The Palestinian resistance’s successful strikes against Israel have buried prospects for Saudi-Israeli normalization, as global attention pivots to the plight of Palestinians under a brutal occupation.
Immediately following the launch of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood in occupied Palestine, a chorus of analysts surfaced to express their grave concerns about the prospects for Saudi-Israeli normalization, which up until now, had been getting “closer every day.”
According to most experts, the significant blows dealt to Israel by the Palestinian resistance since last Saturday have ignited a debate about the overall feasibility of further Arab normalization with the occupation state. This view only strengthened in the wake of reports that Saudi Arabia has pulled out of such talks.
In an article for the Washington Post last month, US writer Jonathan Hoffman delved into the motivations behind Arab countries’ decision to normalize relations with the occupation state.
The primary objectives of normalization, he says, are twofold: first, Arab states aim to enhance their ties with what they perceive to be a ‘formidable’ global player, and second, they seek to forge closer bonds with Washington through the conduit of normalization with Israel.
This perspective is corroborated by Brandon Friedman, director of research at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies. The Arab states have a keen interest in establishing relations with Israel, he claims, because they believe ties can bolster their strength via intelligence exchanges, the utilization of Israeli missile defense systems, and further acquisitions of Israel’s cutting-edge weaponry and technology.
Shock and Awe
It is the same language that underpinned the 2020 Abraham Accords: the nonstop narrative that Arabs should embrace an entity that possesses significant military, technological, and economic advantages, in order to strengthen their capacity to confront the common threats posed by Iran.
But this narrative began to unravel – at least in part – on what has come to be known as “the day that stunned Israel,” as aptly described by the Financial Times.
On the morning of 7 October, the Palestinian resistance announced the commencement of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, which, to date, has resulted in over 1,000 dead Israelis and the capture of at least 150 prisoners of war – who will serve as valuable bargaining chips and possible deterrence against the full force of Israeli aggression against Gaza.
Western media outlets have characterized this Palestinian operation as the most substantial blow to Israel in decades. US columnist Thomas Friedman called it “Israel’s worst day at war,” while Yossi Mikkelberg contends that the Palestinian success represents “a conceptual and operational failure of the highest order.”
Even the Israeli press mutedly concedes that “beyond the shock that the attack evoked, and the failures of military Intelligence and the army’s readiness, Israel is left with a hard nut to crack.”
A cursory examination can help explain Israel’s intelligence and military failures today. The Palestinian resistance, through its remarkable success, has shattered the prevailing myths of the occupation state, portraying it as weak, disoriented, unable to confront its adversaries, and retreating from confrontation by targeting civilians.
Setbacks for Saudi-Israeli détente
The second objective articulated by Hoffman in his article – strengthening relations with Washington, the paramount superpower present in West Asia – has also been dealt a significant blow by the Palestinian resistance.
Israel’s vulnerabilities have always automatically translated into perceived US weaknesses within West Asia. And because emerging powers like China and Russia are perceived to be gaining global prominence, regional states may increasingly seek to bolster ties with Washington’s great power competitors.
In the wake of the Al-Aqsa Flood operation, the Palestinian resistance has exposed western fragility, amplified loudly last week by Israel’s stunning setbacks.
One of the notable outcomes of the resistance op is its impact on the Saudi-Israeli normalization trajectory – a course that the Washington establishment had been actively promoting.
Despite Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s very recent interview with Fox News on 21 September, in which he hinted at Riyadh moving closer to normalizing relations with Tel Aviv, any such aspirations appear to have dissipated the moment Palestinian liberators stormed Israel last weekend.
To proceed with normalization, the Saudis had initially placed several conditions on the negotiating table, including Washington’s support for its civilian nuclear program, and an array of US defense commitments which include security assurances and access to advanced military equipment.
In addition, Riyadh sought some concessions from the Israeli side on the Palestinian issue so that it would be able to frame normalization as beneficial to Palestinians. It is important to note that the kingdom may have forged toes with Tel Aviv even if its third demand was not met – given the priority accorded to the first two conditions.
In today’s context, however, Riyadh will find it nigh near impossible to abandon its request for Israeli concessions, particularly with Tel Aviv’s aggressive bombardment of civilians in the Gaza Strip now a daily occurrence.
At the same time, the blow suffered by Israel will make it equally impossible for the Saudis to extract concessions from Palestinians. In a nutshell, the chances of Saudi-Israeli normalization taking place are now significantly reduced.
Simultaneously, an Israeli-Saudi detente has become an even greater priority for both Washington and Tel Aviv in the past few days. This shared interest could force them to contemplate coughing up some humiliating concessions to strike a deal with Riyadh.
Ironically, it is detente’s biggest beneficiary, Israel, that continues to undermine its normalization ambition: ongoing aggression and war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza make any talk of rapprochement anathema to Arab populations.
The revival of the Palestinian cause
Prior to Al-Aqsa Flood, US foreign policy sought to diminish the relevance of the Palestinian issue in both West Asian and international arenas, betting heavily on normalization agreements to marginalize Palestinian rights.
The resurgence of the Palestinian resistance has instead placed the Palestinian cause at the very forefront of the international agenda, made evident by the global outpouring of solidarity for the Palestinian people.
The kingdom has warned for years against the dangers posed by Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands, its deprivation of Palestinian rights, and its deliberate provocations against their sacred sites.
In a remarkable turn of events, literally overnight, the Palestinian resistance has resurrected the Palestinian cause that many Arab governments had sought to bury in order to appease Israel.
The full impact of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood has yet to be revealed. Palestinian resistance ops are still ongoing as are Israel’s Gaza strikes, and the possibility of hostilities expanding into other arenas remains high.
What is now indisputable, however, is that the redirection of global interest to Palestine came courtesy of armed resistance, and not from decades of diplomacy, artificial peace plans, or the failed ‘Abraham Accords’ diversion.
Palestinian resistance, it turns out, remains the primary safeguard of Palestinian rights.
Although Saudi Arabia’s demands for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians may have been sidelined in previous talks, today, they have become an integral part of any future negotiations, whether all parties like it or not.
Conversely, Israelis, who have witnessed a clean sweep of military, intelligence, and security defeats in recent days, will resolutely refuse to dole out concessions to Palestinians. The very prospect of doing so from a weakened position harkens to the end of its colonial-settler project.
The two sides at the normalization table have no ground on which to meet any longer. In effect, intended or not, the Palestinian resistance has succeeded in obstructing the path of Saudi-Israeli rapprochement.
By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan
Published by The Cradle
Republished by The 21st Century
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 21cir.com