‘Palestinians like football being kicked around by regional players’
It would be absolutely devastating to the Palestinian question to consider normalizing relations with Israel before addressing the Palestinian question, Saeed Nimr, Professor of political sciences at Birzeit University, told RT.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tel Aviv is looking to expand its covert operations with a number of Arab nations. IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) Chief of staff said recently that Tel Aviv is ready to share intelligence on Iran with Saudi Arabia.
RT: What are your thoughts on the current developments between Israel and Saudi Arabia?
Saeed Nimr: First of all, you have to understand that Saudi Arabia suggested in 2002 the Arab (Peace) Initiative within the Arab Summit, which stated that Israel should withdraw from all Arab land which is occupied, including the Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank and Jerusalem, in return for the normalization of the relationship with the Gulf States and all Arab countries and Islamic countries with Israel.
Now, the reaction of Israel was absolutely to refuse this kind of initiative, because from their point of view the Israelis wanted all the time to have the normalization first – then they will discuss the withdrawal. In the light of the new changes in the region apparently, Saudi Arabia has changed their priorities, where they are considering Iran as their main enemy. Especially its proximity to the Iranian borders, as well as the interference in Iraq, according to the Saudis, and also accusing them of interference in Yemen.
Apparently, it is quite obvious that the Saudis would consider today that the major threat in the area is Iran. That is why they were looking for any allies in the area also to be against Iran for this matter. Definitely that was absolutely Israel, which was launching a huge campaign for years against Iran and the nuclear ability of Iran. They were even against the agreement with Iran for the nuclear matter. So definitely there will be a kind of closeness between Israel and Saudi Arabia – both thinking that their major enemy in the region is Iran.
That is why we believe that now the Saudis are willing to renegotiate even the Arab Initiative to start with the normalization with Israel even before addressing the Palestinian question. From our point of view, as Palestinians, that would be absolutely devastating to the Palestinian question, because that will give Israel the credibility in the region; they will give them access; they will give them exactly what they wanted, regardless of the Palestinian question.
It is quite obvious that the visit of (Jared) Kushner to Saudi Arabia lately trying to put forward Trump’s peace deal of the decade, or deal of the century, as he would call it - it is quite obvious that it is an Israeli plan, which also the Saudis are trying to push it to the Palestinians. And this is absolutely not acceptable to the Palestinian. It comes to that the Palestinian are going be in confrontation not only with the Americans but also with the Saudis if they insist on pushing this plan, as well as insisting on having a normal relationship with Israel without addressing the Palestinian question.
Professor Kamel Hawwash British Palestinian academic & writer
RT: Will we see greater cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia - and is the partnership solely to counter Iran?
Kamel Hawwash: I think it is very much about Iran at the moment. Netanyahu has been for years as someone basically inciting against Iran, presenting it as the biggest threat in the region. People may remember images of him showing that it was so close to having nuclear weapons – that it must be stopped in its tracks, repeatedly year after year in the UN General Assembly. It is just part of the disinformation that Netanyahu likes to spread. Unfortunately, at the moment some of the Arab countries have taken it. If they really think that Netanyahu will send jets to fly over Riyadh to protect Riyadh from the Iranian threat then they are deluded.
RT: Isn’t it a strange move, considering Saudi Arabia hasn't ever recognized Israel as a state?
KH: Indeed. I think people are surprised that events have moved so quickly, but particularly they are moving quickly under the new crown prince’s leadership, if you like. He seems to be moving from one conflict to another, or rather almost creating them. We know what’s happening in Yemen, the sort of boycott of Qatar, etc. So it seems that this is the next thing. He wants to ensure Saudi Arabian security against Iran. He is talking to Trump. Trump is saying it’d be good to see signs of, if you like, pressure on the Palestinians to come to a peace deal, which will encourage both Israel and us to work with you to protect the region from Iran. So the Palestinians are becoming a football being kicked around by all of these players.