Saudi Arabia has appointed its first envoy to the Palestinian administration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, signaling a possible shift in its stance towards Israel. The Saudi envoy to Jordan, Nayef Al-Sudairi, will now also serve as a “nonresident ambassador to the State of Palestine.” This move is seen as linked to efforts by the United States to establish diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Saudi Arabia recognizes Palestine’s statehood across the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, territories that were captured by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The appointment of Ambassador Al-Sudairi comes at a time when the United States is actively working towards establishing formal relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
For years, Saudi Arabia had opposed establishing formal ties with Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved. However, the appointment of the new envoy suggests that Riyadh is now serious about securing better treatment for the Palestinians. This move is seen as more than just a symbolic gesture, indicating Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.
The role of the Saudi ambassador to Jordan has long included overseeing the Palestinian file, albeit informally. By formally acknowledging this dual role, Saudi Arabia aims to address the perception that it does not genuinely care about the Palestinians. This development comes in the context of ongoing negotiations that could potentially involve the United States providing greater military support and assistance with a civil nuclear program to Saudi Arabia, while Israel offers concessions to the Palestinians.
While the Israeli government downplays the significance of the Palestinian component of the negotiations, Palestinians view the appointment of a Saudi envoy as a positive step. They particularly welcome the assertion that the ambassador will serve as a consul general in Jerusalem. Palestinians hope that at least part of Jerusalem will one day become the capital of a Palestinian state. The appointment of a consul in Jerusalem is seen as support for these aspirations and a message that Saudi Arabia will not abandon the Palestinians during consultations with the U.S. and Israel regarding a possible normalization deal.
However, the Israeli foreign minister, Eli Cohen, has stated that Israel will not permit Saudi Arabia to open a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, highlighting the ongoing challenges and tensions in the region.
In 2020, Israel established diplomatic relations with three Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, ending years of isolation in the Arab world. This has led to speculation that Saudi Arabia could be the next country to normalize relations with Israel. The Biden administration has prioritized Saudi-Israeli relations as a key foreign policy goal.
In conclusion, Saudi Arabia’s appointment of an envoy to the Palestinian administration signals a potential shift in its stance towards Israel. While the true implications of this move are yet to be seen, it reflects the evolving dynamics in the region as various countries seek to solidify their relationships with Israel.