Israel Rejects Report of Saudi Suspension of Normalization Talks Over Palestinian Issue

General view of Riyadh city, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri)

A Saudi-owned newspaper claimed on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had informed the Biden administration of its decision to halt U.S.-brokered efforts to normalize relations with Israel. The reported reason for this freeze was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government’s reluctance to make concessions to the Palestinians. However, both Israeli and American officials have denied the accuracy of this report.

According to the Elaph newspaper’s report, which allegedly cited sources within Netanyahu’s office, the U.S. had communicated Saudi Arabia’s position to Israel. Israel expressed confusion over this development, believing that Saudi Arabia was ready to proceed with normalization independently of progress on the Palestinian issue.

The report, authored by the paper’s Israel correspondent, pointed to the insistence of far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir on avoiding concessions to the Palestinians. It suggested that without advancements in relations with Ramallah, progress in normalization with Riyadh would be unlikely.

In a recent statement, Netanyahu had indicated his willingness to consider gestures toward the Palestinians if a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia required it. He also hinted that he would not allow coalition members to obstruct such an agreement.

Netanyahu stated to Bloomberg News, “If there’s political will, there will be a political way to achieve normalization and a formal peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. I think there’s enough room to discuss possibilities.”

These comments aligned with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s earlier statement in an interview with Elaph, a publication often used for communication between Yerushalayim and Riyadh. Cohen had asserted, “The Palestinian issue will not be an obstacle to peace. We also proved this in the Abraham Accords. We all have an interest in improving life in the areas of the Palestinian Authority.”

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