Mon 25 Sep 2023 3:44 pm - Jerusalem Time
Normalization talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel are gaining momentum
NBC News said that two diplomatic sources revealed to the network that the United States is making progress towards a historic agreement requiring Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel in exchange for a US defense agreement and assistance in developing its civilian nuclear program.
The complex talks are gaining momentum, as officials from all parties express increasing optimism in recent days that they may meet soon to reach an agreement that would change the political landscape in the Middle East and achieve a major foreign policy victory for US President Joe Biden.
“Formal recognition of the Jewish state by the most influential power in the Arab world would represent a radical shift in the region after more than half a century of conflict and hostility, and it could also represent a diplomatic coup for the Biden administration,” said Andrea Mitchell, the network’s veteran State Department correspondent. , which reversed its hardline stance toward Saudi Arabia in an attempt to bring together two close allies of the United States as it seeks to stave off China's growing ambitions.
But the network acknowledges that significant obstacles remain, including Israel's ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. Regarding this issue, “the two sources told the network that the agreement will see the Palestinians being granted unspecified lands in the West Bank, but there are still big questions about what this will mean for their future.”
For its part, The Hill newspaper, which specializes in US Congressional affairs, said in a lengthy article on Sunday: Unfortunately, it seems that the Palestinian issue will be ignored again. Netanyahu disparagingly described it as a “check box to check,” a sign that Israel views the Palestinians as an afterthought. Unless something radical happens in these negotiations, normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel will do nothing but ensure the permanent submission of the Palestinians to Israeli military rule and paralyze their aspirations.”
Discussion of peace, a concept based on the ideals of equality, justice and stability, rings hollow, but it deliberately ignores the plight of the Palestinians. In light of the current situation, the Palestinian people have no strength, hope or means left to change their condition. Israel controls every aspect of Palestinian life, and it exercises this control in a way that is degrading to humanity, according to the newspaper.
The newspaper points out that “in order to make peace possible, both the United States and Saudi Arabia must make clear that the Palestinians are part of the equation, and that normalization does not mean keeping them out of the loop.”
The newspaper points out that the failure of the Abraham normalization agreements did not bring peace, but rather an increase in the intensity of violence practiced by settlers against the Palestinians on an increasing basis since the signing of those agreements three years ago, warning that “any agreement that ignores the Palestinians will be tantamount to diplomatic malpractice and a distortion of the concept of peace, because it will leave the Palestinians alone.” "Forever stateless and without sanctuary."
Experts believe that introducing a formal mutual defense agreement between Washington and Riyadh, an arrangement on par with US guarantees to key allies such as Japan and South Korea, could also complicate the domestic politics of any deal.
If the deal is reached, US officials believe it will happen early next year, before the presidential campaign makes it difficult to get 67 votes in the Senate, which must ratify the defense treaty and will need to approve aid to the kingdom.
According to a senior US official, Israel also wants to conclude a defense treaty with the United States to match any new Saudi treaty, but the United States has not agreed to this. Israel already receives nearly $4 billion annually in US military aid, and administration officials believe that could make it more difficult to get an already complex agreement through the Senate.
It is noteworthy that a recent poll conducted by the “Quuency Institute” showed that more than half of Americans would oppose an agreement between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that stipulates that Washington would commit American soldiers to defend Saudi Arabia in the event of a war, especially since the exact terms of any defense agreement remain unclear. Clear.
In turn, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told MSNBC on Thursday that a deal of this size would be “transformational.” He warned that there were still "a lot of moving pieces" and landing them all would require a "huge amount of work".
For Biden, the deal could provide a boost ahead of the 2024 presidential election, rivaling the Abraham Accords signed by then-President Donald Trump — a series of landmark agreements signed in 2020 to normalize relations between Israel and the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“Recognition of Israel will likely be viewed as a betrayal by Palestinians and those who support a Palestinian state, and who have relied on Riyadh as a bedrock of support for the Arab world,” says NBC's Mitchell.
It is noteworthy that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, described the idea of peace in the Middle East without the full rights of the Palestinian people as “illusory.” An agreement that does not include real concessions to their cause may fuel anger in the region.
In a separate statement to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, today, Friday, Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said: “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.” Its capital. Without that, there is no peace, security, or stability in the region.”
Experts believe that the growing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia were largely driven by mutual cruelty towards Iran.
Although Riyadh agreed to a Beijing-brokered deal to restore diplomatic relations with Tehran earlier this year, Washington may see establishing formal Saudi relations with Israel as a way to combat Iranian aggression and counter China's efforts to expand its influence in the region.
In a meeting with Biden in New York on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an agreement to “achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state” was within reach.
But the sticking point may be the Israeli leader's own government, which is the most religious and right-wing government in his country's history. Its coalition partners may show strong resistance to any major concessions to the Palestinians, which in turn could break the agreement for Saudi Arabia.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid also raised concerns about Saudi Arabia becoming a "nuclear threshold state" if an agreement is reached.
It is noteworthy that, speaking with Fox News on Wednesday, Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman pledged to work with “everyone present” in the Israeli government as long as the deal guarantees the “needs” of the Palestinians. He appeared optimistic about the potential agreement, saying it would be the largest diplomatic agreement since the end of the Cold War. “Every day we get closer,” he told Fox.