(MENAFN) In a significant development, Saudi Arabia has put a temporary hold on its plans to normalize relations with Israel, citing the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants as the primary reason, according to a report by Reuters on Friday. The proposed normalization, backed by the United States, would have represented a diplomatic victory for Washington and a strategic setback for Iran.
Prior to the unexpected Hamas attack on Israel last Saturday, Saudi Arabia and Israel were making strides towards a potential agreement. This agreement would have entailed the Sunni kingdom officially recognizing the Jewish state, with Saudi Arabia securing a defense pact with the US and gaining access to more advanced American weaponry in return. However, the White House emphasized that the exact terms of the agreement had not been finalized.
As Israeli airstrikes continued to target Gaza, coupled with the looming possibility of a ground invasion into the Palestinian enclave, Saudi officials chose to temporarily suspend the deal. This decision was made in an effort to avert a surge of anger and unrest across the Muslim world, as reported by Reuters, citing insights from two sources closely linked to Riyadh.
These sources clarified that the suspension of the deal is not a definitive cancellation, leaving room for potential future negotiations. However, Riyadh is likely to demand substantial concessions from the Israeli side in any forthcoming agreement, specifically in favor of the Palestinians.
The conflict has exacted a devastating toll on both sides. The latest data from the Palestinian Health Ministry reports nearly 2,000 casualties in Gaza, including 583 children, due to Israeli airstrikes. On the Israeli side, over 1,300 individuals have lost their lives since the onset of the conflict, with more than 100 believed to be in Hamas custody in Gaza. This escalation of violence underscores the urgency for diplomatic solutions and underscores the complex challenges faced by regional stakeholders in the pursuit of lasting peace.
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