Saudi Arabia Is Already Laying the Groundwork for Peace with Israel

In multiple recent public statements, Benjamin Netanyahu—who will be sworn in today as prime minister—has emphasized his hope of securing a normalization agreement with Riyadh, which has been at a formal state of war with the Jewish state since 1948. Chelsi Mueller examines the obstacles to such an agreement and, more importantly, the signs that Riyadh is already laying the groundwork for one:

One indication is the appointment of a cleric, known for having visited Auschwitz and for promoting interfaith dialogue, to an influential role as secretary of the Muslim World League, headquartered in Jeddah. . . . Another indication of the slow preparation for formal peace is the scrubbing of some anti-Semitic content from national school textbooks. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s many public statements have also been used to signal his intent. He reportedly told a group of Jewish leaders in Washington, D.C. that the Palestinians were not a top priority for Saudi Arabia and that his patience with them was running out. . . . Most recently he described Israel as a “potential ally.”

These kinds of statements can serve multiple purposes: they can serve as a trial balloon, a means of gauging the reaction of Saudi citizens; as a sermon about the moderate and pro-American attributes of Saudi foreign policy; as a warning to Iran about the pain that Saudi Arabia could inflict if the Islamic Republic doesn’t modify its behavior; and as a carrot, to remind Israel of the rewards it stands to gain by making certain concessions.

Saudi Arabia continues to reaffirm its support for the “Arab peace plan” in official statements. Saudi Arabia’s proposal was unveiled in 2002 by the late King Abdullah; it offered normalization with Israel in exchange for full withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines, a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, and a “just” solution for Palestinian refugees. . . . [B]ut there are hints that Saudi Arabia may be flexible about some of its specific stipulations. Recent Saudi statements have been less detailed about thorny issues, such as borders and the return of refugees, suggesting that there may be room for compromise.

Read more at Transatlantic Policy Quarterly

More about: Arab peace initiative, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia

How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion