The Saudi-Israeli Alliance: Is Riyadh Courting Palestine For A Deal?

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In order to fight growing Iranian influence in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Israel appear to be open to the idea of an alliance. But what about Palestine?

Riyadh

Taking the momentous developments in the Middle East into account, it is widely being speculated that Israel and Saudi Arabia, both U.S. allies, are willing to form an alliance to counter Iranian influence in the region.

However, before the odd alliance comes into existence, there remains an obvious holdup — one that has been described as one of the world's most intractable issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Amidst the chaos in Saudi Arabia, which included the royal purge and the sudden resignation of the now-former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly summoned to Riyadh for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Although details of the meeting have not been publicly released, some news sources suggest it was an attempt on bin Salman's part to court Abbas for the purported anti-Iran alliance with Israel.

"Abbas had been summoned to discuss renewed American efforts to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which the crown prince sees as a crucial step towards his goal of enabling Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together openly against Iran," Middle East Eye reported, citing anonymous officials and diplomats as sources.

Abbas' visit came just days after U.S. President Donald Trump's top aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner visited Riyadh to propose a new regional peace initiative.

A report by aid Israel's Channel 10 even stated Saudi Arabia ordered Abbas to accept Kushner's plan or resign. However, Palestinian officials categorically refuted the reports.

Osama Qawasmeh, a spokesperson for Abbas' Fatah party, told Al Jazeera Channel 10's claims were not true.

"The Saudis expressed support for the Palestinian position, which is a two-state solution built on the June 1967 borders, in line with international law," Qawasmeh said.

For now, it appears the question of Palestinian statehood, which the Saudis have demanded for years, would stall any public negotiations for an anti-Iran alliance with Israel, which strongly opposes the idea of a Palestine state.

It is now up to Saudi Arabia to choose if an ally's decades-long struggle for statehood is more important or stopping a regional rival from gaining influence in the Middle East. And it appears the latter seems to be the Saudi crown prince's top priority.

"They both want to see the Iranian advances stopped, they want to see Iranian meddling stopped, they want to see Hezbollah done in," Roby Barrett, a Gulf expert and author with the Middle East Institute in Washington, told NBC News. "Their interests are almost perfectly aligned."

Thumbnail Credits: Reuters

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