Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat says it won’t recognise Israel without a path to a Palestinian state

Advertisement

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says the kingdom will not normalise relations with Israel or contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible pathway to a Palestinian state. Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s remarks in an interview with CNN broadcast late Sunday were some of the most direct yet from Saudi officials. It puts them at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected Palestinian statehood and described plans for open-ended military control over Gaza.

The dispute over Gaza’s future – coming as the war still rages with no end in sight – pits the United States and its Arab allies against Israel and poses a major obstacle to any plans for postwar governance or reconstruction in Gaza. Before the October 7 Hamas attack that triggered the war, the US had been trying to broker a landmark agreement in which Saudi Arabia would normalise relations with Israel in exchange for US security guarantees, aid in establishing a civilian nuclear programme in the kingdom, and progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In September, Netanyahu had said Israel was “at the cusp” of such a deal, which he said would transform the Middle East. In the interview with “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS”, the host asked: “Are you saying unequivocally that if there is not a credible and irreversible path to a Palestinian state, there will not be normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel?” “That’s the only way we’re going to get a benefit,” Prince Faisal replied. “So, yes.”

Advertisement

Earlier in the interview, when asked if oil-rich Saudi Arabia would finance reconstruction in Gaza – where Israel’s air and ground offensive has devastated vast swaths of the impoverished territory, Prince Faisal gave a similar answer. “As long as we’re able to find a pathway to a solution, a resolution, a pathway that means that we’re not going to be here again in a year or two, then we can talk about anything,” he said.

“But if we are just resetting to the status quo before October 7, in a way that sets us up for another round of this, as we have seen in the past, we’re not interested in that conversation.” The Palestinians seek a state that would include Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital and the West Bank as the historical and biblical heartland of the Jewish people.

It has built scores of settlements across both territories that are home to hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers. The last of several rounds of peace talks broke down nearly 15 years ago.