By Afshain Afzal
In the recent past, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joseph Biden discussed the prospect of an agreement with Arab states including Israeli-Saudi Arabia normalization of relations. This was to be followed by Washington inaugurating Embassy at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv declaration Jerusalem as its capital. As a trailer for the peace effort and normalization, Nayef Bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, Saudi Arabia's newly appointed ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, visited West Bank on 25 September 2023. He met President Mahmoud Abbas in Israeli occupied city of Ramallah on 26 September and also visited the sacred Al Masjid Al Aqsa. It seems if all is OK but nothing is well.
As a part of Saudi-Israel normalization efforts, Nayef Bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, meeting with Palestinian authorities including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi Arabia planning to open a consulate in Palestine in East Jerusalem is just a show off and nothing more than part of US Elections campaign The two-day visit of Nayef bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, raises a lot of questions. There are also questions over An India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC), which is intended to boost Saudi-Israel normalization. The Arab refugees from West Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israeli-occupied territories demand repatriation and compensation from United Nations Organizations. Are they not humans and deserve refugee’s rights, being witness of Israeli atrocities?
US Congress had nothing to say about progress on normalisation of relations between the Saudi Arabia and Israel by November presidential ballot. However, Washington has adopted new tactics to pressurize Saudi Arabia through renewed attacks by Houthi elements being funded and armed by the US and Iran. State Department issued a statement, “We strongly condemn the September 25th attack carried out by Houthi elements on the Saudi-Yemeni border that killed two Bahraini service members and injured many others. Washington has sent a special representative to Bahrain to chalk out a strategy if Houthi carryout increased attacks including withdrawal.
Meanwhile in a Press briefing on 26 September 2023, US Department of State's Spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “we have heard in our engagements with the Palestinians, and that we have communicated on their behalf to our Israeli counterparts, is that there will have to be a significant Palestinian component of any final agreement.” In the same briefing, Matthew Miller openly hinted about high-level talks with Iran including nuclear issues.
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in New York as Iran and the US each freed five prisoners who were in jails for years on 25 September. The US also allowed the release of nearly $ 6 billion in Iranian frozen assets in South Korea for humanitarian use. Washington, in facts, plans to develop very close relations with Tehran that existed during Pahlavi Dynasty to use them to destabilize Asia and keep Arabs on their toe. Iran should not be happy with these developments, as there are plans for regime change too.
The Western nations and Israel have set the bottom line of any negotiations to interim independence with territory marked as Palestine with a capital of East Jerusalem. This was also the demand in many Resolutions by the Muslim countries but are we doing justice to the Palestinians. There is need of guarantees for the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction. In addition, the individual Palestinians, groups and have been declared as foreign terrorist organizations by the United Nations, the US and many other countries; their name must be removed and ban, terrorists and sanctions lifted before any negotiation starts.
There should be no ambiguity that Palestine should comprise of the Sinai Peninsula, West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip with strip of land linking Palestine with the Mediterranean Sea though the Gaza. Palestinians require an access to the Mediterranean Sea, which is their legal right under Article 38 (2) UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, allowing for ongoing navigation rights of access and egress to the Mediterranean Sea. Article 3 of the 1982 Convention states that every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles (nm), measured from the baselines as laid down in the Convention, and Article 4 provides that the outer limit of the territorial sea of each State is the line every point of which is at distance from the nearest point of the baseline equal to the breadth of the territorial sea.
Like resolutions for so many years in the past, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution in 2022, “There is no two-state solution without a sovereign and independent State of Palestine based on the pre‑1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital”. This year too, UNGA passed a similar resolution. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore West Jerusalem was part of Palestine and forcibly occupied by the Israelis while all Muslim population was evicted and made refugees in 1948, as per bogus counting Jerusalem had Jews in the majority. There is no doubt that there is no alternative to a two-state solution where Israel and Palestine can coexist peacefully, side-by-side, in line with internationally agreed parameters. But unless these side issues are resolved, neither Saudi-Israel normalization can be achieved nor peace cannot be restored in the Middle East in true sense.