Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Saudi envoy says kingdom ‘absolutely’ still open to normalization deal with Israel

Saudi Arabia is still interested in pursuing a normalization deal with Israel after its war against Hamas in Gaza ends, an envoy from the Gulf nation said Tuesday.

Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, told the BBC in a radio interview that Riyadh is still open to establishing ties with the Jewish state as long as it is part of an overall two-state solution.

“Absolutely there’s interest, there’s been interest since 1982 and before,” Bandar said of reaching a deal with Israel. “We’ve been at this for a long time, and willing to accept Israel for a long time, it’s a reality that’s there that we have to live with. But we can’t live with Israel without a Palestinian state.”

Bandar said that pre-October 7, “the discussions had been going on for quite some time. I’m not at liberty to go into the details of what was discussed, but it was close, there was no question.” He said that for Riyadh, “the final endpoint definitely included nothing less than an independent state of Palestine. And while we still — going forward, even after October 7 — believe in normalization, it does not come at the cost of the Palestinian people.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia were widely believed to be close to inking a historic normalization deal just before the Hamas onslaught of October 7, in which thousands of members of the terror group stormed across the border and murdered some 1,200 people in Israel, taking another approximately 240 hostage.