According to the planned agreement, Saudi Arabia would help Israel expand its civilian nuclear program in exchange for a U.S. military alliance and normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia.
According to two diplomatic sources the United States is moving closer to a historic agreement that would see Saudi Arabia repair relations with Israel in exchange for a military alliance with the United States and assistance in establishing its own civilian nuclear program.
The difficult negotiations are moving along, and officials from all sides have expressed rising hope that they would soon reach a settlement that would change the Middle East’s political landscape and give President Joe Biden a significant foreign policy victory.
After more than fifty years of hostility and conflict, the Arab world’s most powerful nation’s formal recognition of the Jewish state would mark a seismic shift in the region. It might also signify a diplomatic victory for the Biden administration, which has changed its hardline approach toward Saudi Arabia in an effort to unite two important friends of the United States and thwart China’s expanding ambitions.
However, considerable obstacles still exist, such as the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians. The two sources claimed that the agreement would provide the Palestinians access to as-yet-unspecified land in the West Bank, but there are still many unanswered issues regarding what it would imply for their future.
The domestic politics of any agreement may also be complicated by offering Riyadh a formal agreement of mutual defense, a plan comparable to the guarantees provided by the United States to significant allies like Japan and South Korea.
Before the presidential election campaign makes it challenging to get 67 votes in the Senate, which must ratify the defense treaty and would need to approve aiding the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, the potent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his civilian nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials believe the agreement would be finalized in the first quarter of next year.
Israel wants a defense agreement with the United States to match any new Saudi treaty, but the United States has not reportedly committed to that, according to a senior American official. Administration officials worry that the fact that Israel currently receives almost $4 billion in annual military support from the United States may make it more difficult to pass the Senate with an already complex arrangement.
An agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia that would have Washington commit U.S. military to defend the Saudis in the event of a war would be opposed by slightly more than half of Americans, according to a recent Quincy Institute poll. Any defense pact’s precise terms are unknown.
A transaction of this size, though, would be “transformative,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke to MSNBC on Thursday. He issued a warning, saying that there were still “a lot of moving pieces” and that it would take “a tremendous amount of work” to secure them all.
“We’re in the middle of it; it’s still a challenge,” he continued.
Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, recently made two trips to Saudi Arabia, and according to those familiar with his itinerary, he was actively participating in the negotiations.
The pact, which rivals the Abraham Accords, a set of landmark agreements inked in 2020 to normalize relations between Israel and the Gulf states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, may provide Biden a boost before the 2024 presidential election.
Although they have been warmer recently, relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel have remained informal.
The Palestinians and others who favor the establishment of a Palestinian state, who have counted on Riyadh as a pillar of the Arab world’s support, would probably view recognition of Israel as a betrayal.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine, referred to the notion of Middle East peace without full rights for the Palestinian people as “delusional” in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. A deal without genuine concessions to their cause could fuel unrest in the area.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Abbas, said in a separate statement to the Palestinian news agency WAFA on Friday that “Peace begins with Palestine, and stability begins with the Palestinian people obtaining their legitimate national rights and establishing their independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Without it, there would be no stability, security, or peace in the area.
Growing animosity toward Iran has been a major driver of Israel-Saudi relations.
Even though Riyadh accepted a Beijing-mediated agreement to reestablish diplomatic ties with Tehran earlier this year, Washington may view the establishment of official Saudi ties with Israel as a means of thwarting Iranian aggression and thwarting China’s attempts to enlarge its influence in the area.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden at their meeting in New York on Wednesday that a solution to “achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state” was close.
Israel must take a proactive role in making sure that any nuclear technology provided with the Saudis and any security arrangements made with the Saudis are acceptable to Israel, according to Coons.
According to Coons, there must also be a sizeable allowance made for the Palestinians and “the security of their position” in the West Bank.