Saudi Arabia has decided to put normalization with Israel “on ice” amid the Israel-Hamas war, news agencies reported at the weekend, citing anonymous sources familiar with Riyadh’s thinking.
Two sources told Reuters that there would be a delay in the US-brokered talks. Senior US officials have already publicly acknowledged that the shock Hamas onslaught last Saturday has derailed the normalization effort, even if they’re “not abandoning it.”
AFP was given a similar message by a source of its own on Saturday.
Hamas launched a large-scale terrorist onslaught on Israel on October 7 that killed more than 1,300 people, most of them civilians, sparking a fierce Israeli response ahead of a potential Israeli ground invasion of the territory.
Analysts have posited that one of Hamas’s goals in its assault was to block the normalization effort with Saudi Arabia, a major power in the region.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held his first-ever call with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi earlier this week, as the two countries continue their own normalization process.
On Saturday Saudi Arabia called an urgent meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a 57-member bloc of Muslim countries.
The OIC said in a statement that the meeting would “address the escalating military situation in Gaza and its environs as well as the deteriorating conditions that endanger the lives of civilians and the overall security and stability of the region.”
The meeting will take place on Wednesday in Jeddah.
The reports come as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Riyadh on his Middle East shuttle diplomacy tour.
Saudi Arabia in the weeks before the attacks had spoken of progress in US-led diplomacy to normalize relations with Israel — which would be a landmark step for the conservative kingdom that is guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites.
But Riyadh has voiced increasing disquiet about the fate of Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where Israel has launched thousands of strikes and ordered the evacuation of the territory’s north as it seeks to smash Hamas, prompting thousands to flee.
Hamas officials say at least 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia denounced the displacement of Palestinians within Gaza and attacks on “defenseless civilians,” its strongest language criticizing Israel since the war broke out.
Riyadh “affirms its categorical rejection of calls for the forced displacement of the Palestinian people from Gaza, and its condemnation of the continued targeting of defenseless civilians there,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.