Palestinian Demands in Historic Saudi-Israeli Deal

In the latest development in the potential normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Palestinian officials have outlined their demands in a three-way deal involving the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The demands include a cash boost of hundreds of millions of dollars and more control of land in the occupied West Bank. While such a deal could potentially bring about a historic realignment of ties in the Middle East, there are significant obstacles that need to be overcome.

The talks between Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and Saudi counterparts in Riyadh have raised speculation about the framework of any potential deal. US officials are also involved in the discussions, and President Joe Biden is likely to view a Saudi-Israeli agreement as a foreign policy achievement. Saudi Arabia, a leader in the Arab and Islamic world, has never formally recognized Israel since its establishment in 1948.

However, any potential deal would be highly controversial. Saudi Arabia is reportedly demanding guarantees for advanced American-made weapons and a civil nuclear program, including in-country uranium enrichment, in exchange for recognizing Israel. On the other hand, Israel would benefit from trade and defense ties with the Gulf superpower and further integration in the region.

For the deal to succeed, it would have to involve substantial Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. This poses a challenge for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as his ultranationalist coalition is likely to reject any concessions. Additionally, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman needs to address the opposition from his own public, who historically oppose Israel and strongly support the Palestinian cause.

President Biden would also need to secure significant gains for the Palestinians to gain support from his Democratic Party. Many Democrats are critical of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and its involvement in the war in Yemen. They also question the idea of rewarding Israel’s current extreme nationalist governing coalition, which they believe exacerbates tensions in the West Bank.

The Palestinian demands, which include an independent state and significant control over the occupied territories, are seen by some as overreaching. However, they reflect the Palestinian leadership’s position on Saudi-Israeli normalization, which they reject unless it aligns with the Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi-led plan, introduced in 2002, offered recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Engaging with Saudi Arabia may be an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to remind Riyadh of the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative rather than being left out of the process entirely. However, there are risks for the Palestinian leadership, as their involvement may be perceived as negligible by the Palestinian public, who view such deals as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

It remains to be seen whether a three-way deal involving the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel can overcome the significant obstacles and satisfy the demands of all parties involved. The potential implications for the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are far-reaching. The outcome of these negotiations will shape the future of the region and have lasting effects on peace and stability.