Negotiations that are intended to lead to the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have begun, but they aren’t the only parties that must agree to a potential deal. These negotiations are being conducted very quietly, because they are touching on issues that are extremely sensitive. As you will see below, we are not likely to learn much about the exact details of the deal that is being formulated until it is finalized. The Biden administration is brokering these peace negotiations, and one thing we do know is that there will be no normalization of relations unless Israel is willing to make major concessions regarding the Palestinians. Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to agree to recognize a full-blown independent Palestinian state, but another plan is being floated that could potentially be acceptable to all of the parties.
This plan was initially conceived by a close confidant of Mohammed Bin Salman named Ali Shihabi.
According to the plan, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank would be merged into a single unit known as “The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine”…
One topic for discussion will assuredly involve the implementation of the Saudi-based Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine solution published in Al Arabiya News on 8 June 2022. Its author – Ali Shihabi – is a confidant of Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister – Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and also a member of MBS’s advisory board on Neom – a US$500 billion megacity being built in north-western Saudi Arabia covering an area equal to the size of Israel.
Shihabi’s plan calls for the merger of Jordan, Gaza and part of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) into one territorial entity to be called “The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine”
The Netanyahu government has always been deeply concerned about the security risks that an independent Palestinian state would pose, but putting the Palestinians under the umbrella of Jordan would potentially mitigate those security risks.
And it is important to note that this plan has not been publicly rejected by Jordan, the PLO or Hamas since it was first published…
Shihabi’s plan has not been rejected by King Abdullah (Jordan), Mahmoud Abbas (PLO) Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas) or MBS in the seven months since its publication.
Needless to say, I am 100 percent against this insidious plan.
But it doesn’t matter what I think.
What matters is what the parties think, and right now they appear to be optimistic that a deal can be achieved.
Just last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boldly declared that we are “about to witness a pivot of history”…
Saudi Arabia is a leader of the Arab and Islamic world. It has never formally recognised Israel since the creation of the state in 1948.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked up the possibility last month, claiming: “We’re about to witness a pivot of history.”
That doesn’t sound like a man that is about to make a relatively minor deal.
Rather, that sounds like a man that is thinking about his legacy.
And we are not likely to know all of the details of any potential agreement in advance.
In recent years, Netanyahu has become a big proponent of secret negotiations. He made this quite clear during an interview with Al Arabiya TV last December…
Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu made that perfectly clear in his 50 minute interview on Saudi Government-controlled Al Arabiya TV on 15 December:
“You know, I’m sort of a champion of a slight twist in what Woodrow Wilson said in the Versailles Peace Conference. He said he believed in open covenants, openly arrived at. I believe in open covenants, secretly arrived at or discreetly arrived at. There we will have to have discussions about all the questions that you asked today and see how we can advance this. If you try to sort it out in advance you get stuck. That’s what happens.
I am entirely convinced that a deal is coming, and when it is finally unveiled it will shock the world.
For now, the Palestinians are taking a cautious approach to any potential deal, and they have made a list of some of the things that they would like to see included…
- Transferring parts of the West Bank currently under full Israeli control (known as Area C under the 1990s Oslo peace accords) to the governance of the Palestinian Authority
- A “complete cessation” of Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank
- Resuming Saudi financial support to the PA, which slowed from 2016 and stopped completely three years ago, to the tune of around $200m (£160m) per year
- Re-opening the US consulate in Jerusalem – the diplomatic mission to the Palestinians – that was shut down by President Donald Trump
- Resuming US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians from where they stopped under then-Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014.
And the Palestinians are also promising “to avoid embarrassing Saudi Arabia” during these negotiations…
US diplomats have obtained assurances from Palestinian officials that they will neither publicly reject nor undermine the White House-promoted normalization talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
A diplomat from the US State Department told The Media Line that the Palestinian Authority has pledged not to publicly criticize any potential normalization deal with Israel, to avoid embarrassing Saudi Arabia.
An American official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject, indicated that the Biden Administration was working closely with Saudi Arabia. They aim to develop a financial and political package intended to placate the Palestinians and prevent a response similar to that generated by the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
The Saudis are very eager to reach a deal within the next year, because they know a deal may not be possible if Joe Biden does not win the 2024 presidential election in the United States.
And obviously the Biden administration is motivated to move things along quickly too, because their days may be limited.
But if the land of Israel is formally divided in 2024, that is going to have enormous implications for all of us.
I have been warning that this was coming, but for a long time it appeared that any sort of an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians would be impossible.
Unfortunately, this new plan to merge Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank into a single entity called “The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine” may provide the basis for a major breakthrough.
It won’t be easy, but if a way can be found to satisfy the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Saudis and the Biden administration, 2024 could potentially be a year when the unthinkable becomes reality.
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