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Israel-Saudi normalisation no time soon, says reported leaked document

Classified foreign office memo warns Israeli leaders that ties are unlikely without concessions to Palestinians
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) speaking with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz (AFP)

There is no chance of Saudi Arabia normalising ties with Israel without concessions to the Palestinians, a leaked Israeli foreign office document has suggested.

The memo, drawn up in mid-December and seen by Israel's Channel 13 news, throws a spanner in the works of plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push for closer ties with the kingdom and other Gulf states.

The document was reportedly distributed to the prime minister’s office and the national security council, as well as ambassadors and diplomats.

Despite Saudi Arabia's official position of refusing to establish ties with Israel without a Palestinian state, Netanyahu has repeatedly argued that building links with Gulf states was the path to resolving the conflict with the Palestinians.

According to an unnamed foreign ministry official familiar with the document, the management of the Palestinian issue rests with King Salman rather than his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The former has taken a much firmer stance on Palestinian statehood than the latter.

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“It appeared there was a window of opportunity to bring about a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia, but even if there was, it is likely already closed at this point,” the official told Channel 13.

A US official was cited by the channel as saying that a significant concession required by the Saudis of Israel would include promising to establish East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Behind-the-scenes diplomacy between Saudi Arabia and Israel was reportedly stalled as well by the fallout resulting from the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

Israel publicly backed Saudi Arabia over the incident, saying that it was necessary for the kingdom to remain stable.

The CIA has ascertained that Mohammed bin Salman holds primary responsibility for the killing.