OPN Blinken with MBS
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah Image Credit: Pool Photo via AP

US Secretary of State was on a whirlwind tour of the region recently, sent on a mission by President Joe Biden and the apparent intent was to deliver a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Saudis. This was his fifth visit to the region since the war on Gaza began back in October 2023.

Joe Biden clearly understands that signing a peace accord between the Israelis and the Saudis would be a feather in his cap in the run-up to the upcoming presidential elections back home and is sparing no amount of diplomatic means to reach that goal.

Unfortunately for him, the true face of Israeli violence in Gaza and the inexcusable massacre of civilians, primarily women and children has turned off any possible rapprochement with the current hard-right regime that is running Israel. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s warring stance and rejection of peace overtures has led the Saudis to make their resolve clear.

Read more by Tariq A. Al Maeena

Pathway toward a Palestinian state

Riyadh has made it clear that no permanent deal can be reached until there is a ceasefire in Gaza and that it must include the creation of an irreversible pathway toward a Palestinian state.

Responding to a statement by a White House which was clearly and overly optimistic in his assessment of the talks, that Riyadh would be prepared to establish relations before there is a truce, in a clear and unequivocal statement, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said the following:

“Regarding the discussions between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America on the Arab-Israeli peace process, and in light of what has been attributed to the US National Security Council spokesperson, the Ministry of foreign affairs affirms that the position of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been steadfast on the Palestinian issue and the necessity that the brotherly Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights”

“The kingdom has communicated its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” the statement concluded.

The message from Saudi Arabia is clear

The Saudis are making it clear: Stop the onslaught in Gaza and restore full rights to the Palestinians before we consider any talks of a mutual accord. It is not the Saudis’ intent to prolong hostility but rather to seek a just end to the current wide-scale onslaught that has been condemned by nations everywhere with charges bordering on war crimes and genocide being publicly flouted by several governments.

Some analysts scoff at US claims that the visits are a genuine intent by Blinken to deliver a message directly to countries in the region that the United States does not want to see the conflict escalated and will not escalate the conflict, as was suggested by a senior US official en route to Riyadh.

If indeed the US was an honest broker in all of this, then they would close the tap on the unlimited shipment of armaments that is causing so much death and destruction in Gaza without any justification. That would be a start, but I hold no hopes. It’s never been an even playing field.

Indeed, the Palestinians have been on the wrong end of the stick for decades now, seeing their homes uprooted, their fields burnt, their women and children killed and all the while, Western powers remain silent to the ongoing provocation and aggression.

But the ghastly scenes emerging from Gaza have also led some nations to act. The United Nations’ apex court is holding high-profile public hearings on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Eleven countries will speak before the 15 judges of the International Court of Justice in The Hague who are tasked with producing a non-binding opinion advisory on the legal consequences of Israel’s near six-decade occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

The State of Palestine was the first to address the judges last Monday when its foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, called Israel’s illegal occupation ‘colonialism' and 'apartheid.’ Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, and Chile will also take part in the hearings which are the result of a December 2022 resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in response to a UN Human Rights Council-commissioned report published that October that found Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory was illegal under international law.

Amid all this the Saudi message is clear: The road to peace is through justice for the Palestinians.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena