Saudi Arabia shelves Israel peace deal – Reuters
Saudi Arabia has suspended plans to normalize relations with Israel amid the latter’s ongoing war with Palestinian Hamas militants, Reuters reported on Friday. Backed by the US, the deal would have been a diplomatic coup for Washington and a strategic blow to Iran.
Prior to Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on Saturday, Saudi Arabia and Israel were drawing close to a deal that would have seen the Sunni kingdom recognize the Jewish state, with Saudi Arabia gaining a defense pact with the US and more advanced American weapons in exchange, although the White House stressed that the precise terms had yet to be worked out.
With Israeli warplanes continually bombing Gaza since Saturday and an invasion of the Palestinian enclave reportedly imminent, Saudi officials paused the deal to avoid setting off a wave of anger across the Muslim world, Reuters reported, citing two sources close to Riyadh.
The sources stressed that the deal is not permanently scrapped, but that Riyadh will likely require any future agreement to include significant concessions to the Palestinians from the Israeli side.
Nearly 2,000 people, including 583 children, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, according to the latest figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 1,300 Israelis have died since Saturday, and more than 100 are believed to be in Hamas captivity in Gaza.
Israel’s heavy-handed response, including its imposition of a total siege on Gaza, has brought the country’s Muslim neighbors closer together. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi spoke by phone on Wednesday, their first conversation since the two geopolitical rivals re-established diplomatic ties in a Chinese-brokered deal in March.
Iranian state media said that the pair discussed the "need to end war crimes against Palestine," while Saudi state media said that the prince promised to make “all possible efforts…to stop the ongoing escalation.”
Iran bitterly opposed the planned normalization deal, which would have seen its two primary regional opponents drawn closer together, with one entering a formal alliance with the US. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned the entire Arab world against normalizing relations with the “Zionist regime” in Israel.
Less than a week before Hamas’ attack, Khamenei called Israel a “cancer” that will “God willing, be eradicated by the hands of the Palestinian people and the resistance forces throughout the region.”