Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's remarks in an interview with Fox News were received with shock in Ramallah. The Palestinians did not expect such unequivocal and open statements that push into a corner their national aspirations, those at the center of the Palestinian issue.
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In the interview, bin Salman did not mention the establishment of a Palestinian state and did not make far-reaching demands on Israel. This in itself caused disappointment among the Palestinians. But what angered them most was the crown prince's public statement that "we need to see where the process goes and hope it will make life easier for the Palestinians." "He referred to the Palestinian issue as an economic and humanitarian issue without talking about concessions that Israel would have to make. Where is the matter of the two states? Where are the refugees and Jerusalem?" they complained on the Palestinian side.
Sources in the Palestinian Authority have recently reiterated that the Saudis continue to adhere to their traditional position, which places the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the initiative, the Arab states will establish peaceful relations with Israel only after it withdraws to the 67 borders and establishes a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians are squirming. They are now trying to say that this does not fully reflect the kingdom's official and public position, in light of clarifications they have received in previous talks with Saudi officials that their commitment to the Palestinian cause will not be abandoned.
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According to them, Saudi Arabia gave them reason to be calm after receiving positive signals from it that it would continue to support the Arab peace initiative based on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Just earlier this week, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farrakhan said that "there will be no solution to the conflict without the establishment of a Palestinian state," a statement that earned those in Ramallah a "sweet and brief moment" of composure that dissipated last night with the statements of the kingdom's most powerful ruler. Bin Salman did not emphasize the terms of the agreement, but this is just a press interview," Palestinian sources said. "In the negotiations, he will ask that there be a solution to the issue based on the Arab initiative."
They explained that the PA was troubled by the remarks and hoped that the crown prince would be more decisive in his demands from Israel, but at the same time they also learned to be pragmatic and do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, as happened when they attacked the UAE following its appeal to agreements with Israel. "Therefore, they will not come out against the crown prince but will continue to show him that they are partners in the process."
Not rushing anywhere, bin Salman, photo: Reuters
"The PA knows that bin Salman can make an agreement if his conditions from America are met, especially a defense pact against any external threat and civilian nuclear program, and that Saudi Arabia will go to normalization whether we oppose it or support, so it's better that we take what we can. As for Israel, bin Salman has in his way the obstacle of the extremist elements in the Israeli government, especially Ben-Gvir, who is immigrating to Al-Aqsa. He needs assurances regarding al-Aqsa, and also to reach understandings regarding the Israeli army's incursions into cities and construction in the settlements so that he can legitimize an agreement with Israel in public opinion," one of the sources explained.
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