West News Wire: Even as they portrayed his appointment as support for their desire for a state that would include a portion of the city as its capital, Israel on Sunday ruled out any potential physical assignment in Jerusalem for the first Saudi representative to the Palestinians.
Nayef al-Sudairi, the Saudi ambassador to Jordan, on Saturday added non-resident envoy to the Palestinians to his list of responsibilities. Al-Sudairi’s duties as “consul-general in Jerusalem” are now included, according to a statement on social media by his embassy.
Israel, however, has made it plain that the Saudis would have no physical role in East Jerusalem, which is now under occupation.
According to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, “This (al-Sudairi) could be a delegate who will meet with representatives in the Palestinian Authority.”
“Will there be an official physically sitting in Jerusalem? This we will not allow.”
The kingdom had previously ruled out such a deal until Palestinian statehood aspirations are handled. Saudi Arabia’s stance came after Washington claimed that there had been some progress in its efforts to broker a forging of diplomatic relations between Israel and the kingdom.
According to Cohen, “the Saudis want to let the Palestinians know that they are not forgotten.” The Palestinians indicated earlier this month that they felt marginalised by the intensified indirect discussions and expressed hope that Riyadh would take note of their worries and work with them.
“What does it mean that he is also ‘consul-general in Jerusalem’? It indicates that Saudi Arabia would maintain its positions, according to Bassam al-Agha, the Palestinian ambassador to Riyadh.
Interviewed on Voice of Palestine radio, al-Agha further interpreted the appointment as a “rejection” of the US recognition in 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
They sounded more upbeat after al-Sudairi’s appointment.
East Jerusalem would serve as the capital of a Palestinian state that would be established in areas that Israel had conquered in a war in 1967. The US-sponsored talks with Israel to do that came to a standstill more than ten years ago.
Israeli settlement on occupied land and tensions between the Hamas movement in control of Gaza and the Palestinian authority in the occupied West Bank have been obstacles.
Jerusalem, which Israel claims is its indivisible capital but which is not generally acknowledged outside of Israel, is another contentious issue. In the city, Palestinian diplomacy is prohibited by Israeli authorities.
Al-Sudairi declared Amman, the capital of Jordan, would remain his base while presenting his credentials to the Palestinian embassy there.
The hard-right government of Israel has downplayed the possibility that it may concede major territory to the Palestinians as part of the potential normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia.