Saudi Arabia Set to Normalize Relations with Israel, Announcement Expected in Weeks

Saudi Arabia Set to Normalize Relations with Israel, Announcement Expected in Weeks
Mohammed bin Salman

Riyadh put U.S.-brokered Israeli normalization talks on ice after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led massacre.

By Joshua Marks, JNS

Saudi Arabia has decided to normalize relations with Israel and is debating the timing of the announcement, a foreign diplomat familiar with the details told Haaretz on Monday.

According to the source cited in the article by the daily’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Lis, Riyadh is discussing whether to make the move in the coming weeks or after the U.S. presidential election this November, in which either Democrat Joe Biden will continue to lead the country or his challenger Republican Donald Trump will return to the White House.

“The question is when, and the decision on the timing should be made within days,” the diplomat said.

While the Biden administration has been pushing to connect a pathway to Palestinian statehood as part of the Saudis joining the Abraham Accords, the source said that the kingdom would only demand guarantees on progress towards achieving that goal in return for establishing diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about progress toward a Jerusalem-Riyadh detente at the World Economic Forum special meeting in the Saudi capital on Monday, emphasizing the importance of a Palestinian state despite former Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen saying last August that it was not a major obstacle for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who met with Blinken on the sidelines of the summit.

The Israeli government is opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state given Ramallah’s support for terrorism. Recent polling shows a majority of Israelis are also against Palestinian statehood.

More than half of the Israeli public opposes the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a deal that would end the war against Hamas and normalize relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh, according to a January survey from the Israel Democracy Institute.

“So first, I think the single biggest, most effective rebuke to both Iran and Hamas would be Israel having normal relations with every country in this region and the realization of a Palestinian state. Of course, both Hamas and Iran have opposed a two-state solution. So almost by definition, achieving it would be a profound rebuke to everything that they’ve stood for and destroyed for in—over many years,” Blinken said in response to a question from WEF President Borge Brende on stage at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center.

“Second, when it comes to normalization, look, I’m not going to speak for our hosts here, except to say that we have done intense work together over the last months. And in fact, well before Oct. 7, this is what we were focused on. And in fact, I was scheduled to be in the region, to be in Saudi Arabia and in Israel, on Oct. 10, a trip that didn’t happen because of Oct. 7, to focus specifically on the Palestinian piece of any normalization agreement, because that is, as you said, an essential component.

“I think—look, the work that Saudi Arabia and the United States have been doing together in terms of our own agreements, I think, is potentially very close to completion.

“But then in order to move forward with normalization, two things will be required: calm in Gaza and a credible pathway to a Palestinian state. So to the extent we finish our work between us, then I think what’s been a hypothetical or a theoretical question suddenly becomes real. And people will have to make decisions.”

Riyadh put U.S.-brokered Israeli normalization talks on ice after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led massacre in the northwestern Negev and amid the ensuing war in Gaza, but has maintained that a deal is still on the table.

In an interview with Israeli public broadcaster Kan News earlier in April, a source in the Saudi royal family accused Iran of instigating the conflict in Gaza to undermine progress in reaching a normalization agreement between Riyadh and Jerusalem.

“Iran is a nation that endorses terrorism, and the world should have curtailed it much earlier,” the Saudi royal said.

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