PA: We hope Saudi Arabia won’t join normalization with Israel

Hamas, Islamic Jihad outraged by Netanyahu visit

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh  in Ramallah. August 25, 2020 (photo credit: ALAA BADARNEH/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah. August 25, 2020
Palestinian officials in Ramallah said on Monday they were not surprised to hear of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s secret visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but expressed hope that Riyadh would not establish relations with Israel.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, meanwhile, strongly condemned the visit, dubbing it a dangerous precedent.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, in opening remarks during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet, did not comment directly on reports about the secret meeting but warned that “attempts to portray normalization between Israel and the Arab countries as a substitute for peace with the Palestinians is an escape from the truth.”
Shtayyeh said that the Palestinians were “saddened by the news that Arab countries are talking about opening embassies in Israel”, referring to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the two Gulf states which signed peace agreements with Israel this year. Shtayyeh noted they do not even have embassies or diplomatic missions “on the lands of the State of Palestine.”
He called for dialogue among the Arab countries concerning normalization with Israel and pressed for Arab coordination with the Palestinian leadership on issues that affect the Palestinians.
A senior Palestinian official said that while it came as no surprise, the leadership hoped this visit will not presage a change in Saudi conditions for normalization with Israel.
“We are aware that the Saudis supported the decisions by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize their relations with Israel,” the official said. “We also believe that the meeting between Netanyahu and bin Salman was not the first of its kind. But we hope that Saudi Arabia is not going to join the normalization train. The Saudis have made it clear that they would not establish relations with Israel until the Palestinian issue is resolved.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the visit “dangerous” and demanded Saudi Arabia clarify its purpose “because of the insult this represents to the nation and the squandering of Palestinian rights.”
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said that Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia was a “natural and dangerous development of the normalization process in the region.” He warned that the normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab countries could lead to “military and security cooperation against big countries in the region,” an apparent reference to Iran.
Another senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, also called on Saudi Arabia to clarify the purpose of Netanyahu’s visit to the kingdom. “These meetings are harmful to the Palestinian cause and embolden our enemies,” he said.
Relations between Hamas and Saudi Arabia have been strained since 2019, when the Saudi authorities arrested scores of Hamas members in the kingdom accused of membership in a “terrorist entity” and “supporting and financing a terrorist organization.”
Hamas is an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a “terrorist organization” by the Saudi government in 2014. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars denounced the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization that does not represent Islam. The council said that the Muslim Brotherhood calls “for rebellion against rulers, wreaking havoc in states, [and] destabilizing co-existence in the country.”
The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad denounced Netanyahu’s visit as a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Mecca, Medina and the al-Aqsa Mosque.” The Palestinian terror group said that the visit and normalization with Israel “will encourage the Zionist occupation to continue its malicious aggressive policies in Palestine.”