress organized by the UN.