The Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan has once again made the headlines for publicly announcing that Saudi Arabia will no longer partake in UAE’s attempt at maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel. He further stated that Saudia Arabia upholds its policy of not extending ties with Israel unless peace is established with the Palestinians. This is a monumental step regarding relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Faisal bin Farhan’s comments are the first ones from a Saudi official regarding the state of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The normalization agreement between UAE and Israel regarding diplomatic ties was signed last week. The Foreign Minister explicitly stated that Saudi Arabia will not form any relations with Israel unless a peace accord is signed with Palestine. This announcement was appreciated by the public since peace for Palestinians has been chanted in several protests.
The Arab Peace initiative also widely known as the Saudi initiative calls for full withdrawal of Israel to pre-1967 lines, thereby dividing the Jerusalem territory. It further claims for the return of Palestinians who have been taken as refugees during the war of Independence in 1948; the refugees along with their descendants have been demanded back by the Saudi government. This is meant to ensure peace in regions of Palestine. According to UN reports, these Palestinian refugees and their descendants amount to 1.5 million people. This plan further allows peace and normalization with regards to Arab states and Israel. The foreign minister further expressed that policies adopted by Israel are unilateral in nature and allow for annexation and building of settlements. These policies allow illegitimate actions that are detrimental to the future of both states involved.
It is widely known that the relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel have prospered in recent years. This is primarily because both states share an enmity with Iran. Jared Kushner, a White House Special Adviser remarked that Saudi Arabia may develop friendlier ties with Israel after some Gulf States extend a hand for diplomatic ties with Israel. He stated that the other Gulf States are eager to extend their relations with Israel for prosperity and development. Once Saudi Arabia acknowledges this progress, they will realize that relations with Israel have been normalized for states around the world. He also told a CNBC reporter that these relations, once initiated, will amount to progress and prosperity. Kushner further elaborated upon the opinion of Israel as apparent in the young generation of Saudi Arabia, he remarked that the young generation viewed Israel as the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East”. He further stated that Israel’s reputation is that of progress and extending relations with the rest of the world, while other states continue to dwell on past conflicts.
Other Gulf States have made considerable progress when it comes to extending relations with Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel announced this week that his team is working on a project that will lead to direct flights between Israel and UAE. These flights will fly over the Saudi airspace. Moreover, flights undertaken by Air India flights already make use of the Saudi Arabia airspace on their way to Israel.