The Jerusalem Post

Palestinian piece of Saudi-Israel deal is Israel’s last chance to prevent bi-national state

 Dr. Shaul Arieli (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dr. Shaul Arieli
(photo credit: Courtesy)

The stagnation Netanyahu has imposed on the political process with the Palestinians and the change in Israel's policy from the two-state solution to one unequal state have removed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the Israeli public's agenda. The three-fold increase in the percentage of Israelis who support the status quo and the dramatic increase in the rate of Palestinians who support the one-state solution are a testimony to the bafflement, despair, and lack of mutual trust in the ability of the two peoples to settle the conflict by themselves. The negotiations between the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, which include a significant 'package' for the Palestinians, contravene this reality and open a golden opportunity for change in the regional and bilateral arena.

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, those involved must conduct themselves according to several key assumptions. One, the agreement with Saudi Arabia should not be viewed as a continuation of the Abraham Accords, which, in practice, did not change almost anything regarding the Palestinians. The Israeli promise to the Emirates not to annex the territories died at birth, as Israel continued the creeping annexation policy and even advanced to de jure annexation through structural and organizational changes in the occupation mechanism. The package should transform the Israeli rationale that sees the Abraham Accords as a channel for ignoring the Palestinians and freezing the political process into a mediating tool and a part in settling the conflict according to international decisions. Two, it would be a mistake to treat the package as a necessity imposed on Israel in exchange for normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.

Instead, this package should be viewed as a platform for renewing the consensual framework for resolving the conflict. Three, the weight of the positive statements accompanying the agreement is insignificant compared to the need to take irreversible steps that will change the daily reality of Palestinians and Israelis.

Four, one should not be satisfied with a package that helps preserve the territorial feasibility of a permanent settlement by stopping Israeli moves of creeping annexation (expanding settlements, legitimizing outposts, building infrastructure, demolishing houses and the like),  but by gradually creating a reality of separation and establishment of a Palestinian state. Five, Hamas in Gaza should be one of the primary beneficiaries of the package; Ignoring it will push it into the hands of Iran, which will encourage it and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to sabotage the implementation of any agreement.


Six, Jordan and Egypt should be included as beneficiaries in the agreement, especially economically, in exchange for their involvement and influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Seven, the Palestinian side must form one legitimate address representing the Palestinian people through elections to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. Ending the division in the Palestinian leadership and territories, which Netanyahu has long worked to preserve, by establishing a joint government for Fatah and Hamas, will allow both the successful implementation of the package and the renewal of the negotiations later.

Lastly, the package should be seen as the last step in the implementation of the interim agreement, and, therefore, it will not include the issues of the permanent agreement – Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders and security – which should be left for the renewed negotiations.

The package will include elements from different fields and at different levels, such as a statement regarding the commitment to settle the conflict according to resolution 242 or maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.

However, its essence will be the territorial measures, the most important of which is the transfer of 25% of the West Bank area in class C to the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, without evacuating even one settlement, outpost or base, and maintaining the access roads for all of them on the shortest route to the Green Line. This way, the control over the mountain ridge, important for maintaining continuity and the fabric of Palestinian life, will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. This move could be considered as the implementation of the third additional preparation according to the Oslo Accords. In addition, under the condition of holding elections in the Palestinian Authority and the formation of a unity government, it will be possible to renew the connection between the West Bank and Gaza by building two short railway sections that will connect the Erez Crossing, in which a goods terminal will be built, to the Tarkumiya Crossing. Later, it will be possible to build a seaport in Gaza to export and import goods transported by train from the West Bank.

The American administration under President Biden is the only one that has the responsibility and ability to lead the negotiations under these principles. For the Saudis, despite their desire to demonstrate commitment to the Palestinian people and maintain their political initiative as a basis for resolving the conflict, it will be relatively easy to give up some of these principles as long as they get what they want from the United States in two areas: strengthening deterrence against Iran and restoring their regional and international status that has waned in recent years. Without the support of former President Trump in the agreement, the administration needs Israel in order to approve the agreement in the Senate. Still, it does have the tools to motivate Israel to agree to the required package.


Achieving the agreement according to these principles will lead to a regional balance of power that is better for Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States and pave the way for an agreement with the Palestinians and then with the rest of the Arab world. The American administration and Israel must consider the security, political and economic consequences if this agreement is signed without the Palestinian package or not signed at all. Israel will have to face an increase in Iranian influence in the region and its deterioration into one state, leading it to a civil war and a transformation into a state with a regime and nature that are extremely different from the vision of its founding fathers.

Colonel (res.) Dr. Shaul Arieli, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict