Before the Hamas terrorist attack, the normalisation of relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv was on the verge of materialising

Saudi Arabia demands a Palestinian state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel

PHOTO/ATALAYAR - Combinación de imágenes del primer ministro israelí Benjamin Netanyahu y del príncipe heredero de Arabia Saudí, Mohammed bin Salman
PHOTO/ATALAYAR - Combinación de imágenes del primer ministro israelí Benjamin Netanyahu y del príncipe heredero de Arabia Saudí, Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia has finally put its foot down. After coming very close to normalising diplomatic relations, the Hamas attack and the Israeli response scuppered months of negotiations. Israel was close to achieving a historic event that would have turned the web of diplomatic relations in the Middle East upside down, but Riyadh has now distanced itself with a communiqué in which it assures that there will be no normalisation with the Israelis without a Palestinian state.

Palestinian statehood and Gaza withdrawal to continue talks with Israel

Hamas's terrorist attack was not only intended to sow terror and take civilian lives, it was clearly intended to halt the normalisation process, as it has succeeded in doing. Senior Hamas officials knew that Israel's response was inevitable. They also knew the forcefulness with which Tel Aviv would act, something they have never really been concerned about.

AFP/ Bandar AL-JALOUD / Palacio Real Saudí - El Príncipe heredero de Arabia Saudita, Mohammed bin Salman (derecha), chocando los puños con el presidente de los Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, en el Palacio Al-Salam en el puerto de Jeddah en el Mar Rojo. el 15 de julio de 2022
AFP/ Bandar AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) fist-bumping with US President Joe Biden at the Al-Salam Palace in the Red Sea port of Jeddah on July 15, 2022

The use of the Palestinian population as human shields has served Hamas to construct a narrative that Israel has encouraged with its grossly disproportionate response. And the idea, at least as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts it, is to drag out the war until Hamas is totally destroyed, a high price to pay if it wants to bring negotiations with Riyadh back on track.

And it is complicated because Saudi Arabia has issued a statement demanding the recognition of a Palestinian state and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. The Saudi Foreign Ministry has expressed "its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital".

The US, omnipresent and key

The importance of the United States in the region is indisputable. Not only because of its mediation of the historic Abraham Accords. Now, the Saudi communiqué addresses Washington directly, calling on them to do their part to facilitate a way out of a conflict in which Israel has no intention of giving up without having completely razed the Strip, or what remains of it, to the ground.

El secretario de Estado, Antony Blinken, y el primer ministró de Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu - PHOTO/X/@SecBlinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - PHOTO/X/@SecBlinken

This is a situation that is in the interests of neither side. Israel was brutally attacked - and forced to respond - and Saudi Arabia would lose support among Muslim countries by positioning itself, precisely at a time like the present, on the Israeli side. However, voices close to US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby claim that Riyadh is not as far away from resuming talks as they would have the public believe.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that "Kirby said the Biden administration has received positive feedback that Saudi Arabia and Israel are willing to continue to have discussions on normalisation". This information contrasts sharply with the Saudi image, which has also urged the UN Security Council to "expedite recognition of the Palestinian state", which the US continues to veto.

Three-stage ceasefire negotiations

Hamas has come forward to propose a new three-stage ceasefire that would, if all goes according to plan, last up to four and a half months, when the war would end. The Egyptian and Qatari mediation has been met with a counter-offer from Hamas that envisages three phases of 45 days each.

During this process, the aim is to free the Israeli hostages still held by Hamas. At the same time, it calls for the entry of humanitarian aid that could bring respite to the Palestinian population. It is hoped that the negotiations can facilitate a way out that, despite the efforts made, remains distant if Israel does not change its position on the total destruction of Hamas.