Saudi Arabia is offering to resume financial support to the Palestinian Authority in a sign that the kingdom is making a serious effort to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Saudi officials say they are trying to secure Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ support for open ties with Israel, providing more legitimacy to any eventual agreement and forestalling any accusations that the kingdom would sacrifice Palestinian Arab efforts to establish an independent state to advance its own goals.
To advance their interests, the Palestinian Authority is sending a senior delegation to Saudi Arabia next week to discuss what the kingdom can do in talks with Israel to advance flickering hopes of creating a Palestinian state, officials told The Wall Street Journal.
Saudi Arabia has pumped more than $5 billion dollars into Palestinian Arab causes, including direct support to the PA, but began cutting back funding in 2016 amid allegations of incompetence and corruption, with aid plunging from $174 million a year in 2019 to zero in 2021.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first raised the idea of funding with Abbas at a meeting in Saudi Arabia in April, connecting the resumption of aid to the authority cracking down on terrorist groups and violence in Judea and Samaria.
If Abbas can get security under control, the crown prince offered assurances that the kingdom would eventually resume its funding for the Palestinian Authority and that Saudi Arabia wouldn’t accept any deal with Israel that undermines efforts to create an independent Palestinian state, officials told the newspaper.
While the Saudi proposal wasn’t explicitly tied to Palestinian Arab support for a Saudi-Israel diplomatic deal, the offer provides Palestinians with more incentives to back the kingdom’s efforts, the officials said.
Tuesday’s report follows a previous WSJ report which indicated that the United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed on the broad outlines of a deal for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel in exchange for concessions to the Palestinian Arabs.
Saudi officials have repeatedly said that a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.
Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer visited Washington recently for talks at the White House and the State Department about the Saudi Arabia mega-deal.
After those talks, officials told Axios that the Biden administration told Dermer that Israel would have to make significant concessions to the Palestinian Authority as part of any possible mega-deal with Saudi Arabia.