Jan 18, 2024 - World

Saudi Arabia: Peace with Israel conditioned on Gaza ceasefire, path to Palestinian state

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks with Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, at the Al-Salam Royal Palace in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, during the visit of the US president, on July 15, 2022

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks with Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S., at the Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah on July 15, 2022. Photo:

DAVOS, Switzerland — The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. said at the World Economic Forum on Thursday that any potential normalization agreement with Israel would be conditioned on a ceasefire in Gaza and the creation of an "irrevocable" pathway towards a Palestinian state.

Why it matters: Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud echoed what the Biden administration has recently said publicly and privately to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday that the Biden administration's strategy for post-war Gaza is to link normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the creation of a political horizon for the Palestinians.
  • Biden administration officials say the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are fully aligned on making that link.

What they're saying: Without a ceasefire in Gaza, it's impossible to talk about what happens after the war, Princess Reema said at the WEF's annual meeting in Davos.

  • She said that Saudi Arabia has extended its hand for peace with Israel, but it also has a responsibility for the Palestinians.
  • "The Palestinian people deserve a state…they deserve a pathway that is irrevocable…We recognize the need for Israel to feel safe but it can't be at the expense of the Palestinian people," she added.
  • Princess Reema also said the kingdom recognizes that the Hamas Oct. 7 attack was "horrible and vile," but there is trauma and pain on both sides "[W]hat we can do is ceasefire now."

Catch up quick: Before the Israel-Hamas war began, the Biden administration had been pushing for a mega-deal with Saudi Arabia that would have included a historic peace agreement between the kingdom and Israel.

  • The deal would have also included upgrading U.S.-Saudi relations with a defense treaty that includes U.S. security guarantees and an agreement on a civil nuclear energy program on Saudi soil.
  • But the war in Gaza largely stalled progress on those efforts — and added new challenges.

In the last few weeks, the Biden administration has tried to revive efforts to get a deal, hoping to use the prospect of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel as leverage for getting Netanyahu on board with the U.S. plan for what happens in Gaza after the war.

  • If Netanyahu agrees, he could get a historic agreement under his name. But if he doesn't, he will likely be on a collision course with the Biden administration and could be left on his own to take care of the crisis in Gaza.

Reality check: The renewed push for a normalization deal by the White House faces an uphill battle. Netanyahu's government includes ultranationalists who oppose even small overtures to the Palestinians. It's extremely unlikely they'd agree to a path toward a future Palestinian state.

  • U.S. officials have previously admitted that getting a deal that includes a political horizon for the Palestinians is "far-fetched," but they said they want to present an alternative vision to what many fear will be an endless war in Gaza.
Go deeper