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Obstacle to Saudi-Israeli normalization is two-state solution (former CIA)

Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director, Fmr. Central commander and American commander in Iraq.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “elusive” at present, according to former CIA director David Petraeus, adding that it also constitutes “the biggest obstacle” to normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“A strong path, a strong commitment by Israel to a two-state solution” is the biggest obstacle to Israel and Saudi Arabia’s normalization plans, said Petraeus, who is now president of the KKR Global Institute, to Dan Murphy of CNBC.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel as a state and has refused to do so since the Jewish nation’s independence in 1948. However, quiet but growing cooperation between them has taken place in recent years, raising hopes of a standardization agreement.

Reaching a diplomatic deal between two of the United States’ most important allies in the Middle East was one of U.S. President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy priorities.

But October 7 changed everything. The Palestinian militant group Hamas has infiltrated Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and kidnapping dozens more.

In response, Israel launched a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas since 2007. So far, more than 35,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave, according to the Hamas-led Health Ministry. Hamas.

Biggest obstacle to Saudi-Israeli normalization 'insurmountable,' says former CIA director

Saudi Arabia’s official position is that it will not open diplomatic relations with Israel until an independent Palestinian state is recognized.

“The Kingdom has conveyed to the US administration its firm position that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel until an independent Palestinian state is recognized,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

The United Nations classifies Israel as a state occupying the Palestinian territories, whose occupations and annexations after the 1967 Six-Day War remain in violation of international law.

Although the two-state solution would have a “significant effect” in the region, Petraeus said it was not “that realistic” at the moment.

The two-state solution refers to a broad concept of establishing two independent states: one for the Israelis and one for the Palestinians, with the aim of establishing peace between the two sides.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Rafah, US relations and more

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his opposition to the two-state solution, first touted by the Oslo Accords and supported by many international actors.

“The two-state solution that people are talking about would be the biggest reward for terrorists,” he told Sara Eisen.

Netanyahu stressed that the Gaza Strip would be “immediately taken over by Hamas and Iran”, and instead defended an outcome in which Israel would retain “responsibility for overall security” over the Gaza enclave.

Petraeus acknowledged that the United States has repeatedly tried to withdraw from the Middle East – as seen in its efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan, but continues to get “sucked in.”

“This region is far too important for the world, for the global economy,” he said.

“When something bad happens in the Middle East, it tends to generate violence, extremism, instability and, in some cases, a tsunami of refugees, not only in neighboring countries in the region , but even in the countries of our most important NATO Allies.

Two of Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, are also in Saudi Arabia, giving it a crucial role in the Muslim world when it comes to the issue of Palestinian statehood.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman once said in an interview that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a major obstacle to this normalization.

– CNBC’s Joanna Tan, Ruxandra Iordache and Natasha Turak contributed to this report.


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