Shifting Sands: Saudi Peace with Israel Beyond Palestinian Statehood

Israeli Energy Minister Eli Cohen has indicated that Saudi Arabia might consider peace with Israel even without the establishment of a Palestinian state. This assertion, made during an interview with The Times of Israel, suggests a significant shift in the Middle East dynamics, emphasizing the common security concerns over the Iranian threat as a unifying factor.

Cohen, speaking from Jerusalem, highlighted the strategic imperatives that drive this potential rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The October 7 conflict, instigated by Hamas’s attack, has underlined the urgent need for regional stability and security cooperation to counter threats like Iran and its proxies. Cohen’s reference to the 2019 attack on Saudi oil facilities further underscores the mutual challenges faced by Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The statement from Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, however, presents a more traditional stance, emphasizing the importance of a credible pathway to Palestinian statehood as a precondition for normalization with Israel. This difference in viewpoints illustrates the complex nature of Middle Eastern politics, where geopolitical interests and longstanding issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intersect.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution and his firm stance on retaining security control over Gaza, even after Hamas is defeated, align with Israel’s priority of ensuring its security. However, this position challenges the international consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution.

The UN and other international organizations, along with key players like the US, continue to advocate for a renewed peace process leading to a Palestinian state. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent remarks reiterate this perspective, emphasizing Israel’s need for a pathway to a Palestinian state to achieve genuine security and regional integration.

In conclusion, the possibility of Saudi-Israeli normalization, independent of the Palestinian statehood issue, marks a potential paradigm shift in regional diplomacy. The State of Israel remains committed to its security and the safety of its citizens, navigating these diplomatic waters with a focus on stability and peace. As the Middle East evolves, Israel continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a future where cooperation and mutual security interests pave the way for lasting peace and prosperity in the region.