Saudi Arabia and Israel continue to inch towards normalized ties. At the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed that Saudi Arabia and Israel are “at the cusp” of normalizing relations. In recent weeks, two Israeli ministers have visited Riyadh: the first was the Israeli tourism minister to attend a United Nations World Tourism Organization conference, while the second was the Israeli Communications Minister attending the Universal Postal Union (UPU) conference.
Prospects of a Saudi-Israel deal continue to show value against checking the threat of Iran and her allies. The recent reactions of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling Muslim countries that normalize relations with Israel equivalent to “betting on a losing horse” shows that Iran is indeed scared.
But according to a recent report, both Saudi and Israeli officials have recognized that while they can bridge other issues, the one that will destroy the talks is the Biden administration’s continued obsession with Palestinian nationhood.
And the Biden administration continues to steamroll down that path. President Biden said at UN that his administration continues “to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between…the Israelis and Palestinians — two states for two people.” And twenty Senate Democrats are pressuring the Biden administration to pre-condition any Saudi deal with significant advancement towards a two state solution.
The Saudi position on a Palestinian state remains open and pragmatic. On the surface, it appears otherwise, as the Saudi Foreign minister stated that the country’s goal was to have a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) was more ambiguous in a recent interview. While MbS emphasized that “the Palestinian issue is very important” and “we need to solve that part,” he did not call for statehood, instead emphasizing the need to “ease the life of the Palestinians.” This echoes recent reports in the Israeli press that Saudi Arabia is indeed prepared to forgo Palestinian statehood, and that Saudi Arabia would continue to negotiate with Israel and the United States if the Palestinian Authority would refuse to.
So what comes next? With continued focus on Palestinian statehood, the ever-elusive normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia remains the Biden Administration’s win to lose.
Good Riddance to UNRWA as it Supports Hamas
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The head of UNRWA recently accused Israel of waging an “expanded, concerted campaign” to destroy the UN agency. The leader of UNRWA does have a cause for concern, as Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that UNRWA has “lost legitimacy and can no longer function as a UN body.” UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer stated that “The rot is systemic, and that’s why we’re holding a conference…to replace UNRWA.” And now Congressional Republicans are probing the Biden administration’s decision to restore US funding to UNRWA in 2021, following the Trump administration’s suspension of that funding in 2018.
Good riddance to UNRWA if it ends up folding under pressure; UNRWA and the UN are Hamas apologists at best, and facilitators at worst. For example, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator actually insisted that “Hamas is not a terrorist group for us,” but merely a “political movement.” And the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, in a rejoinder to the French president calling the October 7 attack “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century,” stated that “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of [the October 7 attack] were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”
UNRWA Employees Provide Material Support to Hamas, PIJ
Israeli Defense Minister Galant has named 12 specific UNRWA employees who “actively participated” in Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, and also stated that Israel has “significant indications based on intelligence” that implicates “over 30” additional UNRWA employees. Gallant stated that of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff in Gaza, “1,468 workers are known to be active in Hamas and PIJ, 185 UNRWA workers are active in the military branches of Hamas and 51 are active in the PIJ military branch.”
Additional to those numbers are the 30 UNRWA teachers known to have celebrated the October 7 attacks on a UNRWA Telegram group that had 3,000 members.
Hamas’ “Data Center” Found Underneath UNRWA Headquarters
Israel also found a Hamas “data center” under UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza, equipped with an electrical room, computer servers and rooms where Hamas operatives could work and sleep, and that there were power lines connecting UNRWA’s headquarters to this data center. And surprise, some of the equipment found was made in Iran and China. Interestingly, while the Hamas “data center” contained electronics, a server room in the above-ground UNRWA headquarters had most of its electronics missing, which appears to be indicative of “actions of someone who knew the army was coming and wanted to hide the evidence,” according to Col. Benny Aharon of Israel’s 401st Armored Brigade. After the head of UNRWA denied that UNRWA knew of this data center ahead of time, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) tweeted “Oh, you knew,” and stated that Israel had warned UN officials about the data center but those officials chose to ignore those warnings.
Additional Evidence of Strong UNRWA/Hamas Partnership
Additionally, UN Watch cited instances of UNRWA/Hamas synergy, including that Israel found:
- At the UNRWA headquarters above ground, weapons and “documents that indicated that the same offices were also used by Hamas”;
- UNRWA aid bags in Yahya Sinwar’s bunker;
- UNRWA concrete in Hamas’ tunnels that housed hostages;
- Missiles and rockets under UNRWA equipment;
- That Hamas stashed ammunition, explosives, and weapons in UNRWA bags, and that Hamas also had UN vests;
- That Hamas stored weapons in and fired weapons from a UNRWA school; and
- That Hamas’ “Ministry of Health” stole 24,000 gallons of fuel from UNRWA.
And to further emphasize the scope of how seriously UNRWA is compromised by Hamas, every single UNRWA “site, school, mosque, [and] kindergarten” that Israel has inspected had weapons, according to Israel’s commander of the 646th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade.
Calls to preserve UNRWA merely deflect away from the “systemic” “rot” found in the organization. Israel should make sure that UNRWA does not operate in any post-war Gaza, as the organization compromises the security of the Jewish state.
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