Photo by Maayan Berrebi/TPS on 11 August, 2019

Palestinians Wonder Where Saudi Peace Train Will Take Them

Public By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 5 September, 2023

Jerusalem, 5 September, 2023 (TPS) -- A Palestinian Authority delegation departed for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday hoping to have influence on efforts to deliver an Israeli-Saudi peace agreement.

The talks, scheduled to occur over the coming days, will feature negotiations between the Palestinian delegation and Saudi officials, followed by meetings with a U.S. delegation that has also arrived in Riyadh. The American presence underscores the pivotal role that the Biden administration seeks to play in facilitating a peace deal.

But PA participation in those talks is creating angst for some Palestinian officials.

“The very Palestinian presence in Saudi Arabia is legitimizing the Israeli occupation without receiving a significant political return,” a Palestinian source told the Tazpit Press Service. “The Saudi train has set off and it may also run over the Palestinians.”

The source argued that, “The appointment of the Saudi ambassador to the Palestinian Authority and Ron Dermer’s statements about Israel’s willingness to review the nuclear issue, which Saudi Arabia demands, are extremely dangerous indications from the point of view of the Palestinians.”

According to him, an Israeli-Saudi peace agreement would be a “first-rate Israeli strategic achievement in the Middle East, far beyond the agreements with the other countries of the Abraham accords.”

The Saudis reportedly seek American security guarantees regarding Iran, advanced weapons, and US assistance to develop a civilian nuclear program. Washington reportedly wants Riyadh to prepare a significant aid package for the Palestinians and for Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinians.

In previous conversations with TPS, sources close to the Saudi and Israeli leadership have made conflicting comments on Palestinian linkage. According to the Gulf sources, the Saudis are conditioning normalization with progress on the Palestinian front, but the Israeli sources say Riyadh has made no such stipulations.

The Palestinian source told TPS that Washington-Ramallah dialogue was “designed to pressure the Palestinians, and not to get their consent.”

But a recent report in the Arabic news site Elaph said that Palestinian-Saudi discussions held in Amman on Saturday centered on the transfer of Saudi funds to PA officials in Gaza. A mechanism of joint supervision by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the PA was proposed to ensure that Hamas would not benefit.

The Saudis have laid out their expectations for the PA, which include fostering political unity and retaking security control over areas of northern Samaria where Iran-backed Palestinian terror groups operate with little to no resistance from PA security forces. Concurrently, the Saudis reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution and recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

TPS also reported that the Saudis would like a peace agreement with Israel to reboot the Temple Mount’s status quo and replace Jordan as custodian of the Jerusalem holy site.