(Photo credit: Al Jazeera)
The far-right majority government of incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “would not stand in the way” of efforts to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia, Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reported on 25 December.
The report goes on to claim that if normalization were on the table, Netanyahu would consider suspending the de-facto annexation of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
As part of a last-minute deal to form his sixth government with the backing of Jewish supremacist groups, Netanyahu agreed to officially authorize illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank within 60 days of taking office.
The authorization is considered a de facto annexation, giving Tel Aviv direct oversight of occupied territory beyond the nation’s borders.
Israel has illegally expanded its territory since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and built settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem for over 700,000 settlers, clearly violating international law.
As part of his government formation deal, Netanyahu handed over control of Israeli civilian life in Area C of the West Bank to the newly created National Security Ministry, which Itamar Ben Gvir will lead.
Meanwhile, ultranationalist Bezalel Smotrich will have control over planning in the West Bank, giving him vast powers over the lives of Palestinians and opening the door to an expansion of illegal settlements.
Saudi Arabia has previously conditioned normalization with Israel on forming a Palestinian state. Nonetheless, economic ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh have thawed significantly in recent years.
Moreover, the Saudis have recently indicated that a final resolution to the Palestinian issue may not impede progress on normalization, with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir telling a group of US Jewish leaders that the “direction” is heading toward normalization but cautioned that “it will take more time.”
Four Arab states normalized ties with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-sponsored Abraham Accords. But despite being hailed as the start of a “new era,” citizens across the Arab world strongly oppose normalization with Tel Aviv, as was made evident by the cold reception Israelis received during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, as opposed to the widespread support for Palestinians.