Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently indicated that Saudi Arabia was on its way to normalizing relations with Israel.
“I’m going to bring you direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 13 last week as part of his election campaign. He also said that four more normalization deals would soon be closed.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen later said that the countries closest to signing normalization deals with Israel are Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Niger.
“Less than a month ago, I returned from a historic visit to Sudan, and the week before, I was in Egypt, where I participated in an economic security meeting,” Cohen said. “In the Gulf, we are speaking about Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar ... In addition to that, elections were held in Niger, and the elected candidate is pro-American, which will increase the chance to establish relations [with Israel].”
Saudi Arabia, however, does not appear to be on board with the Israeli prime minister’s assessment. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, said that normalization was contingent on the resolution of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
On Monday, former senior advisםr to the Saudi Arabian government, Nawaf Obaid, who advised the Saudi government from 2002 until 2015, published an op-ed in Al-Quds, a Palestinian newspaper, in which he made it clear that Saudi Arabia is only going to contemplate normalizing its relations with Israel once a Palestinian state has been established.
Obaid reportedly wrote that the views he was expressing were those held by the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, also known as MBS, who has made a name for himself as a reformist.
“Theoretically, some believe, Crown Prince bin Salman would wish to advance normalization of relations with Jerusalem, but he is cognizant of the risks in adopting such a position that encompasses in it a recognition of Israel,” Obaid wrote. “If this were to happen there would be repercussions not only in the Saudi kingdom, the richest nation and one with an important religious and national role, but also in the entire Arab and Muslim world.”
“The vast majority in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, continue to hold the views of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who declared that his kingdom will be the last Muslim nation to recognize Israel. That historic announcement cannot be discounted,” Obaid added.
Israel’s Kan public broadcaster said that even though Obaid is no longer an advisor with the Saudi government, it is unlikely that he would have published the op-ed without permission from the Saudi royal family and that his piece can be seen as a message from Saudi Arabia to Israel.
Qatar has joined Saudi Arabia in rejecting normalization with Israel. According to Bloomberg, a Qatari foreign ministry official said on Sunday that normalization was contingent on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a position that Qatar has long held.
The United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to normalize ties with Israel, followed by Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.