No Palestinian concessions to secure Saudi Arabia normalisation deal, Israel minister says
A key party in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition government will not agree to any concessions to the Palestinians as part of a deal on normalising relations with Saudi Arabia, one of its cabinet ministers said on Monday.
US President Joe Biden last week dispatched his national security adviser to Saudi Arabia to discuss a possible Saudi-Israel deal, which he deems a policy priority, and on Friday said "there's a rapprochement maybe under way".
The idea has been under discussion since the Saudis gave their quiet assent to Gulf neighbours the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalising ties with Israel in 2020.
Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian demands must first be met.
Asked whether her pro-settler party Religious Zionism would accept concessions to the Palestinians in return for cementing formal ties with Saudi Arabia, National Missions Minister Orit Strock said: "We certainly won't agree to such a thing."
"We are done with withdrawals. We are done with freezing settlements in Judea and Samaria [a term used by Israelis to refer to the occupied West Bank]. This is the consensus among the entire right-wing," Strock said, in comments to public broadcaster Kan.
A spokesman for Religious Zionism's head, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, did not immediately respond when asked whether Strock's remarks reflected those of Smotrich.
Such a position would pose a political obstacle for Netanyahu, who has cast the normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia as a major foreign policy goal.
US-Israel ties have been strained in recent months by the government's expansion of illegal Jewish settlements on land where Palestinians seek an independent state and by contentious judicial changes pursued by Netanyahu's nationalist-religious coalition.
On Sunday, a senior member of Netanyahu's Likud party dismissed the suggestion that an impasse between the Israel's government and the statehood goals of the politically divided Palestinians was the main obstacle to a Saudi deal.
He also said a deal did not appear imminent.