Biden hints at possible progress in potential Israel-Saudi normalization deal

T. Belman. NYT reports that Biden Administration checking whether Israel’s opposition parties would work with govt. to achieve normalization deal.

The reason for this is that Biden is demanding that Israel support of the Two-State Solution if it wants normalization to occur. The current Israel government is unwilling to do it and thus the need for a Unity Government.

He is also demanding that the Saudis financially support the PA which they are currently not doing.

In my opinion, he will not succeed in his machinations.

29 July 2023,

US President Joe Biden hinted on Friday at possible progress in a potential normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a day after senior White House officials travelled to Jeddah for talks on an agreement that would reportedly include a massive boost in security ties between Riyadh and Washington, and significant Israeli concessions to the Palestinians aimed at keeping prospects for a two-state solution alive.>

On Thursday, a White House National Security Council spokesperson confirmed to The Times of Israel that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had arrived in Saudi Arabia but did not explicitly say the visit was to discuss a potential Israel-Saudi normalization deal. The New York Times’s Tom Friedman wrote in a column Thursday that White House Middle East czar Brett McGurk has also made the trip.

The New York Times reported that Biden has not yet made up his mind on the desirability of an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization deal, which would likely require a massive security pact between the US and Saudi Arabia, but had nonetheless dispatched Sullivan and McGurk to discuss terms of a potential deal.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that during a previous visit by Sullivan in May, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed an increased willingness to reach a deal on normalization with Israel, prompting Biden to launch a “full-bore effort.”

Biden had pledged during the 2020 campaign to make the kingdom a “pariah” over its human rights record and the 2018 murder in Turkey of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, remarks that angered Riyadh.

US relations with the desert kingdom then warmed again in 2022, when Biden visited both Israel and Saudi Arabia on a trip to reportedly secure a number of understandings from Riyadh, including higher oil production to offset gas prices, and to boost the alliance amid changing geopolitical landscapes in the Middle East and Asia.

Washington has also sought to advance an Israel-Saudi normalization deal with an eye on the benefits to US national security.

On Thursday, the White House National Security Council spokesperson Sullivan would meet with Mohammed bin Salman to “discuss bilateral and regional matters.”

These include “significant progress that’s been made in talks to build on the benefits of the truce in Yemen that have endured over the past 16 months, as well as initiatives to advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East region,” said the spokesperson.

In a potential deal, Riyadh is seeking a NATO-like mutual security treaty that would obligate the US to come to its defense if the latter is attacked; a civilian nuclear program monitored and backed by the US; and the ability to purchase more advanced weaponry from Washington such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antiballistic missile defense system, which could be used to combat Iran’s increasing missile arsenal, Friedman wrote in his column, confirming previous reporting in The Times of Israel.

In exchange, the US is looking for Riyadh to offer an unprecedentedly large aid package to Palestinian institutions in the West Bank, to significantly roll back its growing relationship with China, and to help bring an end to the civil war in Yemen, according to the columnist, who has been granted several recent interviews with Biden and is understood to be close to the president.

In parallel, Riyadh will also demand that Israel take major steps to preserve a two-state solution in order to secure normalization with Saudi Arabia.

Friedman wrote that these steps might include an official Israeli promise never to annex the West Bank (as part of the 2020 normalization deal with the United Emirates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to hold off on actualizing his annexation pledge until 2024); a commitment not to establish any more settlements or expand the boundaries of existing ones; a commitment not to legalize any illegal outposts; and the relinquishing of some Palestinian-populated territory in Area C of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel under the Oslo Accords.

Netanyahu could well be forced to abandon the far-right members in his cabinet who would oppose these terms and instead realign himself with centrist political forces in the opposition, Friedman speculated.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority — which has given a cold shoulder to other recent Arab normalization deals with Israel — would have to endorse this latest one with Saudi Arabia, he wrote.

Friedman acknowledged that the Saudi leadership “is not particularly interested in the Palestinians or knowledgeable about the intricacies of the peace process,” while clarifying that Biden would have a hard time signing off on a deal that didn’t include major Israeli concessions on that front.

“It will be hard enough for President Biden to sell any deal like this to the US Congress, but I can assure you that there will be a strong core of Democratic opposition to any proposal that does not include meaningful, clearly defined and enforceable provisions to preserve the option of a two-state solution and to meet President Biden’s own demand that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom and dignity. These elements are essential to any sustainable peace in the Middle East,” US Senator Chris Van Hollen told the Times.

Friedman stressed that any such deal would likely take months to negotiate and is still “a long shot, at best.”

Biden said as much himself, telling CNN earlier this month, “We’re a long way from [a Saudi deal]. We got a lot to talk about.”

For his part, Netanyahu has long sought what is seen as an elusive normalization deal with the Saudis, repeatedly describing it as one of the top priorities of his new government and one that could lead to an end to both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, US officials have warned in recent months that Israel’s policies in the West Bank and the advancement of its judicial overhaul have made securing a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia all but impossible.

July 30, 2023 | Comments »

Leave a Reply