Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Yesterday, Saudi diplomat Nayef al-Sudairi arrived in Ramallah as the Saudi envoy to the Palestinian Authority.

He did all the things skittish Palestinians want to see as they get increasingly nervous about a Saudi-Israel normalization deal that leaves them behind.

The position is called "ambassador" implying that Palestine is a real country.

Al-Sudairi visited Yasir Arafat's grave and placed a wreath on his tomb. He also visited the Yasir Arafat Museum.

He told Abbas at the official ceremony "God willing, this visit will be the beginning of strengthening more relations in all fields.” 

He tweeted, "From the beloved state of #Palestine #Land_of_Canaan, the most beautiful greetings, coupled with the love of my Lord #the_Custodian_of_the_Two_Holy_Mosques and His Highness Sir #the_Crown_Prince."

But all of this pomp and ceremony is geared towards what Palestinians love the most: symbolism. They crave relevance and respect and often confuse those with actual gains. 

For over a decade now, Palestinians have done nothing to advance peace or to make the lives of their people any better, but they celebrate anything that gives them apparent legitimacy. The official Wafa news agency is filled with press releases of Abbas sending or receiving congratulatory messages with real countries. 

The Saudis have turned into world class politicians. They have skillfully managed relations with both China and the US, and they are doing the same between Iran and Israel. They are working hard to include Israel into their vision of an integrated Middle East that they lead. Their US ambassador Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud described their vision last July:
Her country envisions Israel belonging to an “integrated Middle East”. 

In line with Saudi Vision 2030, the diplomat said that Riyadh desires a “thriving Israel” and a “thriving Palestine”, adding that “Vision 2030 talks about a unified, integrated, thriving Middle East, and last I checked Israel was there…we want a thriving Red Sea economy”.

Princess Reema stressed that Saudi Arabia’s focus is on integration, not normalisation, with Israel. “We don’t say normalisation, we talk about an integrated Middle East, unified [as] a bloc like Europe, where we all have sovereign rights and sovereign states, but we have a shared and common interest,” asserted the Saudi ambassador.

“So that’s not normalisation. Normalisation is you’re sitting there, and I’m sitting here, and we kind of coexist, but separately. Integration means our people collaborate, our businesses collaborate, and our youth thrive.”
The Saudis are smartly offering intangibles to Israel, the US and Palestinians to gain in exchange real physical benefits - a civilian nuclear program that could become the basis of a military nuclear program if Iran builds a nuclear weapon, a mutual defense pact with the US, and access to top-level military and intelligence technology. 

The pretense of embracing Palestinian nationhood is mostly lip service so the Palestinians don't try to blow up normalization with Israel. Normalization with Israel is a carrot to get the US to provide the green light for the arms and civilian nuclear program (which also requires Israel's approval.) Acting warmly with China and Iran gives incentive for the US and Israel to not want to be left behind. And ultimately, Saudi Arabia wants a Middle East where it is the leader and major beneficiary of all commercial, political and even religious decisions. 

Israel has to think long and hard about the costs and benefits of normalization. It shouldn't only look at the intangibles, because many of the tangible benefits of peace are already there. Israel is already meeting with Saudis, it is probably already sharing intelligence with Saudis, it is probably already trading with Saudis via the UAE. Saudi Arabia won't veto the proposed rail line that would speed up trade with Europe via Haifa if a full peace deal is not signed. 

In may ways, Israel's vision of the Middle East dovetails with Saudi Arabia's. It just shouldn't be seduced by symbolism, the way the Saudis are doing with the Palestinians. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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