Jan 29, 2020 – http://www.swissinfo.ch
By Stephen Kalin and Amina Ismail
RIYADH/CAIRO (Reuters) – Arab powers appear to be prioritising close ties with the United States that are vital to countering Iran over traditional unswerving support for the Palestinians in their reaction to President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
At a White House event on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump proposed creating a Palestinian state but demilitarised and with borders drawn to meet Israeli security needs, while granting U.S. recognition of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land and of Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital.
The plan diverges from previous U.S. policy and a 2002 Arab League-endorsed initiative that offered Israel normal relations in return for an independent Palestinian state and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Saudi Arabia’s response exemplified the careful balance now required from Gulf Arab monarchies, Egypt and Jordan which rely on U.S. military or financial backing and find themselves aligned with the United States and Israel in confronting Iran.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry expressed appreciation for Trump’s efforts and support for direct peace negotiations under U.S. auspices. At the same time, state media reported that King Salman had called the Palestinian president to reassure him of Riyadh’s unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.
Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace deals with Israel, as well as Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) used similar language that swung between hope for re-starting talks and caution against abandoning long-held stances.
Despite Palestinians’ rejection of the plan and boycott of Trump over perceived pro-Israel bias, three Gulf Arab states – Oman, Bahrain and the UAE – attended the White House gathering in a sign of changing times.
In a bitterly divided Arab world, backing for Palestinians has long been seen as a unifying position but also often a source of internal recriminations over the extent of that support, especially as some states have made independent, pragmatic overtures to historical adversary Israel.