As the steward of the two Muslim holy cities (Mecca & Medina) - cities where no non-Muslims are allowed - Saudi Arabia has an image to maintain as an ally in the regional struggle to support the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel. But in another sign of just how significant Jared Kushner's accomplishment actually was, it appears the desert petro-kingdom is finally ready to make an important step toward publicly accepting Israel as a neighbor and friend.
One of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's greatest accomplishments during his record-setting tenure at the helm of the young Jewish state has been to parlay a mutual friendship with the US into a closet alliance with Saudi and the Saudi-aligned gulf puppet states (chief among them the UAE) in their eternal struggle to contain Iran, Israel's sworn mortal foe. That accomplishment was finally crystalized with the Israeli-UAE peace deal, wherein Israel makes some critical concessions that could attract more support from its neighbors. If the trend continues, the Palestinians might be forced to the table, and a deal to end all sectarian hostilities might finally be reached, ending the blockade that's suffocating the Gaza Strip.
Though Saudi Arabia stopped short of full-blown acceptance, the kingdom's Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, cautiously welcomed the agreement in a statement released Wednesday, ending the kingdom's conspicuous silence. As we explained in a post published two days ago, the deal calls for Israel to suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in Netanyahu’s "Vision for Peace" in the Western Bank.
Also, Tel Aviv will reportedly focus its efforts on “expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.” The agreement will also provide Muslims with greater access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It still remains in question how Israel will comply with its part of the deal as the annexation of Palestinian territories is the cornerstone of its regional policy.
Offering what could be called "muted praise", Farhan said the deal "could be viewed as positive," but refrained from outright backing the move and stressed Saudi Arabia is open to establishing similar relations on condition that a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
As we mentioned above, it marked the first comments by Saudi Arabia on Thursday’s surprise deal announcement, which Trump and his administration helped broker. Bahrain, Oman and Egypt issued official statements welcoming the agreement shortly after it was reached.
Prince Faisal reiterated during the briefing that the kingdom supports the Arab Peace Initiative, sponsored by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which promises Israel full ties with Arab states in exchange for a peace deal with the Palestinians.
"Once that is achieved, all things are possible," Faisal said.
More problematic, perhaps, Faisal also insisted that any future Palestinian state should include East Jerusalem as its capital.