Is Peace Possible Between Israel and Saudi Arabia?

Flags of Israel and Saudi Arabia

Prior to October 7, 2023, there were rumblings of a historic peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Before that horrific day in October when Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 Israelis, raped women and young girls, and took approximately 240 people hostage, the Biden administration had been pushing Israel and the Saudis towards a peace agreement which included “upgrading U.S.-Saudi relations with a defense treaty. . . and an agreement on a civil nuclear energy program on Saudi soil” (Axios).

The Saudis also conditioned any peace agreement with Israel upon the establishment of a Palestinian state. During an interview with Fox News on September 20, 2023, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman noted that any normalization with Israel would require a plan for the Palestinians, “Every day we get closer, it seems it’s for the first time real one serious. . . .  If we have a breakthrough of reaching a deal that give the Palestinians their needs and make the region calm, we’re going to work with whoever is there” (Israel National News).

Two days later, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed normalization progress with Saudi Arabia during his address to the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Netanyahu shared his optimism for an agreement, stating, “I believe that we are at the cusp of a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Such a peace will go a long way to ending the Arab Israeli conflict” (Israel National News).

Part of Netanyahu’s optimism was based on what a peace agreement would mean for Israel and the entire region because it would include “a planned corridor connecting the Arabian peninsula, Israel, and Europe, to allow for travel, shipping, and energy pipelines between all of the countries involved” (Israel National News).

But Netanyahu also added this cautionary note about any peace agreement with Saudi Arabia when he said, “Many decades of efforts to make peace with Arab Nations have failed because they were based on one false assumption – that the Palestinians must be appeased as a precondition to peace. The Palestinians have much to gain from new peace agreements. They should be part of these agreements, but they should not have a veto on peace” (Israel National News).

The potential for peace between Israel and the Arab nations was not welcomed by all in the Middle East. On October 2, 2023, during a speech marking the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah warned Saudi Arabia and other nations that might follow the Saudis lead, “Any country that might sign a normalization agreement should be condemned and held accountable for its actions” (Israel National News).

Five days later, not only did the peace negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia come to a screeching halt, the Middle East and the rest of the world were set on edge as well, fearing any regional escalation could lead to World War III.

Four months post October 7th and with a presidential election less than a year away, the Biden administration is aggressively looking for a way to motivate Israel to end its war against Hamas. One way the White House has sought to bring Israel back to the negotiation table is by dangling a peace agreement with the Saudis.

Recent reports have revealed that the Saudis are open to resuming talks with Israel as long as certain conditions are met. On January 18, 2024, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. told members of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, that Saudi Arabia welcomes dialogue with Israel but that any peace agreement must include a ceasefire in Gaza and the establishment of an “irrevocable” path to a Palestinian state (Axios).

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud said that the Saudis have extended an olive branch to Israel but that the Saudi kingdom also has a responsibility for the Palestinian people, “The Palestinian people deserve a state…they deserve a pathway that is irrevocable… We recognize the need for Israel to feel safe but it can’t be at the expense of the Palestinian people” (Axios).

It is important to keep in mind that this is not the first time that Israel and Saudi Arabia have engaged in normalization talks. The Saudis took the lead in similar negotiations in 2002, 2007, and 2017. Each time, Saudi Arabia offered an olive branch to Israel in exchange for the return of territories occupied by Israel after it won the Six-Day War in 1967 (i.e., the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and the Golan Heights). But each time negotiations were terminated due to a terrorist attack against Israel.

For example, on March 27, 2002, Arab leaders traveled to Beirut and offered to Israel to, “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region” (Asia Times). But negotiations ended later that same day after a Hamas terrorist detonated a bomb in a hotel in Netanya which killed 30 Israelis who were observing a Passover dinner.

There is a historical pattern when it comes to peace agreements between Israel and her Arab neighbors and this historical pattern brings to light a glaring problem with the proposed peace negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Question: What is the glaring problem with any peace agreement between Israel and the Arab nations?

Answer: The Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank do not want to peacefully co-exist with Israel because they are committed to a One-State Solution (a.k.a., Hitler’s “Final Solution” for the Jews).

During an interview earlier this month, Hamas Leader Khaled Mashal confirmed that Hamas and the majority of Palestinians reject any Two-State Solution when he said, “People are saying now that the October 7 war has opened a new horizon for a vision of a political settlement. Here, they pull out their old ‘merchandise’ of the two-state solution. I would like to say two things about the two-state solution. First, we have nothing to do with the two-state solution. We reject this notion, because it means you would get a promise for a [Palestinian] state, yet you are required to recognize the legitimacy of the other state, which is the Zionist entity. This is unacceptable. We demand to be liberated, to get rid of the occupation, and to have our independence, and our state. [Israel] is my enemy. It is not my concern. . . Obviously, the position of Hamas, and the position of the vast majority of the Palestinian people, especially following October 7, I believe that the dream and the hope for Palestine from the River to the Sea, and from the north to the south has been renewed. . . the Palestinian consensus – or almost a consensus – is that we will not give up on our right to Palestine in its entirety. . . I believe that October 7 has enhanced this conviction, has narrowed the disagreements, and has turned the idea of liberating Palestine from the River to the Sea into a realistic idea that has already begun. It is not something [merely] to be expected or hoped for. It is part of the plan, part of the agenda, and we are standing on its threshold, Allah willing” (MEMRI).

Netanyahu understood this was so when he cautioned the U.N. against appeasing the Palestinians and giving them veto power over peace.

But let’s be clear, even if the Palestinians are not appeased or given power to veto peace, will Iran or Hezbollah quietly stand down and welcome the establishment of a Two-State Solution? Again, Nasrallah’s threat to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world five days prior to October 7th is the resounding answer to that question.

In fact, Nasrallah’s answer was recently confirmed by Former Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali-Akbar Salehi during an interview with Russia Today TV on January 22, 2024. When asked about the possibility for an end to the current tensions between Tehran and Tel Aviv, Salehi said, “As long as the [Israeli] entity exists and is active in our region, the crisis will remain between Iran and the regime that is occupying Jerusalem, even if a Palestinian state is established. I am referring to the proposed two-state solution. We can never recognize the plundering Zionist entity. So this confrontation will continue until the Zionist entity ceases to exist. I do not see the end of this confrontation on the horizon” (MEMRI).

To make matters worse, it appears that the Iranian regime’s commitment to the complete annihilation of Israel will be getting a boost. On March 1, Iran will be holding “parliamentary elections as well as elections for the 88-member, eight-year term Assembly of Experts. This round of the Assembly of Experts is expected to select the next Supreme Leader given that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni is nearly 85 and has been sick repeatedly” (Jerusalem Post).

In order to maintain their ideological grip on the Iranian people, Iran’s Guardian Council has disqualified virtually all moderates and “pragmatists” from running for public office, including former president Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani criticized his disqualification, stating, “the minority that rules officially and publicly wants to reduce people’s participation in elections” (Associated Press).

This new development led one commentator to conclude that the Guardian Council’s decision “makes ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran’s proxies a virtual certainty, and war more likely than ever” (Jerusalem Post).

Please join me in praying for our leaders and for the peace of Israel.

by Dr. Matthew Dodd | January 26, 2024