Feb 9, 2019

Israeli report says Saudis won't back Trump peace plan without concessions

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu; Saudi King Salman. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/AFP/Getty Images; Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

A classified Israeli Foreign Ministry report — circulated in mid-December among top Israeli government national security and foreign policy officials — determined that Saudi Arabia will not support the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan and won't normalize relations with Israel unless the Israeli government makes a substantive concession to the Palestinians, officials who have read the report told me.

Why it matters: The report contradicts the public line from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also Israel's foreign minister. Over the past year, Netanyahu has claimed that Israel can normalize relations with Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, despite the Palestinian issue.

Details: The report was written by analysts from the Foreign Ministry's Political Research Center and was classified "secret" because it deals with the highly sensitive issue of Saudi-Israeli relations. The report was sent to a small group of ambassadors and national security officials in the Israeli government.

  • A Foreign Ministry official who read the report told me it said that Saudi Arabia's King Salman had taken back the Israeli-Palestinian file from his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • It stresses that Salman rolled Saudi policy on the issue back to the kingdom's traditional alignment with the Arab Peace Initiative, which states that normalization of relations with Israel will only happen after the formation of a Palestinian state.

What they're saying: The Foreign Ministry official told me, "There was a feeling in the last year that there was a window of opportunity to reach a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia — but even if there was such an opening, this window is closed for now."

  • Former U.S. officials who were briefed on the Jan. 14 meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Salman in Riyadh told me that the Saudi king's messages only strengthened the report's conclusion.
  • They said Salman stressed to Pompeo that Saudi Arabia will not support the Trump administration's peace plan if it doesn't address Palestinian demands — mainly regarding a capital in East Jerusalem. 

Go deeper: Israel worried pressure over Khashoggi killing will destabilize Saudi Arabia

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Massive demonstrations put police response to unrest in the spotlight

Washington State Police use tear gas to disperse a crowd in Seattle during a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The response of some officers during demonstrations against police brutality in the U.S. has been criticized for being excessive by some officials and Black Lives Matter leaders.

Why it matters: The situation is tense across the U.S., with reports of protesters looting and burning buildings. While some police have responded with restraint and by monitoring the protests, others have used batons, tear gas and other chemicals and devices to disperse protesters and, in some cases, journalists.

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U.S. cities crack down on protesters

The scene near the 5th police precinct during a demonstration calling for justice for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Saturday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Major U.S. cities have implemented curfews and called on National Guard to mobilize as thousands of demonstrators gather across the nation to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.

Journalists get caught in the crosshairs as protests unfold

A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd outside the CNN Center on May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protestors.

Why it matters: The incidents show how easy it can be for the media to entangled in the stories they cover, especially during a time of civil unrest.