(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Palestinians is due to make his first trip to the West Bank this week, as diplomatic efforts intensify to broker a deal between Israel and one of the foremost Arab and Islamic powers.
Naif bin Bandar Al Sudairi, who was named last month as Saudi Arabia’s first ever ambassador to the Palestinian people, will present his credentials to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The visit comes as the Biden administration works with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a potential framework that would see Saudi Arabia normalize relations with Israel in exchange for firm security guarantees from the US and Israeli steps to preserve the possibility of a Palestinian state.
Read More: A Saudi-Israeli Peace Deal? Who Wants What and Why: QuickTake
Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, said last week that an agreement to establish formal ties with Israel was getting closer “every day.”
“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important,” Prince Mohammed told Fox News in an interview with Bret Baier last week. “We need to solve that part,” and “good negotiations” are continuing.
Normalization with Saudi Arabia would be a significant win for Israel. While it has established formal relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan since 2020, Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s largest economy and a major regional investor. It’s also the guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites, giving its stance weight in the broader Islamic world.
Obstacles to Deal
Biden administration officials have been shuttling back and forth to Riyadh for months, hoping to conclude a deal ahead of next year’s presidential elections, but have also signaled that major obstacles remain, including over the fate of the Palestinians.
Read more: US, Bahrain Sign Security Pact That May Be Model For Saudi Deal
Privately, the Saudis have asked for firm security guarantees from the US, access to advanced US weapons and want America’s blessing to enrich uranium domestically as part of a plan to build nuclear power plants.
Saudi officials have also expressed frustration over Israel’s deteriorating ties with the Palestinians. Riyadh has publicly said that normalization with Israel would not come without a resolution for the Palestinians.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority, set back by creeping normalization between Israel and the Arab countries, is approaching the latest effort more pragmatically, seeking to extract benefits for itself rather than reject it outright.
It welcomed Al Sudairi’s planned visit on Sept. 26-27 as a “historic milestone for enhancing and developing bilateral relations between the two countries and opening up further prospects for cooperation in all fields.”
Read More: Palestinians Seek Benefits From Israel-Saudi Arabia Deal
Al Sudiari also serves as Saudi ambassador to Jordan, where he is based, and which is home to a large number of Palestinians.
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