A Saudi delegation arrived Tuesday in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas amid an ongoing US-led diplomatic effort to normalize relations between Riyadh and Israel.
The delegation is headed by Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Nayef al-Sudairi, Riyadh’s first-ever non-resident envoy to the Palestinian Authority, and a cousin of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Al-Sudairi is considered close to the royal family. Saudi Arabia also claims to have sent al-Sudairi as a “consul general to Jerusalem.”
However, Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, nor does it yet have diplomatic ties with the Jewish State. Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. Al-Sudairi holds the title “consul general to Jerusalem” because the appointment did not require Israeli approval, since Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic mission in the holy city.
Al-Sudairi presented his credentials to Abbas with the assurance that his country is “working to establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Last month he presented his credentials to Abbas’ diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi during a meeting in Amman, Jordan.
The Saudis have proposed resuming financial assistance to Ramallah, in what has been construed as a sign the kingdom is paving the way to establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish State. Saudi Arabia contributed billions to PA Arab causes until cutting off funding in 2016 over PA corruption. Aid dropped from $174 million a year in 2019 to zero in 2021.
Palestinian Authority leaders are debating whether to accept a prospective Saudi-Israel deal or to adopt the antagonistic stand that the PA took in 2020 when the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, describing it as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords would constitute a “quantum leap.”
In his address on Friday at the opening session of the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu said that peace with the Sunni Muslim nation would have far-reaching implications, including encouraging other Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel.
He called the Abraham Accords “a pivot of history,” and said the whole world is reaping their benefits. “All these are tremendous blessings,” Netanyahu declared.
Hana Levi Julian contributed to this report.