Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khalid Mashal are likely heading the delegation. The fundamentalist Islamist organization is an Iranian ally and opposes the Jewish state’s existence.
The diplomatic move on the part of Hamas representatives marks a dramatic improvement in Saudi-Hamas ties, which had been tense following Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. By hosting senior Hamas leaders, Saudi Arabia is seemingly simultaneously signaling a reduced likelihood of future normalization with Israel.
Saudi Arabia currently does not have official diplomatic ties with Israel. Political analysts, however, have noted Saudi Arabia's role behind the scenes in supporting the historic regional Arab-Israeli Abraham Accords in 2020 "from the outside." In addition, the Saudis opened up their country’s airspace to civilian Israeli air traffic.
Last December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that he intended to push for a historic peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. He even hinted that he might be willing to give up Israel’s sovereignty aspirations in Judea and Samaria in return for full diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia.
In an interview with the Arab paper Al Arabiya, Netanyahu indicated that Saudi-Israeli peace would dramatically transform the Middle East region.
“It will be a quantum leap for an overall peace between Israel and the Arab world, it will change our region in ways that are unimaginable,” said Netanyahu. The prime minister also said he believes that Saudi-Israeli peace would improve the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
However, Saudi Arabia has criticized the Netanyahu government’s policies amid recent tensions on the Temple Mount correlating with the Muslim month of Ramadan. Saudi Arabia blamed Israel for the recent clashes between Muslim rioters who barricaded themselves in the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and the Israeli security officers who were tasked with removing them.
“These practices undermine peace efforts, and (the Kingdom) reaffirms its firm position in supporting all efforts aimed at ending the occupation and reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause,” read a statement by the Saudi foreign ministry.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.