Israel and Saudi Arabia want peace, but differ how to get there, thanks to Gaza

January 16, 2024 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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Israeli and Saudi officials actually agree on a lot of things. Both want to normalise their relations, both are willing to continue peace efforts where they left off on October 7, and both want Hamas out of Gaza.

Israeli soldiers by the Gaza border on Dec. 29, 2023. Photo by TPS

But the peace efforts have become tangled with the war in Gaza, and unknotting it will significantly impact the Strip’s post-war future.

“The best scenario that the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, see is the establishment of a completely new Palestinian entity, one that will control the Gaza Strip, which will become a completely demilitarised strip and will be subject to fundamental and new security arrangements in coordination with Egypt,” an Arab source with close ties to the ruling circles in the Gulf states told the Tazpit Press Service.

“This scenario also includes involvement Saudi and Arab are significant in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip,” he added.

When asked about what messages Jerusalem has received from Riyadh, an Israeli political official who has been briefed on the normalisation efforts told TPS, “Saudi involvement should not be ruled out even in the management of the Gaza Strip the day after the war.”

Achieving any shared vision, however, will be complicated.

On one hand, Riyadh says the war must end before normalisation talks can continue. On the other hand, Jerusalem wants clarity on what a Saudi role in post-war Gaza would look like before the conflict ends.

“The process and momentum [for Israeli-Saudi normalisation] exist and are stable and have not stopped for a moment, and despite the situation in the Gaza Strip, progress can be made towards an agreement to establish relations,” a second Arab source who is also close to the Gulf’s ruling circles, told TPS.

But he added, “Such an agreement can only be signed at the end of the bloody war in the Gaza Strip and not during the fighting.”

The Saudis understand that peace with Israel would give the Saudis access to American weapons and nuclear technology. And having a role in administering Gaza would raise Riyadh’s regional profile. But Riyadh does not want to be a party to a new status quo in Gaza that does not lead to a Palestinian state.

“It is inconceivable that an Arab country and certainly Saudi Arabia will agree to be the party that will cut off the two parts of the ‘Palestinian homeland’ and lead to the violation of Palestinian sovereignty over the Gaza Strip,” he told TPS.

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