Israel has ruled out establishing a diplomatic base in Jerusalem for the new Saudi envoy to the Palestinians, as reported by Reuters. This decision comes at a time when Washington is working to solidify formal relations between Israel and Riyadh. On Saturday, Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Nayef Al Sudairi expanded his credentials to include the role of non-resident envoy to the Palestinians, according to a social media post from his embassy in Amman. The Jerusalem consulate general has been added to Al Sudairi’s duties.
This move by Saudi Arabia aligns with the Palestinian goal of establishing a state in territories occupied by Israel following the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel considers Jerusalem as its own capital, a status recognized by the United States under President Donald Trump in 2017, though not acknowledged by other world powers. Palestinian diplomatic activity is restricted by Israeli authorities in the city.
Saudi Arabia has traditionally supported the Palestinian cause and refrained from official relations with Israel. However, the United States is attempting to facilitate a potential historic Middle East deal that would involve normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen commented that Al Sudairi could potentially engage with Palestinian representatives, but he emphasized that Israel will not permit the establishment of any diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.
- Israel’s government has downplayed the likelihood of making substantial concessions to the Palestinians as part of a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has previously indicated that its recognition of Israel depends on addressing the Palestinian statehood objective. One challenge to this goal is the divide between the internationally supported Palestinian administration and the armed Islamist group Hamas.
Bassam al Agha, the Palestinian ambassador to Riyadh, portrayed Al Sudairi’s appointment as a reaffirmation of Palestinian statehood and a rejection of former US President Trump’s announcements. Israel’s Cohen acknowledged that Al Sudairi’s appointment was not coordinated with Israel, but he speculated on a potential connection to normalization efforts.
Cohen explained that this development could be a message from Saudi Arabia to the Palestinians amid progress in US talks with both Saudi Arabia and Israel, assuring them that they have not been forgotten. In conclusion, Israel’s rejection of a diplomatic base in Jerusalem for the Saudi envoy reflects the ongoing complex dynamics in the region as various actors navigate their relationships and objectives.