Saudi Arabia rules out ties unless Israel accepts two-state solution

Published February 8, 2024
An injured man with a bandaged head looks on while standing next to the rubble and debris of a destroyed building in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment on Rafah, on Wednesday.—AFP
An injured man with a bandaged head looks on while standing next to the rubble and debris of a destroyed building in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment on Rafah, on Wednesday.—AFP

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has told the United States it will not open diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, its foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Riyadh reiterated its call for permanent members of the UN Security Council that have not recognised a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital to do so, a ministry statement said.

It was referring to a state the Palestinians have long sought to establish alongside Israel in territories Israel occupied in a 1967 war: the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The statement added that “Israeli aggression” against the Gaza Strip must also stop and Israeli forces must withdraw from the territory.

The kingdom also demands withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory

The United States had led months of diplomacy to get Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Israel and recognise the country until the Gaza crisis began in October, leading Riyadh to shelve the matter in the face of Arab anger over Israel’s offensive.

This news agency reported last week that Saudi Arabia would be willing to accept a political commitment from Israel to create a Palestinian state, rather than anything more binding, to try to get a defence pact with Washington approved before this year’s US presidential election.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is touring the region, said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had “reiterated Saudi Arabia’s strong interest in pursuing” normalisation when they met this week.

“But he also made clear what he had said to me before, which is that in order to do that two things are required: an end to the conflict in Gaza and a clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Blinken said.

On Tuesday, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said that the Biden administration has received positive feedback that Saudi Arabia and Israel are willing to continue to have normalisation discussions.

Diplomatic relations

The Saudi foreign ministry statement said the “Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

It reiterated “its call to the permanent members of the UN Security Council that have not yet recognised the Palestinian state, to expedite the recognition of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

The Gaza war has put renewed focus on the idea of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though negotiations have been moribund for years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not compromise on full Israeli security west of the Jordan River and that this stands contrary to a Palestinian state.

Countries including the United States and Britain have reiterated their support for the two-state solution.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said last week there would be a time when Britain would look to recognise a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2024

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