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Israel-Hamas war forces Saudi Arabia’s hand over the Palestinian cause



The thousands of deaths in the Strip have seen the normalization agreement between Riyadh and Israel shelved following the October 7 militia attacks​

Guerra entre Israel y Gaza
Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman with U.S. President Joe Biden


The terms chosen by Saudi Arabia to condemn Tuesday’s Israeli bombardment of the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza were revealing: the attack was “inhumane” and the offensive on “besieged” Gaza, a “bloodbath” committed by “Israeli occupation forces.” This censure was the latest demonstration that the signing of the agreement to normalize relations between the Arab power and Israel is not only no longer on the table — Riyadh announced its freezing on October 13 — but that the pact now seems impossible in the short term. Israeli bombings of civilian targets in Gaza have taken with them the words of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who told Fox News in a September 20 interview that the agreement was “closer every day.”

With more than 9,000 Gazans killed in Israeli air strikes according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, not even an absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia would dare to go ahead with a normalization once described in the Arab world as khiyaana (betrayal). On the contrary, Riyadh is now spearheading initiatives such as the joint communiqué issued last week by nine Arab countries to denounce “the flagrant violations of international law” committed by Israel in Gaza.

The Israeli military offensive has left the Saudis with no alternative but to try to regain “their central position in the Islamic world at a time of Muslim suffering in Gaza,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Middle East expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston, says by email. “Saudi leaders must maintain a careful balance between their dialogue with the United States and Israel [...] and the high levels of public anger over the situation in Gaza.” Saudi Arabia, Ulrichsen explains, “also has religious authority as the custodian of the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina.”

The freezing of dialogue with Israel was “inevitable,” says Palestinian analyst Yara Hawari. The Saudis, she says by email, “could not establish relations with the Israelis while the Israelis massacre Palestinians in Gaza.” A large number — at least 3,730 — of the Palestinians who have lost their lives in Gaza since October 7 also symbolize the very essence of an innocent civilian: they were children.