Saudi Arabia’s Policy Towards Gaza War:
Gaza is going through a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the war between Israel and the Palestinian organization Hamas, which has claimed thousands of lives. Following the worst attack by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in over 1,400 deaths and 200 captives, the Israeli military launched an operation. More than 10,000 people have lost their lives in the fighting, and many more are stuck, leading to demands for a truce so that supplies can be delivered.
Today, the Middle Eastern countries; Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen don’t recognize Israel, Turkey cut off diplomatic ties with Israel, Erdogan declared Netanyahu a Terrorist, and Saudis are under pressure too.
Hamas will be able to point to relatively few triumphs. Still, one that it has already achieved is the sudden cessation of progress toward a peace treaty between Israel and Saudi Arabia that the United States mediated. The deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel would have been historic in that it would have brought Saudi Arabia closer to U.S. security, standardized ties between the two nations, and compelled Israeli assurances on the Palestinian question.
Presently the battle has put Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a tough situation. MBS longs for peace in the area because it would facilitate his efforts to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and lessen its reliance on oil exports. His success on this front is threatened by the awful violence and the possibility of a further escalation.
One step ahead, two steps below: (War in Gaza)
Mohammed Bin Salman is currently dealing with conflicting demands from both internal and international sources. European and US officials want Saudi Arabia to play a major role in a post-Hamas Gaza, while local and regional organizations want Riyadh to actively assist the Palestinians in their time of need. Thus, both sides in the tug-of-war on Riyadh and MBS’s economic goals for Saudi Arabia can be achieved only in a stable Middle East along with strong ties with the United States.
Even though the three sides have different interests, the Biden administration has succeeded in mediating Saudi Arabia’s recognition of Israel. Saudi Arabia wants concrete steps from Israel to enhance the political prospects of the Palestinian Authority, while Riyadh wants US security assurances and support for Saudi Arabia’s civilian nuclear infrastructure. Still, things are moving forward, and the talks are getting closer.
Saudi Arabia warned that Israel would need to take significant action on the Palestinian issue before normalization could occur, even before the conflict.
To achieve a rapprochement with Riyadh, Israel would need to do more than it had in the lead-up to the Abraham Accords, a 2020–21 series of normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates. As part of those deals, Israel had agreed to drop plans it had floated to annex 30 percent of the West Bank.
MBS’s ambitious economic goals for Saudi Arabia can be achieved only in a stable Middle East
The Israeli-Saudi agreement is doomed to fail as long as Israel remains fixated on Gaza and Arab public opinion remains galvanized in favor of the Palestinians. The fact that Saudi Arabia was even open to making a deal with Israel was indicative of a more significant change in its foreign policy.
In 2015, MBS became the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and embarked on an ambitious economic reform program. He also started exerting Riyadh’s influence throughout the region, frequently in an attempt to confront Iran, the country’s worst adversary. MBS’s international stance backfired in many ways, failing to harm his enemies while alienating international supporters, including U.S. President Joe Biden.
Today, to promote foreign investment, regional integration, and economic development—all of which are goals of Riyadh’s—regional stability is crucial. The United States’ mediation efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel took place in this particular environment.
On October 7, Saudi ambitions for regional stability for the sake of economic growth were thwarted. The situation was brought about by Riyadh’s lack of sympathy for Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has a Palestinian subsidiary called Hamas, gained political advances during the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries, which the Saudis anticipated and opposed.
However, it is impossible to regard the Saudis as doing nothing while the Israelis brutalize the Palestinians in Gaza—or worse, as carrying on with conversations with Israel. Although, Riyadh is interested in putting an end to the conflict to move closer to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian tensions (two-way solution).
US Secretary of the State Antony Blinken suggests that Arab states could manage post-war Gaza. Diplomatic discussions suggest Saudi Arabia could contribute military and administrative personnel, but Riyadh won’t be seen as addressing Israel’s mess, as its internal security forces have no experience outside their borders.
To allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, diplomatic solutions, and a two-state solution should be the top priorities for Saudi Arabia and the international community going ahead. This means encouraging talks, dealing with the underlying issues, and lending support to initiatives that result in a long-term solution, which in turn promotes peace and prosperity in the region. Saudi Arabia is putting US-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel on ice. However Riyadh of its foreign policy priorities as war escalates between Israel and Hamas.
However, US security adviser Jake Sullivan said the normalization effort was not on hold but he said that the focus was on other immediate challenges earlier both Israeli and Saudi leaders said that they were moving steadily towards a deal that could reshape West Asia but the war has now put this deal on the back burner. For the time being, Washington can postpone these worries since the Israeli-Saudi agreement will stay on hold as long as the Gaza battle continues.
This Article is written by Hajra Khan, currently studying at the department of International Relations, NUML Rawalpindi. She is interested in Global politics and conflict resolution. The views expressed in this article are authors own views and do not represent the views or opinion of the Youth Diplomacy Forum.