Saudi envoy nixes Al-Aqsa visit after Palestinians balk at ‘normalization’

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Nayef al-Sudairi, the newly appointed Saudi ambassador to the Palestinians, has canceled a planned visit to the Al Aqsa compound on Temple Mount during his current stay in the Palestinian territories, Haaretz reports.

The Saudi delegation was expected to visit the holy site on the occasion of the Mawlid, the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday.

The visit would have been the first by an official Saudi delegation since Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.

However, reports of the planned visit have caused critical reactions on social media, with some Palestinians considering it a sign of normalization with Israel and calling to prevent it.

According to Haaretz, the Saudi delegation understands the sensitivity of the question for their Palestinian counterparts, and decided to postpone it.

The ambassador’s visit comes as Israel and Saudi Arabia inch closer to a normalization deal brokered by the US.

The Saudis have reportedly demanded that Israel make a number of concessions to the Palestinians, while giving up on earlier demands spelled out in their 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which would have traded normalization for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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