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Is Saudi Arabia pandering to the Palestinian Authority ahead of a potential peace deal with Israel?

The Saudis are offering to renew financial aid to the PA, according to the WSJ

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 19, 2023. (Photo: Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS)

When the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel in August 2020, the Palestinians were blindsided. They felt betrayed.

Now leaders of Saudi Arabia are adamant about sparing them with a déjà vu moment, as the kingdom is rumored to engage in negotiations towards peace with the Jewish state.

Tehran, therefore, has offered to renew its financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to the Wall Street Journal. The move is viewed as an attempt to garner Palestinian backing for the Saudi outreach to Israel.

The report quoted unnamed Saudi officials saying that the move is intended to help Saudi leaders “secure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ support for open ties with Israel.”

Former unnamed Palestinian officials told the WSJ that a delegation from the Palestinian capital of Ramallah is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia next week. While their influence on Saudi decision-making is likely limited, the Palestinian government will reportedly attempt to secure their interests in the event of a Saudi-Israeli peace deal.

Over the years, the Saudis have given more than $5 billion to Palestinian causes, noted the WSJ. The scale of the funding began to decrease in 2016, following allegations of corruption within the PA and the organization's overall incompetence. Later, in 2019, the financial assistance dropped from $174 million a year to zero in 2021.

During those years, the U.S. administration under then-President Donald Trump had also cut back more than $200 million in annual support to the Palestinian community, in addition to ceasing all funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The U.S. Biden administration has since reversed both decisions and restored the funding, with no strings attached.

By contrast, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has implied that resuming financial aid would be contingent upon the PA’s efforts to act against militant groups in the West Bank and bring the security situation under control. MBS first floated the idea when he met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in April in Saudi Arabia, according to the WSJ.

In May, the MBS told Arab League Summit attendees that Saudi Arabia supports the establishment of a new Arab state “Palestine” along the 1967 borders.

“We will not delay in providing assistance to the Palestinian people in recovering their lands, restoring their legitimate rights and establishing an independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” MBS promised at the time.

In exchange for peace, Saudi Arabia is reportedly expecting Israel to make significant concessions to help promote the creation of a Palestinian state. However, some in Israel believe the Saudis are mostly paying lip service to Palestinians when they speak about negotiation terms for a two-state solution.

By all means, Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is seen as more committed to the Palestinian cause than his heir, who is spearheading the diplomatic developments with Israel on the kingdom’s behalf.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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