Trump’s Saudi Arabia Trip Figures Into Plan for Palestinian Deal

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from The New York Times,

For 15 years, Saudi Arabia has been pitching its formula for peace among Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world, with little response from Israeli leaders.

And for months now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted Israel’s increasing strategic alignment with Persian Gulf states over their shared enmity toward Iran.

But it took President Trump just a couple of hours after he landed in Israel on Monday to suddenly and quite publicly combine those two ideas as the centerpiece of his plan for a peace deal. With the gusto of a salesman pushing a limited-time offer, he cast the Saudi monarch in a leading role and invoked his name to push Mr. Netanyahu toward progress with the Palestinians.

It was a case study in wheeler-dealer diplomacy, aimed at unlocking progress in a conflict that has bedeviled decades of peace efforts. And even though it remained unclear what, if anything, the Saudi monarch had actually agreed to and whether Israel would make an offer acceptable to Arab states, Mr. Trump has used his entire trip so far to signal that he sees the Saudis as central.

Skepticism remains high in the gulf nations that Mr. Trump can achieve a breakthrough. But proponents of the effort argue that recent shifts in the Arab world may have made the prospect of a regional peace less remote.

The Palestinian cause, once among the most resonant in the Arab world, has dropped down the priority list as chaos has engulfed Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, and as the gulf states are consumed with low oil prices and their rivalry with Iran.

Still, though gulf leaders publicly keep their distance from the Jewish state, they have increasingly realized Israel’s value against their shared enemies and have pursued limited behind-the-scenes security and commercial ties.

“Despite their frustration with Israeli behavior regarding the Palestinians, the gulf states recognize that Israel is a strong, advanced country with a military that could act against their common foes and that has intelligence capabilities that could mesh very well with the needs and capabilities of gulf agencies,” said Jason Isaacson, an associate executive director of the American Jewish Committee, who has been visiting Arab countries for two decades.

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