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Saudi Kingdom still wants Israeli normalization deal after Gaza war only if it leads to establishment of a Palestinian state, says Saudi ambassador to UK

Israel and Saudi Arabia were reportedly close to establishing relations with Israel before Oct. 7 Hamas attack

Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud meets with then-British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Riyadh, Mar. 20, 2020 (Photo: Saudi Foreign Ministry)

Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud, told the BBC on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia still wants a normalization deal with Israel but that it must be a part of a process that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state.  

“Absolutely, there’s interest, there’s been interest since 1982 and before,” Prince Al Saud said during the BBC radio interview.

“We’ve been at this for a long time, and willing to accept Israel for a long time; it’s a reality that’s there that we have to live with. But we can’t live with Israel without a Palestinian state.”

Before Oct. 7, Saudi Arabia was reportedly close to establishing ties with Israel, Al Saud affirmed.

“The discussions had been going on for quite some time. I’m not at liberty to go into the details of what was discussed, but it was close, there was no question,” adding that “the final endpoint definitely included nothing less than an independent state of Palestine. And while we still – going forward, even after Oct. 7 – believe in normalization, it does not come at the cost of the Palestinian people.”

Al Saud denied any connection between the Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 mostly civilian Israelis by the Hamas terror organization and the fact that Saudi Arabia had been close to a normalization deal with Israel.

“The conflict goes back almost 100 years, that is the reason Oct. 7 happened, not because of Saudi Arabia and its normalization talks with Israel,” the UK's Saudi ambassador added.

When asked whether the kingdom would “withhold” normalization with the Jewish state until a Palestinian state is established, Al Saud replied the agreement was already on hold and claimed that Saudi Arabia was close to normalization before Oct. 7 because the establishment of a Palestinian state had also been “close.”

“We were close to normalization, therefore close to a Palestinian state. One does not come without the other…Palestinians are the key element to this… It is about the survival of both countries going forward."

During the BBC interview, Al Saud did not state clearly whether Hamas could be a part of a future Palestinian state.

“There’s always room for change if you have optimism and hope, but when there’s a conflict, the first thing you have to recognize is that both sides have lost. And when both sides lose, both sides are then willing to compromise. And if there’s no compromise, there’s no solution.”

The Saudi diplomatic envoy also blamed Israel for its unwillingness to accept the Palestinian Authority as the future government of Gaza, accusing Israel of standing in the way of stabilizing the Gaza Strip.

“Without question, you can’t do it without the Israelis accepting it, so the big stopping point to this is Israel, not everyone else,” Al Saud said.

The prince's comments came the day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), with both signaling that normalization talks are still a possibility.  

“There’s a clear interest in the region in pursuing that, but it will require that the conflict end in Gaza and it will also clearly require that there be a practical pathway to a Palestinian state,” Blinken told reporters on Monday.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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