Saudi Arabia: Thank you, but no thank you!

No one can decide on strategic issues on behalf of the Palestinians.

Sam Bahour

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

A tremendous amount of news space is being consumed on the U.S.-brokered talks to reach a deal with Saudi Arabia that would include normalizing ties with Israel. Although the talks are about much more than Palestine, it is reported that the U.S. is making the Palestinian issue a key component to reach the real reason the U.S. is in talks with Saudi Arabia which is to reach a mutual security pact and advance Israeli interests in the region.

As Saudi Arabia attempts to assume the unilateral leadership role in the Arab World, it has welcomed the Palestinian issue as a component in the negotiations because it is looking for a save-face measure in front of the Arab and Muslim worlds to normalize with Israel, which seems to be one of the conditions the Biden Administration has placed on Saudi Arabia to be able to reach a historic U.S.- Saudi Arabia deal.

However, if bin Salman’s comments on his recent Fox News interview are any indication, he is oblivious to the state of affairs in Palestine and within the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence, let alone the last failed 30 years of what was intended to be a five-year interim process. He said he wanted to see “a good life for the Palestinians.” No indication was apparent that he understands that a “good life” for Palestinians means a total end to Israeli military occupation resulting in an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, an end of institutional Israeli discrimination of Palestinian citizens in Israel, and Palestinian refugees permitted to return to their homes. No less than this will bring sustainable peace.

Palestinian representation is a red-line

While bin Salman negotiates for a Palestinian “good life”, he would benefit from knowing that no one has authorized him to speak on behalf of the Palestinians. With the deep internal divisions in the Palestinian polity, no one has the authority or legitimacy to represent Palestinians today, not even Palestinian President Abbas, on issues as strategic as what is being discussed, yet another interim agreement just like the failed Oslo agreement.

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