King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reiterated his support for the cause and formation of the state of Palestine and has pressed US to take the peace process forward over a phone call with US President Donald Trump.
In a strong statement, King Salman emphasized and clarified the resolute stance of Saudi Arabia on the Palestinian cause and their legal right to have an independent state with its capital being Jerusalem. The statement is a surprise as the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman on his visit to the US has recently said that Israel reserves a right over its land in an interview to a known magazine The Atlantic which was seen as an unusual remark by any Arab leader so far. Latter had suggested that Saudi Arabia was warming its stance on Israel.
Saudi-Arabia and Israel knotty ties
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not recognised the state of Israel officially and thus there are no diplomatic ties between the two Middle-east giants. Although there have been reports in the media that the Kingdom has started to shift its trajectory towards the Jewish nation. There has been a covert thaw in the relations as suggested some undercover diplomatic meetings and cooperation on security between the two nations primarily in wake of the rising influence of the common regional enemy Iran.
Saudi Arabia has maintained its unique standing in the Arab world based out of religion and its identity as a Sunni nation. It has forged relations in the region and elsewhere to counter the Shia-dominated Iran. Thus, seeking to build ties falls in the larger geopolitical interests of both sides. However, this shift if it is actually taking shape has to pass through the litmus test of the Israel-Palestine peace process. Saudi Arabia has realised the significance of the timing of developing ties with Israel but its ultimate motive will rest on the mutual strategic inclinations of the Arab camp which are faced with the potential and growing threats of the Iranian sphere of influence and radical Islamic networks who work on extremist ideology.
The US is working on a parallel front taking cues from all the events to hatch a plan which will break the ice between Israel and Palestine to reach an ultimate conclusive deal. A partnership or any strategic alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel will be the most potent deterrent for Iran and this is the sole motive of US to push for the same.
The young Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia seems to have developed a thorough understanding of the burden of shouldering the support for the Palestinian cause- a reality which has undermined many critical choices which are the need of the hour. Saudis need to foster their importance religiously by their hold on the holiest sites of Islam namely Mecca, Medina and also the Haram al-Sharif. Israel also has to take a proactive lead in making peace with Palestine as normalisation of regional rifts will help them gain an edge over Iran both in the region and in an international political scene.
Although Saudi Arabia has so far maintained absolute silence about its developing relations with Israel in form of meetings between officials, Israel has been open about it and has expressed its willingness to share intelligence with the Kingdom.
Palestine peace is central to broker an end to the Arab boycott of Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas was called to Saudi Arabia to press him to accept the Peace Plan which has been given by Jared Kushner or tender his resignation. Palestinians need financial assistance from the US and Saudi Arabia in order to function smoothly but the Kushner deal has little to present to Palestine apart from the release of prisoners, financial help and an incomplete freeze on the settlements but huge gains for Israel like ending the Arab boycott. Unless Abbas gives consent to the deal, the thaw between Saudi Arabia and Israel will prick the soul of the Arab world as a great betrayal. This will definitely pull down the stature of Saudi Arabia in the region.