(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia is making a resolution to the Palestinian issue a condition for any engagement with Israel, the kingdom’s former head of intelligence said, even as the US attempts to work on normalizing their ties while war rages in Gaza.  

“The Palestinian issue is upfront and must be dealt with, a priority of any Saudi engagement on the level that was presented in the press as being imminent,” Prince Turki Al-Faisal said at the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa Summit in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

The stance underscores how the war between Israel and Hamas altered the diplomatic calculus for Saudi Arabia. Before the conflict erupted two months ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom was getting closer “every day” to a landmark deal normalizing relations with Israel, even as he described the Palestinian issue as “very important.”

But talks have been on pause since Israel’s retaliation following Hamas’s attack that killed some 1,200 people. The shift in sentiment has derailed the momentum of a set of peace treaties with Israel signed by several Arab countries in 2020 and mediated by the US.

Israeli air strikes and a ground offensive into Gaza have claimed the lives of more than 16,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, and large areas have been reduced to rubble.  

“Palestine is there in front of all of the other considerations,” Al-Faisal said, pointing to several recent statements made by the Saudi crown prince. “I don’t think Saudi Arabia is going to engage in any such settlement or process of normalization with Israel without resolving the Palestinian issue,” he said. 

Prince Turki, who’s also a former Saudi ambassador to the US, now holds no official role but is a rare senior royal who can air views on policy. The son of the late King Faisal served as the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency from 1979 to 2001.

Saudi Arabia has meanwhile been pushing to revive its 2002 peace plan that calls for Israel to withdraw from Arab land occupied since 1967. The initiative is “the equitable way” to end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Prince Turki said.

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